As I write this, we are on the cusp of the fourth week of lent. My original aspiration of doing a daily blog has gone amiss. But here I am today. In all honesty, I have spent time healing after the Day 8 and 9 reflection.
This morning while searching the internet for churches near me, I stumbled upon this quote (with a reference to the Henri Nouwen Society, meditations):
How do we work for reconciliation? First and foremost by claiming for ourselves that God through Christ has reconciled us to God. It is not enough to believe this with our heads. We have to let the truth of this reconciliation permeate every part of our beings. As long as we are not fully and thoroughly convinced that we have been reconciled with God, that we are forgiven, that we have received new hearts, new spirits, new eyes to see, and new ears to hear, we continue to create divisions among people because we expect from them a healing power they do not possess. (Church Site)
I have read this over a few times. Each time, it becomes more of a blessing.
On day 1 of this lent season, I was encouraged to rip my heart open to expose all that was within it. Since then, I have been examining the contents and carefully extracting anything unhealthy. Now, it seems the time has come for my heart to be knit back up again. The quote above is becoming the first stitch in this endeavour.
The truth is, my acceptance lies in God. I always knew this in my head. However, knowing this in one’s heart and soul is another matter. And I think this is where I became vulnerable and a candidate to be hurt within my former church. God through Christ has reconciled me to himself. There is no more work to be done. There are no additional sacrifices to be made. And, gosh, I did a lot of unnecessary sacrificing. I strove to give more money to the church than I could afford – they were a “tithing” church – and I subsequently felt terribly guilty when I could not meet their requirements. Because I simply could not. And you know what? God never expects a hard working family to give up taking care of their own financial needs in favour of a church (“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8).
I used to worry too much about being acceptable to the people in the church, especially the “top” people (pastor and his wife). I was overly sensitive to any subtly negative comments regarding my theological views or the way I choose to live my life. Now don’t get me wrong. I am an open minded person who does not mind constructive criticism given compassionately and with a positive motive. This is how we grow. But I felt that I needed to jump through ridiculous hoops that Jesus never required, in order to be a “better” Christian. It came to the point that I had to censer myself in every word I said or post I wrote. This was so silly. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).” The verse says “whoever believes in him …” It does not say “whoever believes in him, and also does x, y and z”.
I do not want this to turn into a venting “they did me wrong” post. So I will stop the memories here. I am looking forward to the future now. I have a church in mind to try out tomorrow (Sunday) and I really hope it works out. If not, well, I know I am acceptable to God anyway. I know I belong in the Christian world as much as anybody else. This is enough right now.
Only when we fully trust that we belong to God and can find in our relationship with God all that we need for our minds, hearts, and souls, can we be truly free in this world and be ministers of reconciliation. This is not easy; we readily fall back into self-doubt and self-rejection. We need to be constantly reminded through God’s Word, the sacraments, and the love of our neighbours that we are indeed reconciled. (Church Site)