Abandonment


I was reviewing some material from the book Soul Repair: Rebuilding Your Spiritual Life by Jeff VanVonderen and Dale & Juanita Ryan today. In looking at the foundation of our faith they speak to the fact that we need to take a hard look at our view of God. The image and perception of God that we hold shapes our entire spiritual life. Here are some examples they describe in the book as distorted images of God. Can you think of others that you might hold?

  • The Abusive god – tyrant, quick to anger, slow to forgive, wrathful, unapproachable, violent, cruel
  • The Abandoning god – left us or is threatening to, without love and grace
  • The Emotionally Distant god – does not care about our emotional needs, emotionally aloof, unable to give comfort
  • The Passive god – cannot help us, uncaring, impotent, lacking power, unreliable, no practical help
  • The god of Impossible Expectations – never please with us, expects performance, demands perfection

If thinking about these distorted images makes you a little uncomfortable then pay attention to your emotions. They may reveal some truths that are deep and underlying. Taking a deep look at your beliefs can lead to anxiety and discomfort, but usually that is due to the fact that you are recognizing something is wrong, that something needs to change. If you recognize you hold a distorted image of God in some way the next step is to look at how you can replace that image with the correct one. You can’t just throw out your distorted one and be left with nothing, you need to replace it with the truth of who God is and what his character is really like. You may wonder if there is any hope, that if you tear apart your spiritual beliefs that it will lie in ruins and will never be rebuilt. That concern is very understandable but it is only through examining the real foundations and being willing to look hard and be honest that you will start the hard work of recovery.

I am hoping and praying for your courage to take a step toward a recovered and truthful view of God. I have taken this journey myself and it was hard but the fruit that I now see as I have reached a healthier perspective is well worth all the struggle.

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One of the struggles I continue to go through hits me every Sunday morning. I have grown up in the church, and going to church on Sunday morning has been a part of my life constantly and consistently. Not being a part of a church and having a place to call home is extremely difficult. My heart aches because I want a family and a home. I want a place to belong. I want to be known and to know others. There are a lot of places I could go to church (and I have been over the last few months), but going to church and being connected and a part of the life of the church are different.

The church I was removed from last May was only about 60 people so we knew the names and faces of everyone. I was known, not well as people were not that interested in really connecting and having community but they knew my name and some basic factual things about me. The church I have attended the most over the last few months and have tried to make some connections in is about 900 people. I feel lost, I go in alone, and many weeks no one even is able to call me by name.

I know others struggle with this too. I have heard and talked to a lot of people who ask questions such as: Am I ready to go back to church? Do I even want to be a part of the churches that are out there or am I done with organized religion? If I do try a church, what kind should I try and how do I walk through all the maze of making that decision and finding the courage to actually visit? How do I trust again? Should I just attend services or should I actually get involved? Do I need to just receive so I can heal, and if so will others be willing to allow that and help me in it? Is it safe? How do I know who to trust? What is the right timing?

Every Sunday morning as I think of going to church and trying to decide where to go I mourn for the loss in my life. It is a weekly reminder of the loss, grief, pain, and confusion in my life. It is a weekly reminder that others are in churches where they are celebrating, connecting, being known, and sharing in community and I deeply want that in my life. It is a weekly reminder that those who hurt me, rejected me, and abandoned me are still gathering and sharing together but I am not allowed to share with them in that. When I go to a church and they offer communion it is a reminder that I am in broken relationship with others and despite all I have tried and the humility and repentance I have expressed trying to reconcile the others continue to leave things broken…and that leaves me not knowing how to approach God’s table and share openly in relationship with him or fellow believers.

I feel like Sunday should be a day to celebrate, worship, walk in unity, and share in grace but deep inside I still mourn and suffer. I know this isn’t what God wants, neither my suffering nor the brokenness with others. Every week I take steps forward to move past the pain, the grief, and the loss but it is a process and it takes time. Until I one again am a part of a community where I find grace, mercy, love, hope, and am known for who I am there will continue to be a part where I mourn on Sunday’s. I am so thankful though that in the midst of that mourning I can stand before God knowing that I am walking faithfully and with righteousness now. I am growing deeply in my walk with him. I am making relationships and building community with others. I am moving forward and not letting my past define me and keep me in bondage. I am believing in the one true God who brings me hope, promise, love, and accepts me just as I am but challenges me to be so much more.

So, I do mourn on Sunday but I am learning that even in the midst of mourning I can find hope, peace, and the promises of walking with God.

I have a huge caring heart for others, especially those who have experienced pain, suffering, and loss. Not only do I care about people, but I also care about animals. At one time I strongly considered becoming a vetrinarian. I have supported a large animal sanctuary and care organization called Best Friends. They are located in Utah. As I was reading their latest newsletter I was reminded of how traumatized animals and traumatized people are in need of very similar care. Many of the animals Best Friends receives have been physcially, emotionally, or psychologically affected by disaster, abuse, neglect, or accidental trauma. They help animals that have no other hope and who are labeled as “beyond help”. How often are people, even in our churches told similar things?

Here are some tips they provided for rescuers. I think they apply for both animals and humans.

  • Think of every animal/person as an individual – don’t make assumptions and give them all the time you can
  • Ignore all bad behavior – don’t react to bad behavior
  • Go slow – distract them and help them focus on something else
  • “Can’t see me!” – a physical barrier or not being in the center of attention may provide comfort or a sense of security
  • Get help from another animal/person – a companion may provide support and comfort
  • Get help from volunteers – the needs are great, it takes many people to provide the best care and support
  • Relationship –  there is a need to open up to relationship – we are not designed to go through life alone