When You’ve Been Hurt by the Church: God is Bigger

I’m kind of a scaredy cat. Except that I have a really good game face.

I make all kinds of plans to do things that scare me, for the simple fact that curling up at home isn’t always good for me. And it was that exact kind of plan I made as I attended a women’s retreat this past weekend that was being led by friend I deeply respected and loved. I’d forced myself. I bought a plane ticket to a state I’d never been. I was going to be hitching rides with people I’d never met before. And I was seriously nervous, because—spoiler—I’m not great at making girlfriends.

The closer the retreat drew, the more reasons I came up with as to why I should just cancel. My friend would be crazy busy and probably wouldn’t even notice if I wasn’t there. I’d just gone through the roughest two years of my life. Only recently (at the urging of a sweet friend), I’d begun to come back out of hiding to participate in my community once again. It was hard to be around any people at all because of the way some had reacted toward me when my marriage fell apart. I’d become a recluse of sorts, and quite honestly, I liked it that way.

But, just as I’d pushed myself out into the world again, I had an aching (and by aching I mean painful and nauseous) feeling that God wanted me to put myself into this very large group of Christian women and ease into getting to know them. Honestly, I don’t like these kinds of things. At. All.

But, I forced myself. Thinking I could do it just once more, for my friend.

Then something amazing happened.

From the very beginning, every woman I met at this retreat was loving and gracious. I heard others comment more than once at how unbelievably kind and considerate this group of women were. I made myself talk to people. And add to conversations. And even share my story.

And can I just tell you something? We have a BIG God, girls.

The kind that leads you towards exactly what you need even when you are kicking and screaming away from it. Even when you are hiding under the bed to avoid it. Even when you are looking for every excuse under the sun not to accept it.

I sat around the lunch table one afternoon at the retreat and began to answer a question someone asked me. I can’t even remember who. And before I knew it, I’d spilled the beans. The ugly, stinky, what I felt like were disgusting beans that had become my life.

Then, I prepared for what I knew was coming: the reprimand.

Because in the previous two years, there wasn’t a single time I shared that in Christian circles without one person rising to the surface who made it clear that they couldn’t accept what I’d done by getting divorced. And in my mind, implying that God couldn’t either.

My face was so flushed, I could feel it burning. I literally held onto my chair. And then, the most beautiful thing happened . . .

They leaned in closer. They gathered with me. They cried. They asked about my children. I could see the genuine love and concern in their eyes. Without a single hint of anything else. And the kicker? They actually thanked me for giving them insight into what single motherhood looks like.

They thanked me.

At the end of my story, they offered to pray for me. The same girl who’d sat in church begging God to send godly women into my life, with none surfacing that would stick around the mess I was walking. We gathered hands, as I wept. Praying for me. For my children. For my ex.

It was a deeply healing experience that I know without a doubt God wanted for me. To show me that His church, while not perfect, is still full of people who love as He’s asked them to. With people who are able to look beyond the bias’ some hold, and see the person behind them. With people who genuinely want to help those whom God has brought before them.

And it was breathtaking. And beautiful. And unbelievable to this girl who hides from such things.

It made me rethink the pain I’ve experienced in the church. And begin to sort through the kindnesses and the unkindness’s. It made me want to look deeper into why single moms leave so often. And find a way to help the church understand what’s going on. And it made me want to tell all of you that your bad experience is not what God asked His people to do for you. That He wanted so much more, and wants you to rediscover that truth. To give His people another opportunity to show you where His heart really is in your loss. To show you that His people still care. That you matter to them.

And, most especially, to Him.

If only you’ll give them one more chance to show you.

 

 

Stop by Proverbs 31 Ministries, Suzie Eller’s, blog this Live Free Thursday to discover more stories about living free. <3

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20 Comments

  1. This is beautiful, Laura! Yes, we serve a God big enough to carry all our hurts, to lead us to healing. Thank you for sharing so vulnerably. (Wish I could have spent more time with you at the retreat [and a few others]. Next year?)

  2. Laura, this is beautiful!! I love your story. I am similar in that I don’t love the unfamiliar and it would have been really hard for me to step out too! In fact, I’m doing what you just did, in July. I’m going to the She Speaks conference, not knowing one single person. I have online friends going, but no one who I’ve actually met. I’m believing for a great experience, just like yours.

    On another note, I want to tell you that I’m sorry that people judged you. It saddens me to know that people judge others, when they haven’t walked in their shoes. We aren’t called to judge, but to love others and walk with them through their pain. How wonderful that God directed you to a group of ladies that would do just that for you! Praying for a fresh start for you. Neighbors with you today at #LiveFree Thursday. Have a great weekend!

  3. Sweet Laura I, for one, am very grateful that you trusted God over your fears! I loved being able to pick you up from the airport, take the round about way to the retreat and spend this awesome retreat weekend with you! You are loved, cherished and precious in His sight and mine!! It makes my heart hurt when I hear about experiences like yours (I have similar experiences with difference circumstances)-just when you need them most people fail but God never fails and now you have 50 sisters in Christ that love you unconditionally!! So blessed to call you friend!

  4. Thank you for bravely sharing your story, Laura. Your story touched mine. We are on similar (yet different) paths. I, too, was deeply wounded by the church and spent 3 years as a ‘recluse’ of sorts. God sent me into She Speaks last year as my “I’ve got a bigger plan for you and it’s time to jump back in” event! I was as hesitant walking in as you sound boarding that plane! But God…..He truly does love us and desire us to be in community. I can’t wait to hear more of your follow-up! God will use your pain to minister to others. Nothing is wasted! And your sweet spirit is just the one He desires to use to reach more of His wounded girls to bring them to a place of wholeness and healing. Much love to you, sweet friend! Much love!!!! <3

  5. Laura, I so appreciate this post. Thanks for sharing you heart. Such a privilege it was to sit at that table. God is big! Funny I’m writing about that too for next week. Not for Suzie ‘ s linkup.

  6. I am convinced Laura that you have a powerful message to share. My gut tells me that today was the tip of the iceberg. And. I. Am. Grateful. We (the body of Christ) need people like you that don’t give up on us. People who will help us understand the hurt so we can help. Your brave voice is about to make a radiance and I cannot wait to hear it, XOXO {My auto-correct turned my misspelling of difference into the word radiance. I decided God knew what He was doing. Three cheers to letting your “radiance” be heard.)

  7. Chills….. serious chills! You are one of the most brave women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, Laura! You are beautiful, and strong, and I adore your vulnerability and transparency. His spirit shines from you, and He is going to bring immense beauty from your pain. You continue to shift my perspective, and I absolutely love that. It’s important… no, it’s IMPERATIVE that the church understand, reach out, love, and connect with single parents. It hurts me to even imagine how you’ve been hurt by the church. As always, you and your precious family are in my prayers. Thank you for being you… for being brave… and for allowing God to be bigger than your circumstance! I’m so very grateful that you overcame and attended the retreat… what an honor it was to hug you! #livefreeThursday

  8. I’m glad I read your post today. I’m sorry you’ve been hurt so much by people being unloving and judgemental. That is really not how church should be but too often it is. I’m so glad God led you to those women to care for you and pray for you. For different reasons I’ve also been hurt by church and I’m stepping into something new just now which I believe God is calling me to, but which means stepping out of my comfort zone to connect with people on a deeper level. Your testimony encourages me that God is bigger than my fears and that he has a good plan. Thanks for sharing! Visiting from #LiveFreeThursday.

  9. Thanks for the encouragement, Carly! I’m sorry you’ve been hurt as well, but I love that you stepping out toward where He is leading you anyway. Solidarity! 🙂 <3

  10. Oh, Laura, this is so beautiful! I am so honored to have met you. I am so thankful God prodded me to turn around and see you that evening. I was blessed by those moments. God is going to do great big things through you, my friend. He will reach out and hug the hurting. I’m so excited for what will be around the next corner for you!
    Big hugs,
    Lori

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