On Sunday, I walked into my church, dropped Elias and Adeline off at their classrooms, grabbed a cup of coffee, and found a seat in the auditorium. I was early, so as I waited, I scanned my Instagram feed and soon learned via one of the photos I saw that the church service I was getting ready to experience was apt to make me very uncomfortable. In fact, I was already uncomfortable.
It wasn’t the topic that caused me to feel uneasy or the obnoxious light show they often display, but rather the special guest they invited, somebody closely connected to a Christian organization that I think is toxic, a company that I personally find gross and impossible to support. At first, I silently panicked, scrolling through the Rolodex of sporadic thoughts running through my brain:
I shouldn’t be offended.
I need to leave.
I don’t want to pull the kids out of their classes.
Should I pull the kids out of their classes and leave?
I don’t want to make a scene.
I sort of want to make a scene.
I’m offended but I don’t want to be offended. But why do I feel offended?
Having somebody like me as a member of your megachurch can’t be easy—I fully realize that. It requires a lot of grace, trust, and humor. I’m survivor of church abuse. I still carry baggage. While I’ve grown a lot, sometimes, when caught off guard, I can quickly fall back into making uncomfortable experiences like the one I was encountering last Sunday all about me, about me being hurt, about me not feeling safe, about my church not considering me. On top of that, I often write about church abuse. So yes, sometimes having me as a member of your church is a big ole pain in the ass.
But Pete and I have chatted about this a good bit. And despite our differences of opinions, he and I are friends and we trust each other. (He’s quite honestly one of the friendliest and sincere people I know).
But trust is a funny thing. Because trust doesn’t mean that I’ll never walk into an uncomfortable church experience. Trust doesn’t mean that I get to control or even influence the decisions my church makes. Trust doesn’t mean I’m entitled to become offended and voice my offenses in whatever way I want.
Trust means that I can be me. I don’t have to like every decision my church makes. Trust means my church and my pastor are free to make choices and decisions that might offend me. Trust means that, when necessary, we can talk about things. Trust means that our differences in opinions do not define our friendship.
Trust means that if something makes me uncomfortable, I can simply walk out of the service and sit in the lobby and play Words With Friends.
And that’s what I did.
One person, an employee of the church, asked me if I was okay. I sighed. And I hesitated.
But trust means I get to be honest.
“I’m not really okay at the moment. I’m not a fan of fill in the blank.”
She smiled, “that’s totally okay! We all have our likes and dislikes. And that’s okay.”
And that was all that was said. I didn’t tell her what made me uncomfortable. She didn’t ask. We sat their and chatted about kids, school, life for the rest of the service.
And you know what? I felt OK. I was OK.
And then I picked up Elias and Adeline and went home.
Trust isn’t always an easy journey, especially when it involves a church, friendships, and personal feelings and baggage. But trust gives me permission to not make every decision that my church makes about me. Trust gives me the ability to feel safe and listened to even when I disagree. Trust means that I don’t have to be one the congregation’s “yes people”.
Trust allows me to write this blog post…
I love my church. I don’t love it because I always agree with every decision the leadership makes. I love it because I trust the people making those decisions, even when they decide to invite a special guest from an organization that I don’t like.