Thursday, February 13, 2014

Re-Churching: Mentoring, Accountability, Courage, and More Obedience


It has been a long journey on my own. It has been a rough journey on my own. I do not recommend it.

I haven’t been mentored in my faith since… about high school. Shayna and I had been meeting with Rowena, but then she and her family moved a few months after we had started to meet. A few years later, a slightly older friend somewhat casually mentored me - more like just genuinely cared for and checked in with me. Then she decided to attend another church to support them.

Except for a few good friends along the way, I have largely been on my own: to grow, to learn, to search, to become more disciplined in my faith.

I believe I have finally found someone to mentor me for… who knows how long but definitely longer than a few months.

Lynn is a former member of the same local church, had been a Sunday school leader of mine, along with her husband, but currently her family attends another local church. We met last week and are working out a schedule to meet consistently.

The first meeting was like finding gold. The trust I had in Lynn previously still upholds. She sees me through the eyes of Christian sisterhood. I can finally be honest with someone and not find harmful judgement, but Christ-like admonishment and accountability instead. It’s good to breathe again.

It’s just the beginning, but I am excited!
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A few things that I am struggling with:

- finding out that the gossip and rumors about me within a group in the church was worse than I realized, worse than I had hoped. It’s uncomfortable being disappointed in people, especially ones whom had claimed to be friends. I was trusting; I don’t regret that… entirely. I had a hand in this mess, certainly, but I was not alone responsible in all of it. At one moment, I was gearing myself up to confess my own junk, and then I saw who I was facing; I dropped my eyes from God, I know. What do I do now?

- wondering how I can worship God alongside ones whom have hurt me so deeply. Praising God isn’t difficult. It’s the reminders of the mess and feeling helpless, people-wise, to reconcile broken relationships. It’s the knowing that relationships around me are broken. I know that God desires reconciliation, good relationships - it’s His story.
My consolation, for now, other than God’s mercy upon me, is that I have already made several efforts to reconcile, before I had de-churched again. Though, I sense that God may move me to make more efforts, and I… am hesitant at the moment. And maybe that’s okay for now. But to be honest, I… dread it. I am ill-equipped, though I know if reconciliation happens, it will not be me but the Holy Spirit who does it - Glory to God.

- wondering how I… - this is related to the previous struggle - how might it be that I can once again feel safe within the church again, people- and building-wise? I grieve this quite a bit, that this church used to be another home for me, one where I could go and be safe, find relief. Is it me that has fallen so far that I can’t sense the Spirit there at the moment? I’m certain the Spirit is there, but I don’t sense it like I used to, in good and bad times.
Now, my thinking, from recent experiences, is that the church is where I go to get beaten up, spiritually. I’m in flinch-mode.
If I, a child of the church and Christian, do not feel safe to be vulnerable and honest in my struggles while in the church, how might someone coming in, Christian or not yet, be made welcome and find the comfort for which they are looking?

- I was naive. I didn’t know I would experience such pain within the church. I think people sinners, just as I am one, but I never really think anyone bad intentionally until they show me. I have never understood why someone would… tolerate (?) me when they think me such a jerk either. (Come on, I have jerk moments too, whether intentionally or not.)

- knowing now… not being able to deny any longer how bad gossip is within the church, even if just a group or not,... you know, I am not used to caring what people think or say about me. I’m not used to caring; ask those who went to high school or college with me. I usually did my own thing, a non-joiner.
However, this time, relationships were intentionally destroyed. I’ve forgiven and continue to remind myself that I have forgiven, the Spirit continues to work that in me, but the question is how to lovingly and respectfully participate in correcting the influence or spread of gossip in general, within the church or group or individual, participate in real healing. I am not entirely immune to the temptation of gossip, though I tend not to care, so what to do?

- how to build up my spiritual gift of discernment, because… it can get messy. It has gotten messy. Again, I am not used to caring. As an INTP in the MBTI (look it up or click here for my thoughts on it so far), I am quite independent; I can be detached. Hence, the tendency of not caring about gossip and such, even when it’s about me, as well as the initiative for continual independent search for personal spiritual growth. 
So, how do I engage brothers and sisters in Christ with discernment, as an INTP? How do I use it to build up others? This has been a question (aside from the INTP aspect, since I have only learned that recently) since I had returned to church 6 years ago.
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And that’s only a few things. Scratching the surface. Actually, quite a few of these issues I have observed and been thinking over since 6 years ago. It’s just that now I find myself in the middle and involved in some of the mess.

Though, I remember 6 years ago. I had made a huge step and recommited to Christ. I had had enough of my own foolishness. Where else might one go? Also, it wasn’t me, but God gave me a desire for the church. I remember waking up on Sundays, excited for church. I miss that. I don’t understand it, I can’t rationalize what was going on in me, but it’s real.

I need to kick myself and be courageous again. I mean, I know that I can because I can trust God to provide for me, to lead the way, yet it’s still… it’s scary. People are scary to me.

Well, I can only lead by example, the way I have always expected myself to lead. It just stinks sometimes. And I know I will make mistakes, I know I still have areas of sin to conquer. I think I have so little in certain areas that I am wary about giving up more. I’ve recently made a difficult stand for me, because in my mind, I was walking in a certain direction, faithfully, and I have been disappointed. Sigh.

Continue to let God refine me more and more. Obedience is still mean - I mean, Jesus died by it, and I don’t know if I’m there yet.

And then, when it was done, Jesus conquered Death and was lifted up to Life.

Remind me.

[Joshua 1:9]








2 comments:

  1. I enjoyed thoroughly enjoyed reading this post! Your honesty and transparency are to be admired!! I also hope you forgive my insane straight forwardness (I'm an ENTJ, that's one of my strong suits). My comment is broken into pieces to coincide with your concerns; I truly hope these words find you well and help you on you path. Peace and Victory!

    1) I understand how the thoughts and words others have and say about you can affect you; you cannot allow that to happen. Remember- When we get to Heaven and meet our Lord face to face, we will be judged by ourselves for our own actions. I tell my children all the time, “You are the only idiot you can control, so don’t worry about what others do or don’t do.”

    2) I find your second concern to be one that is both common and unnecessary. Worship is about God and Him alone, so your feelings about those around you are irrelevant. If Daniel can worship in a lion’s den… Although, you do make a very good point; God does want reconciliation. Mostly between Him and humanity, but if they are your siblings in Christ then it would behoove you to make up as soon as possible because dwelling forever with someone you don’t like or get along with sounds freaking awful!

    3) This will require some patients on your part. Imagine how you felt when you bump into an ex who you haven’t seen in a while. You feel something reminiscent of the bond you had had, but mostly you feel awkward because you don’t know how to react to their current situation (maybe I’m alone in this analogy). Don’t worry about that feeling, it will pass. Don’t worry about reclaiming what you used to have, it’s gone. Remember that God is a creative God and is always trying to do something new; don’t long for what you’d had in the past- be excited and expectant for what He has planned for your future.

    4) Go get your Bible and read the opening to the openings to the Epistles. Go ahead, I’ll wait  Did you see to whom those letters were addressed? To the saints! I assure you, God thinks more of you than you could ever imagine! Don’t be so hard on yourself and always be ready for anyone to change. We have to always remember that God is the only constant in our lives, everything else is situational (e.g. jobs, people, homes). That’s not to say to give up on people, Paul tells Timothy to hold on to the dudes that are most faithful and capable (that’s a slight paraphrase of 2 Timothy 2:2, read the rest for context). As the Proverbs say, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”- Proverbs 18:24 KJV

    5) I hope this helps more than any other thing I’ve written you today. Some time ago, I was very involved in a church that had gossip the way a homeless dog has fleas. So, I took it upon myself to kill rumors and end gossip. If I heard anything like gossip, I would make sure that the party speaking was brought to the party they were gossiping about. For example: I hear Jane say, “Bill like to eat stones.” So I take Jane to Billy or Billy to Jane and ask Jane, “So, Billy likes to eat stones? Is this true Jane?” Using this tactic, I was used to kill a lot of rumors and gossip. It got to a point where when the pastor heard a rumor he’d ask me to kill the gossip and handle the issue. I learned a lot during that time and I hope that you do, too

    6) The only bit of advice I would give an INTP is always consider that you could be wrong. Keeping a skeptical mindset will make you a better student and more willing to change into the person that God would have you to be.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment! I am okay with straightforward honesty, prefer it actually. I myself am not known for the soft serve (I’m working on a more winsome approach). I am able to handle things better than people tend to think, as long as things are kept at the minimum respectful, which you have been.

      1. I know this intellectually, and I usually don’t care what people say about me, except that I find that God has placed it on me to care, especially since right relationships are important and that I have witnessed relationships broken because of gossip. I want to do what’s right, yet it seems to others that it doesn’t matter what I do, right or wrong, I make a good scapegoat, I am always the wrong. I was left to deal with the fallout - maybe that was right, I don’t know with any certainty on that. I ought to focus on the obedience and on what God sees of my actions (out of my heart), and not on what others say and do; you are right. Right or wrong, I will ultimately have to make an account of my actions to God.

      2. It is awful. What comes to mind often lately is Matthew 5: 23 - that if I need to make myself right with a sibling, then I ought to leave my gift at the altar and go to my sibling. The group I am in conflict with, one of the things is that my accusers are anonymous and the accusations rather vague - the accusations came through their “representative,” no names given, and that I was a “dictator” (that was the major one). I’ve met with the group as a whole and as individuals, and I get denials that they have anything to say, while still their behavior towards me tells me there is something. I want reconciliation, so is this possibly a case of letting it go for now? This is something to pray over.

      3. Patience, yes, I could use more practice in this. Bumping into my ex? I don’t experience it that way, but I see what you’re saying. I suppose in this case, they are my “ex,” my former friends. I don’t expect to have things the way they were again, but I am putting up boundaries (time will tell if they are healthy ones or not and I’ll adjust them as needed) while they are trying to go on like nothing happened (from my point of view, and I know I may be wrong), and see me as now being “cold.” I don’t have any previous experience quite like this circumstance, so I will take your advice - patience and be excited about God’s plans - thank you.

      4. Thank you for the good reminder! Be focused on God, drawing nearer to Him, and see what things may follow.

      5. That’s an interesting idea. I’ve done something similar - if asked about someone, I usually tell them to ask the person themselves if they really want to know. I dislike drama (including gossip) and tend to keep my distance if possible, but perhaps I can be a bridge of sorts between people in order to confront this destructive force. I will pray and consider this idea a little more.

      6. Yes - I’ve given up the need to be right many years ago. I think people think I think I am right more than I actually do. The constant questioning! ;) I am definitely skeptical of things, though I hope to see the movement of the Holy Spirit. The INTP part is that I need more practice getting involved and how to improve my people-skills. I think that was a part of my personal difficulty that contributed to the conflict. I need to trust God more with that area, that He has prepared the way for me, that He has placed me where He wants me.

      Joshua, thank you again for these reminders and points. I needed a more objective voice. :)

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Mahalo,
Jennifer