The Church Game: A Bear Hug From God

In 1999/2000 I experienced my first major disappointment within my church. There were several disappointments and things I didn’t understand as I was growing up, but this experience as an adult was far more painful that I could imagine and it caught me off guard.  The people I loved the most were not only not helping me in a major crisis but they literally turned their back on me.  I felt like I had just been kicked to the curb and left to die.  Sound dramatic?  It happened and was so bad I had to move out of that town because I had no where to go.

My husband and I were separated, I had a 2 month-old baby, I put everything I could fit into my car, and called several people looking for a place to stay.  I had just been kicked out of the home where I had been staying for the first 2 weeks of our separation because I admitted I would consider divorce if my husband refused to get help for his addiction.  That was unacceptable to the man of the house and I was asked to leave.  I drove around town with my belongings and my newborn child.  I made several desperate calls to long-time friends and to a couple who had been counseling us.  They all refused a place for us to stay and told me to go home and be a “good Christian wife”.  I couldn’t go home.  He had started to have fits of rage, throwing large objects around the house – including slamming our dog against a wall and throwing him across the room.  Moments like that, and one involving a gun, had made me too scared to go home.  However, with no where to go and not a single dollar in my pocket I went home and called my family.  They immediately drove 800+ miles, picked me up and brought me to their home.  It was a humiliating and discouraging time for me.

That was my first wake-up call as an adult.  When I was a child I questioned many motives and didn’t understand the disconnect between what I was reading in the Bible and what I was seeing in the lives of Christians.  I was a Christian, but there was this “sense”, a nagging in the back of my mind that I was missing something – or maybe the people in the church were missing something.

As a child, and in this instance, in the quiet of my room, God was talking to me about Truth. I didn’t know how to wrap my head around it. All I knew was that I loved God so much and wanted nothing else other than to serve him every day of my life. There was more to what I was seeing in church but I didn’t know what and, as a child, I didn’t know how to gain the understanding from scripture. There was no one to show me, to teach my young mind. I didn’t understand the function of the Holy Spirit as guide and counselor. As I got older I stuffed some of those questions and learned to play the Church Game like a good Christian girl and I fit in perfectly.  I was so happy to live my self-righteous life and judge those who didn’t live up to the unspoken code of conduct.  Then when life dealt me a hand that I didn’t know what to do with I was abandoned by the people I thought who had my back.  Thankfully, my perspective was clear in one area…I clearly understood that the actions of men and women had, even in the name of God, no bearing on WHO GOD IS. I could be disappointed every day and that would not change the truth about God and His Word. That deep conviction in me at a very early age would serve me very well in this instance and in a few more to come as I experienced the deepest pain at the hands of the church and my family.

I experienced God’s kindness in a miraculous way in those days. He reinforced His mighty love for me.  The night I was kicked out of my friend’s home, it was late, and I knew that I needed to be out early in the morning.  My baby was sleeping next to me on our makeshift bed on the floor.  The burden and pain of what was happening was so deep that I started bawling uncontrollably.  It’s one thing to go through tough times when it’s just you, but when you have a beautiful newborn baby laying next to you that takes it to a whole new level.  I got up and made myself a bubble bath and began to softly sing songs of praise to my God.  I took every ounce of effort to offer up a song of praise in the midst of my grief.  After I dried off and laid back down I closed my eyes and wept again and praying silently.  As I prayed I suddenly felt the biggest arms slide around me.  It was so real I opened my eyes to see who was grabbing me.  When no one was there I quickly shut my eyes and begged God to not let go!  It was the most surreal moment I’ve ever had in my life.  Thinking of it now brings tears to my eyes.  I got a BEAR HUG FROM GOD!  I never wanted it to stop!  I knew, that I knew, that I knew that even though everyone else may fail me God will always have my back.  I am His child.

image from web. public domain.
image from web. public domain.

(To be fair I was not perfect in all of this. In my desperation to find help in dealing with the struggles in our marriage I went to far too many people to “discuss” our problems.  I didn’t show any discretion and it hurt my husband deeply and it gave the impression that I was a drama queen.  So I don’t excuse my behavior but I also don’t excuse theirs.  Grace is something none of us had. ) 

“Therefore you are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things…or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Gal. 2:1,4

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