When Your Church Becomes Your Ex-Boyfriend

So it occurred to me that the way I was handling transitioning from my old church to my new church was not unlike my old ways of breaking up with a boyfriend and finding a new boyfriend.

First, a disclaimer:

THE CHURCH IS NOT A BOYFRIEND.

AND ONE SHOULD NOT BOYFRIEND-HOP, ANYWAY.

AND I SHOULD HAVE BEEN WISER WITH GIVING MY HEART AWAY TO MEN IN MY LIFE.

With that said, it was a mighty startling thing when I saw words typed to my first pastor, like “I don’t know how this works. Can I still talk to you if I need to? Can I come and visit?”

I felt like a scared teenage girl not wanting to let go of the boy she so “loved,” though knowing it was in her best interest.

That pastor understands my insecurities and assured me I’d be welcome to visit anytime.

“But what about talking to you?” I asked, feeling my needy arms clinging to this human. “You know me so well. You were my first pastor when I became a Christian. Can I email you my prayer needs once in a while?”

And the pastor informed me he’d be taking my name out of the membership list and my name off this duty and that duty as well. He was grace-filled about it all.

It felt like such a loss.

And so I step into our new church. It’s so different. Smaller. Less ceremonial. Little to no ministries. No fanciness. It’s in the storefront of a strip mall in this tiny town.

It’s so different.

I’ve started to organize groups here. I’ve started a prayer group as well as their first newsletter. The church is only 3 or so years old. It isn’t as established as my former church. I don’t have the roots there as I do in the former one.

I like to know where I am and to feel safe. I like to know my surroundings and for my surroundings to know me. So when the Lord put it on my heart that, for my family’s spiritual sake, we needed to change churches in order to enter a new season of life, I resisted at first.

And it’s been a hard transition. I better understand why it is needed. And it’s not because of any fault of the first church. The second church is just different in how my husband and I feel it nourishes us.

But change is hard. This people-pleasing girl is having a very hard time with it.

At my old church, I struggle with going back and joining the praise team or helping out in worship. I am paranoid people are thinking I am conceited and worry they talk about me and our choice to move.

At my new church, I struggle with worrying that other people think I am too eager. After all, who am I to walk in there and after only two months start two different ministries? Besides joining the one other singer in helping out with worship music?

And then I recognize those old lies I’ve heard for so long:

The enemy hissing, You think you are so important, don’t you. Well, you’re not. You’re a drama queen. Stop drawing attention to yourself. It’s not about you. You’re so selfish. You want all the glory. You don’t do this for any God of yours. It’s all so you can look good. And that first pastor? He thinks you’re weak, misguided, a hypocrite. You should never show your face around there again.

And I want to then hide and cry in bed, fear and worry overtaking me.

But.

I know some things to be true:

– If I feel worry and fear, that is not from God. It can be used by God, but it is not from or of God. 

– my former pastor is NOT my ex-boyfriend and neither is that church. I’m not breaking up with anyone because I continue to serve the same God over at the new church. 

– there are seasons in this life of ours. Ecclesiastes 3 says so. 

– When God calls you to do something, go somewhere, say something, you do it – even if it’s hard. 

– I serve people WAY too much. I ought to be serving God so much more than I am. 

I was in my prayer closet the other night, praying about this topic. I opened my Bible and decided to read whatever random page I came across.

What I read was Isaiah 31.

“What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help,
    trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers
and depending on the strength of human armies
    instead of looking to the Lord,
    the Holy One of Israel.
 In his wisdom, the Lord will send great disaster;
    he will not change his mind.
He will rise against the wicked
    and against their helpers.
 For these Egyptians are mere humans, not God!
    Their horses are puny flesh, not mighty spirits!
When the Lord raises his fist against them,
    those who help will stumble,
and those being helped will fall.
    They will all fall down and die together.”

— Isaiah 31:1-3

Those Egyptians were mere mortals, not God! Oh, these pastors are mere mortals, too! Those parishioners are mere mortals, not God!

Woe to me; what sorrow awaits for those who look to mortals for help.

And haven’t I always done that?

For most of my life it was looking to boyfriends to define me.

It seems that after becoming Christian your insecurities don’t go away. In fact, because you have given your life to God, the enemy thinks he can trap you easier – and you make a better target. He would much rather steal you from God than steal one who doesn’t believe. They’re easier targets, anyway.

So my need to feel validation from men did not stop when I joined church, when I was saved, when I followed Jesus.

Thankfully, God is merciful and just as well as loving and compassionate.

He has promised to provide me with everything as long as I look to Him.

As long as I look. As long as I seek. As long as I knock and ask.

He wants to be invited; he wants to be wooed.

So.

I will seek to please the Lord. I will ask Him if I am saying things, doing things “right.” I will ask Him if I look pretty in this dress or if I sang that song well. I will ask Jesus if He can join me in conversation and listen to my lamenting. I will not focus on emailing pastors when in need. I will go to the Lord. I will not rely on my husband to fill every need; I will go to the Lord.

When your church becomes your ex-boyfriend, you are in deep trouble because it means that you are relying on Egypt for help.

And so I’m grateful for being a work in progress, for God being a God of second chances…and thirds and gazillions because He is loving and good. Grateful that God gives me a swift kick in the pants every now and then because there is no way I’d be having these realizations without His wisdom and strength. Grateful for the growth I feel every time I go through the refining fire.

And grateful that God will always take me back because I will always run back to Him. Grateful for His mercies and forgiveness, which are far more than I deserve.

Nobody should become more important than God.

No church, no pastor, no congregation.

Would you mind praying for me as I enter this next season of my faith walk?

How can I pray for you today?

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On knees, head low, arms high…

When You Need to Log Off and When to Log On

Dear You,

you who could be my friend, you who could be a reader who subscribed in hopes of reading something interesting and enlightening, you who are just passing by and happened to click on the button that brought you here.

You might feel a bit neglected; you might feel like I’ve abandoned you and gave up on my blog.

Take a look at when I last wrote, so long ago.

A lot has happened.

Kid drama, family drama, marriage drama, lice invasion (yuck), medication problems, health problems, busy busy busyness.

Been carrying around burdens on my back that I have no business carrying.

And you might feel that way sometimes, too.

I haven’t written in this blog for so long for two reasons:

1. I legitimately did not have time

2. My family needed me more than you did.

That’s a hard truth for me. 

To leave my readers, leave my writing, leave my pondering.

But God has been molding me, fiercely and with love, into a mother who loves her kids, a mother who looks into them instead of looks at them. A mother who listens instead of logs on. 

I’ve been trying to log off from distractions and log onto my kids more.

I honestly don’t know when another blog entry will appear.

My kids still need my presence, my husband needs me desperately.

God continues to stretch me and oh, the growing pains!

This is hard.

I don’t like it.

Except in moments when my almost 7-yr-old boy, whose legs are sprawling out way too fast into boy-men-legs, curls up in my lap during a TV show. Except in moments when I watch my almost 10-yr-old girl listen to our Pastor and I know she’s getting it; I know God’s Truth is seeping in. And her hand reaches for mine.

In those moments, it’s not so hard.

I love it.

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But do pray for me in the other moments, won’t you?

Pray for good priorities, good boundaries. For patience and strength.

For humility and love to shower upon me and my family.

Dear you,

thank you for hanging in there. We are all in this boat together. How have you been lately?

On knees, head low, arms high…

Good Dog: When Anger Morphs

This is my second “Good Dog” post, the series where I talk about my adventures (nice use of word) trying to lower my yelling ratio. I found I was yelling at more than loving on my kids.

My ego kept making excuses: These are your stepkids. You weren’t ready for full-time motherhood; you didn’t know how to be a good motherYou were thrown into this role too fast, no wonder you’re stressed so much.

But I know Truth. I know Jesus has given me His mind and that mind does not create the thoughts I have when I get so angry that ugly spits out of my mouth. I know that I can control these negative thoughts; I can take them captive.

So no. I could not blame my yelling on my circumstances, only. I could not blame it all on the fact on my inexperience or lack of readiness.

Because I believe God never puts in a place where we won’t be ready for. We might not be ready yet…

but God turns our yet into yes.

I might not have been ready at first, but through God’s molding, God’s refining, I become ready.

I just have to accept the training God gives me. 

So there’s no blaming anymore. I was yelling because I felt out of control due to our various family stress. I was yelling out of fear, pure and simple.

I was not listening to who God says I am.

I am listening now. I join other parents who have had enough yelling and want more loving.

I’ve been journaling about my yelling and anger for a few weeks now.  I’ve tried alternatives to yelling and worked very hard. My yelling has actually decreased.

But the anger hasn’t.

So what happens when the yelling decreases but the anger still remains at the plateau?

My yelling morphed into things I, personally, think are even worse:

sarcasm, meanness, snapping, rude weariness. 

Seeing those words typed out in loud, bold print, seeing my most ugly side out there for all to see – it’s humiliating. I catch myself thinking I am the only one with this problem and I must be the worst parent in the world.

But then I read The Orange Rhino’s latest blog entry and read some of the community’s comments and I know instantly that I am no where near alone on this island of anger.

We’re all trying to find some paddles to swim to safe land. We find them differently. We even paddle differently.

So with this revelation of my yelling morphing into still-damaging coping mechanisms, I continue the uphill battle of loving my kids more.

I find myself spilling over with attitude and grumpiness, crankiness and hard snaps. Then, I feel awful and get into the horrible cycle of feeling bad about what I did and then being so stuck that I keep doing it.

How to rise out of the molasses?

One trick I did which I learned from The Orange Rhino: launch into an animal noise.

Seriously.

I cock-a-doodle-do-d my way out of my anger

I cock-a-doodle-do-d my way out of my anger

I crowed like a rooster to jar myself out of my icky-place. And, by jove, it worked!

The anger left me and I felt more able to talk appropriately.

So my yelling has decreased, but somehow my need for control has found new ways to grip life hard.

I want to stop that as well.

I will not let this biting sarcasm and sharp off-hand comments harm my kids anymore than I would let my yelling.

I cock-a-doodle-do-d my way out of yelling, I can moo myself out of snapping.

And I will.

Because I have two things, among many more, on my side – but these are the best two:

Grace from God

and

a host of animal noises to make. 

With a baah baah here and a neigh neigh there.

On knees, head low, arms high…

my stepson's school art project that he gave me

my stepson’s school art project that he gave me