Sunday, June 06, 2004

got grace? part one

tim's question drove me from my bed this morning at a very early hour. he asks "I'd love to hear more about what it means to 'get' grace". tim, i really honestly appreciate your questions, they spur me on, challenge me and inspire me, really. thank you! this is going to take some background to answer, so please bear with me.

my journey to get 'grace began' because after 12 years of begging god to answer the call in our lives he finally opened the door to this tiny little church in the middle of absolute nowhere. it had the word 'grace' in it's name.

we thought we had died and gone to heaven already to be finally allowed to serve god vocationally. honest, liam quit his very well paying job and we sold our first home that we only had been at for 2 years (oh yeah, i was 8 months pregnant with our second child) and we moved to a broken down farm rental on a dirt road in a place even farther from nowhere than that little church. and done with a song in our heart.

we were so naive, so green and so misled. this church was anything but grace. have you ever met a girl named joy who was anything but? that's what this place was like. not on the outside mind you, they smiled and patted us on the head for almost two years while we fell madly in love with their teenagers, and their teenagers fell madly in love with us.

what we didn't know is that they were crumbling spiritually, and they didn't know that we were crumbling emotionally. i was literally living on a dirt road with two small children and a husband who was working himself to death to keep food on our table and this tiny little church happy and none of it was working.

what i didn't realize is that i was postpartum. i could have been that lady who drowned her babies to put them in a 'better place'. god spared all of us, i never laid a hand on them, but i was spinning out of control in my addictions.

my husband would come through the door with a box of little debbie swiss rolls every night, and almost toss them to me like you'd feed a wild animal. i'd devour them and be medicated enough to be conversant with him until bedtime, but it usually ended up with us fighting or in sleeping in seperate rooms.

then came the day in july when the church decided we needed to have a youth yard sale. the basement of the church was filled with donations, and no one showed up to help. this was the day before our first time off in over a year. i had to 'help' with my two tiny toddlers on main street as the tourist zoomed past. it also happened to be over 100 degrees (in canada) and the most humid day i've ever felt.

i can hardly remember it, i truly could feel myself cracking under the pressure.

i retreated to the air-conditioned basement of the church to grab some more items to sell. my husband came in and saw me sitting down and made some comment to impress on me the fact that he really needed my help. and i lost it. it wasn't loud, but again, no one came to help, so i truly thought we were alone in the church. little did i know that our fight drew a silent witness.

all i can remember was the line 'i hate this f@#!ng church!'

that was all the 'power-player' elder needed.

instead of coming down and confronting me he chose to hire a lawyer. it got ugly. but only on their side.

they started to 'collect' a list against my husband, watching for any mis-steps or mistakes. the whole while we kept ministering, and i entered counselling and finally found a OA (overeaters anonymous). this recovery group was church to me. you see church there was 'oh you're the youth pastor's wife, you can run the nursery'. i would get us all ready and off to church to sit with my children in their cruddy little nursery for 2 1/2 hours, oh yeah, and babysit any of their kids they decided to dump on me too.

so that 1 1/2 hours at OA became my temple, my worship center, a place where i could finally meet 'god as i understood him'.

so many christians get hung up on that line in the AA big book. what they fail to realize is that we all (especially christians) have a version of god that we 'understand' to be true. this was the FIRST time god wasn't a masochist to me.

i remember jim, he was a veteran 12 step group member, with many other 12-step groups under his belt. if you met jim anywhere other than a group you'd have thought he was a tower snyper. he had that scary look in his eyes. except when he was talking about recovery. he became our guru. 6 over weight women and jim. i miss him more than i miss anyone in canada. somehow that unredeemed, ted bundy looking man was jesus to me.

the crazy thing about all of this is that we were getting healthier and happier than we had been in years. and that was when the s&*t hit the fan.

if the church had come to us and said 'man this isn't working out' we HONESTLY would have known god had other places for us. but that didn't happen. they decided it was necessary to crucify my husband. it was horrible, ugly and sinful. they punished him for having a wife that he couldn't control but never once told us it was because i had a nervous breakdown in the basement of the church. never once.

we sat in meetings and begged them to tell us what this was about. the answer we received as that 'if we told you you'd just explain it away'. no, really we'd have a clue, ask for forgiveness and not do it again. just tell us what's wrong. nope.

here's a list of 12 things you need to fix, you're on probation and we're watching you.

we were so programmed that elders spoke for god that it never entered our minds to walk away. we loved their kids, this was the call of god and somehow we had screwed that up.

we went to their counselor (who by the way gave us rave reviews and thought the church was nuts) and liam jumped through every hoop they gave. also we did this silently - no one in the church, other than our two best friends ever knew this was happening. we knew that we needed to do this without sin. after we were well on our way to finishing the list the senior pastor told liam 'if it was me i'd resign'.

resign? what is that going to look like at the high school (where liam had his other job)? people only resigned when there was sin - and we didn't sin here. we talked and talked and talked (it was the best thing that ever happened to our marriage btw, stinking hard, but it drew us closer to each other and god than we had ever been before.)

we decided that the only other route open to us was to split the church, and we knew that wasn't god's will. so we told them we'd resign if they let us tell 'our kids'. we did, and they were shell-shocked. it was horrible (because they wouldn't let us stay to work with them afterward (even for free). it really took it's toll on a lot of those kids (their kids - what were they thinking??). and we left. the senior pastor resigned two days later.

liam still had his position at the school so we took our time to find a good match and we interviewed churches more than they interviewed us. and we decided this was the time in our lives to experiment - to try different churches, and we did.

god began to be real to us again. we worshiped truly for the first times in a church (we had been attending the national youth workers convention for the previous 2 years, so we had begun to understand what real worship was like.) and god started to dismantle the box we kept him in, and the box of what church was supposed to look like for us. it was very freeing. it was the beginning of emerging for us, and we didn't ever realize it.

it was only after we moved that someone had enough courage to tell us about the f-word in the basement. i had totally forgotten about it. god used my conniption fit in the basement of that church to begin to free us from the tyranny of spiritual abuse and a small minded church structure that we would have never left if we hadn't been forced to.

the air out here smells so much better!

that is only part one, there is much more to tell, but it will have to wait as we have church this morning. thank you for reading!


togenberg said...

How are there no comments on these 'get to know me' blog posts? I think they are fascinating and great. I love your honesty and passion. (I don't assume you'll even know to read these or respond. It's just nice to comment for me.)

"so that 1 1/2 hours at OA became my temple, my worship center, a place where i could finally meet 'god as i understood him'." I really, really long for this. I've never had this. Church=hellfire, beating, memorizing Romans.

"somehow that unredeemed, ted bundy looking man was jesus to me." He sounds ilke an absolutely fascinating person, out of a novel though of course he is quite real (and thank god for him). When you say he's unredeemed do think he's going to a real hell? That word (so many religious words) strikes my face. Is God that horrible judge?

"we were so programmed that elders spoke for god that it never entered our minds to walk away. ...this was the call of god and somehow we had screwed that up." I hear that. Of course you reacted as you did. You were quite well programmed, non? this was what you knew.

bobbie said...

thank you togenberg! i have tried to find your blog or email so that i could thank you directly - but your profile is closed.

i hadn't read this post in years - and hearing that through your ears bout the "unredeemed" comment made me cringe - i no longer believe that to be true. i have come such a long way. he really was a stephen king character!

and programmed was all i knew.

your comments made my day, thanks so much!

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