When I sat down to write a blog post for today (last night), I just felt like what I wanted to share, is something that I’ve wanted to share for awhile. But the words have always been lost…they’ve always escaped me. I didn’t know how to be gracious; how to say what I wanted to say without people thinking I was being insensitive, or that I was making something that wasn’t really about me…about…me. I didn’t want to sound selfish, or dramatic even (a word that I fight often, because growing up, I was always called “drama” or friends with “drama” or was told to stop being so “dramatic”). But, this is my story too. And I’ve attempted to explain it before but I didn’t say it the way that I wanted to say it. I meet people, and I share small parts of it, because it has shaped me, and if I am being really honest, it still messes with me sometimes. I wish that it didn’t. I wish that I was over it. But, I am not. So, lets just say it.
I grew up in an evangelical church, that at the time, was awesome.
I was extremely involved in the youth group, and at the time, thought it was awesome too.
I prayed passionately. I spoke the language.
I met girls at coffee shops and inspired them to be better. I prayed with them. We cried together. I played my part.
I knew without a doubt that God was real. But, I built a lot of my faith around this youth group, and this church.
Then, in 2006, our pastor turned out to be living an entirely different life than what was presented on the platform. He had been making trips to Denver to “write” and there, met up with a male prostitute, who he was involved with, and allegedly purchased drugs from. For some reason, the prostitute came forward, and the scandal put our church that was already in the limelight, in it again, but really in it, and this time, for not so great things.
The church banished him. They would never say that is what they did, but that is what they did. He was sent away, with a nice severance package, and was set-up with some outside counseling (supposedly).
How did this change me? Well. The church failed. Many knew this was going on and didn’t say anything. The role of the church, to be there for the broken and the hurting, wasn’t fulfilled in this case. I went from being prideful about the church that I attended, to a state of complete embarrassment. People who I hadn’t talked to since high school, suddenly came out of the wood work and was texting me. The fact is, my faith was shaken. Mostly, because it made me evaluate the culture of the church itself. It made me look at the way I had been leading my life, and ask myself if it was authentic, or if I was simply playing the part. I think I was playing the part. At the end of the day, yes, I knew who my Creator was, but I had become a person who was judgmental, prideful, and ultimately, self-serving. I wanted to pray for people so I could meet my quota. There are so many different angles of this story, but the biggest fail was that love did not win. I am not saying that the Pastor of our church didn’t fail, he did, big time, and he lied about it, and probably still doesn’t recognize the weight of his mistake. Because I did not know him well personally, yet I was affected by what happened. The ripple effect will continue for sometime…but, the church did not do what I think a church is supposed to do.
When I write here, in this space, I speak from this place. A place where I believe that we are supposed to be better. I remember crying every morning in the shower. I had a roommate at the time who was really interested in all of it, and I think that was largely due to the fact that she, herself, was incredibly judgmental of the evangelical church. This happened, and she sort of acted like she knew it would. I know that she felt bad for me, but her questions made me feel like she wanted the gossip. Now, obviously, I wasn’t in a good place, so maybe she was being genuine, but, I chose the shower as my place to cry because I did not want her to see me broken. But, I cried out to God to fill the holes that were in my heart. I asked him to show me the ugly parts of me, to reveal all of the parts that needed fixing, and it was the single most significant moment in my life.
Church fails sometimes. But, there are the people who build their faith on men, and buildings. And then, there are the people who build their faith on the truths. Up until this point in my life, all I knew was that I went to the mega-church, that everyone knew about, that put out record breaking worship albums, that had massive church conferences, and big time celebrity speakers. That was my identity. And now, I’d like to think that I define myself a bit differently.
Do you have a moment that changed everything? A time where you were traveling one way, and your heart completely changed directions? I believe that this was my moment. That was 5 years ago. And my memory of it is just as fresh, as if it happened yesterday. I hope, that one day, I can not remember the ugly parts so clearly. I hope that I’ll recall the beauty that came from it, and that, that, will be more apparent to me than the brokenness.