For those who know me, you probably know of my positive attitude and nature, my sense of adventure or the light that I can’t help but share with people. But for those who know me well, you know I’ve had a deep chip on my shoulder for quite some time now. I’ve been trying to find the words to describe the darkness that has leaked in and filled me over the last two and a half years. I suppose I’ve found them.
During college, I joined a church that I fell in love with, as many people do. The praise and worship band was made up of well-established musicians, so the music production was incredible and lively. The backdrops and stage were always lovely and matched whatever series was on. The message was always on point, and I left every Sunday full of joy, conviction, and enlightenment.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed the message, it felt very clique-ish. You know, like high school with different clubs and sports, interests and hobbies, beautiful snobs and sweet dorks, etc. After a while, I started to feel uncomfortable around some of them. It legitimately felt like asking to sit at the cool kids’ table at lunch, and they just kind of scoot over awkwardly to let you in because they know they should, but not because they really want to. I’ve never had much tolerance for shallow people, and showing your face in a building every week doesn’t prove you have any depth (#blessed). However, I did like many people there, most of them age 50+ or -2 (I really am an old soul).
Though I worked my tail off through school, I found time to volunteer at 8:00 am on Sunday mornings after working until after midnight nearly every Saturday night before. I eventually joined a small group to try and connect with the other members around my age to try to gain a true sense of community. Our elders suggested this because our church had grown to fill hundreds of seats over three different services every Sunday morning, making it difficult to genuinely connect with others between hustle and bustle of getting people in and out.
As any person would, I believed my church was my community, though most of the people in it never knew my name, or even tried to. So you can imagine my dismay when the most traumatic event of my life occurred, and everyone in the world seemed to show up except my church.
On October 29th, 2014, a tree fell on my dad while he was working. He was in the hospital for eight weeks (seven of those were spent on his back in the critical care unit), followed by ten days in a rehabilitation center, and months (that have now turned to years) of therapy and rehab. The first thing I did when I heard the news of the accident was text my preacher and email my small group leader to let them know what had happened.
Over the following two weeks, only three individuals from the church reached out. No one showed up to the hospital, no one called to pray over the phone, no one sent a letter or card, and no one asked where I was every weekend that I wasn’t there. But you can bet your sweet ass that my first Sunday back, I got the ol’ cringe-worthy, questionable stare by one of the greeters followed by the passive-aggressive, “Good to see you. It’s been a while.” I can assure you this gentleman didn’t receive a smile or even a response as my initial thought was, “No shit, asshole, I’ve been sitting with my dad in the hospital for two months, but thanks for being concerned enough to ask what has kept me away.” I then attempted to un-flush my cheeks and tame the fire the seemed to have blazed up my spine.
**I want to note that there was one woman that I volunteered with in the nursery every Sunday that reached out to me after a few months to check in, and I told her how much that simple gesture meant to me. I think she still reads my blog, and I don’t want her to think I have forgotten this.
I spent the rest of the service fuming in my seat, crying quietly because everything around me suddenly seemed as shallow as a puddle. The musical production was, well, just that—a production. The message about the tight-knit community of the church felt like a joke that everyone forgot to laugh at, and the scenery on stage was just something they spent good resources on to make the church look pretty. My safe place quickly turned to ash beneath my feet.
I tried to go back twice after that. Each time left me angrier than the one before it. I attended one small group meeting where no one offered genuine concern for my dad or my family, so I gave that up, too. That isn’t how your church, your community, or your people are supposed to make you feel. Before I knew it, my happy-go-lucky nature turned cynical. The cries of the church’s rejects grew louder as I finally started to understand how so many people around me had been burned by “God’s people”. My empathy grew heavy for those who had been burned much deeper than I, and the hypocrisy of church was more evident than I had ever recognized.
Naturally, I have questioned my beliefs, my faith, and my own ability to be present for others in need ever since. After all, if the one place that’s meant to heal people and show up when needed can’t do it, how can I? And what’s the point?
I’ve been asked more than once if I’m angry with God. I can say wholeheartedly that I haven’t once felt that way because it has offended me every time someone has asked. Not in a defensive way, but in a protective way. I understand that God isn’t “out to get me” and that shit just happens in life. We are promised nothing in this world but hardships and trials. The good days, even the mediocre days, are something to bow your head and say grace over. I understand this, but I don’t think many do.
My light dimmed drastically after all of this. I stopped smiling as much. I stopped pouring into others as I did before. I started clenching my jaw every time someone said they’d be praying for me because this is no longer a promise but a phrase. A strong sense of hatred crept inside me for everything that seemed superficial, and it’s amazing how many things in our glorified first-world lives are so absurdly superficial.
I stopped highlighting my hair. Makeup rarely brushed my face and I stopped caring for my body. I looked around and saw so much energy poured into appearing beautiful, but never truly acting beautifully. It’s a fact I tried to understand (or at least wrap my head around) for so long, but I have come to learn that I’ll never understand it, I just have to accept it.
The spiritual warfare I have experienced over the past couple of years has been incredibly draining. I haven’t been moved by the Spirit in the church since dad’s accident. (That’s not to say I don’t think it’s possible.) However, I have since felt the Spirit while I was immersed deep in nature, when I’ve genuinely connected with old friends and total strangers, while my husband held me as I wept under the crushing weight of the world (post on living with anxiety coming soon), and while I sat across from my auntie on her porch while she was taking a drag of a cigarette.
It’s possible to find God outside of the walls of the church, and while many would say the physical building isn’t the church, I would argue that most people who claim to be the church don’t show up as the church. I am as guilty of this as any, but I am much more aware of my short-comings after finding it in others because I so desperately want to be better than that.
I am happy to say that after all this time I am finally starting to see the light again! And as we all know, you can’t shine light on others without illuminating yourself.
I’m trying to be more graceful about the concept of church. After all, the church is made up of people. People are imperfect, broken creatures. We are all people and we all fall short. While it’s easy to pinpoint how others have failed us, we must then ask ourselves how we have failed others, and how we can avoid doing it again. If you want to spread God’s light, you have to be God’s light.
Though I’m sure this has ruffled some feathers, I hope it has caused you to pause and reflect. Sure, you may go to church, but are you the church? Do you care about the sheep in your flock? Do you go looking for them when they’re lost and nurture them when they’re sick? Or do you expect them to fend for themselves? Remember, if you don’t find them, there are plenty of wolves that will.
With love & light,
The Humble Lion
Your words have such strength and I loved reading this. But this line is especially golden: “I looked around and saw so much energy poured into appearing beautiful, but never truly acting beautifully.”
Thank you so much, sweet friend.
So, so, so good. Miss you dear friend!
Thank you, Jenna! I miss you dearly and look forward to one hell of a reunion next year!
This is amazingly accurate sweet lady! I
I’m sorry to hear your struggles as a result of how you were treated. I am sorry that the church didn’t help with your needs especially what I could have done to help. I hope that you are now able to shine your light brightly for the whole world to see. I know I’m working on living out my faith and being there for others in ways I haven’t before. God can take our ashes and turn them into something beautiful!! Love seeing the amazing woman of God that you are!!
Thank you, Sarah! I hope you’re doing well!
Kassie I always love reading you post. I hope things are going well for you and Austin. I enjoyed reading this. I love and miss you.
Thank you, Sally! We love you and hope you’re doing well! Miss you all extra these days!
You are reading my mail! I’m part of a church that’s very similar to what you’ve described. Along with 60 others, started this church 5 years ago in February. We’ve grown to well over a thousand, and still growing. Our churches average age is probably around 25-35.
Susan had a pretty serious surgery a month ago, (everything went well).
I reached out to some friends on staff for prayer and support. One close friend came the morning of the surgery…….and other than that, crickets! As a member of the worship team, and an active elder, I guess I was expecting too much! I’m not one to be easily offended, but this hurt a bit. After being absent this past month, I showed up Sunday because I was scheduled to play drums. Other than the normal, “how you doing”, not a word. Not giving up on THE church as a whole, but I can definitely relate to your article. People will let us down, as I’m sure I do to others, but God is faithful, even when I’m faithless! Hang in kid, and be blessed.
I know you don’t know me very well but I’ve been a friend of Graham, or Grahambo as we called him, for quite some time. Admittedly I haven’t been in touch with him as much since they moved from the farm at Hadley. Nevertheless I understand what you’re speaking of here, and I felt like I should tell you this; not as a retort, but just to let you know your cries for prayer did not go unheard. Our church prayed for Graham from day one even though very few people in our church knew him personally. The day I found out about the accident I literally threw up in my driveway and sat on the steps of the deck crying. When I had a little better composure I started a prayer chain within our church members and within an hour or less there were hundreds of people dropping what they were doing to pray for his healing, and that prayer continued throughout this process you all have been through. I just wanted to let you know that you all have not been forgotten. And by the way I have invited Graham and Lesli to come visit our church (Clear Fork Baptist Church in Rockfield) several times and we would be thrilled to have you join us as well if you’d like. We have a new pastor, Bro. Chad Bewley and there is an excitement and Spirit at our church like I’ve never experienced before personally. I will also say, and not just being biased in doing so, that Clear Fork does have the closeness that seems to be lacking in a lot of our churches today. Everyone is truly loved and cared for and we would be glad for you and your family to join us anytime you like.
Lance, I made sure to put in this article that “everyone in the world seemed to show up except my church”. I know you all prayed us through that time and SO many congregations came together to show us love and support, sent us gift bags, and helped us through the hardest time of our lives. It was MY church, the church I was a member of, that didn’t show up. Thank you for being such a good person, and kind friend to my parents. You all made a difference in our lives and left us humbled and loved.
I cannot begin to tell you how much this HIT home!! I was apart of a church family several years back.. I was going through a great deal but even more so my daughter was.. I was eager for her to be involved in the youth group I truly injoyed the group gatherings with church members.. I could see her growing in the youth group it all seem to be falling wonderfully in place…. Until she started getting seriously bullied at school so much so I had to homeschool her for a period of time.. threats on social media ect her world and mine was falling apart when I approached the pastor about having to get law enforcement involved and how many basketball players/cheerleaders could possibly be in trouble due to the police having to read all texts coming in.. I was overwhelmed these kids hadn’t harmed her but had sent texts that could get them in trouble once seen… I was so conflicted protect my daughter at the cost of several kids who did nothing to her getting hurt also for wrong actions or let the bullies go free… it was in this time that the doors shut on her and me.. there was never a phone call to check on her or me… the child was out of school suffering and not one person / or youth director checked on her.. it made me bitter towards the people not my God… in the end they were scared of their own kids friends getting in trouble and didn’t want to help her because they were afraid of their own child’s standing in social at high school…. it was hard to swallow that Christian people didn’t really care so much for the child who suffered only if there kid would be marked because they were kind…. church hasn’t been the same for me as I no longer trust people or depend on them in need..: my
Light was dimmed in this time… but your read encourages me that there is still hope.. we are all human and in the end we just have to work on our best selves and our own relationship with God!!!
I hate to here this, Trenna. It seems to be a common occurrence, but we just have to take a step back and remember that people will fail us, and we will fail people. It’s just a gentle reminder to do all that we can while we can.
I just read all of your letter. I KNOW YOU WERE HURT WHEN Y OUR DAD WAS SO ILL. BUT I REALLY FET THAT HE PULLED THROUGH LIKE HE DID WITH ALL THE PRAYERS THAT HE HAD.
YOU SAID THAT WE DON’T
‘ HAVE ANY PROMISES BUT MY SWEETR GIRL. WE HAVE THE GREATEST PROMISE OF ALL
GOD SAID THAT HE WOULD NEVER LEAVE OR FORSAKE US,A ND I BELIEVE THAT WITH ALL MY HEART. HEBREWS11;5 JUST STAY CLOSE TO GOD AND HE WILL STAY CLOSE TO YOU. I REALIZE THAT I AM OLDER AND BEEN THROUGH SO MUCH AND THERE ARE TIMES WHEN YOU DOUBT BBUT I ALWAYS SAY’ GOD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE AND ALLS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD.”THERE IS A SONG THAT I THINK OF WHEN TIMES ARE ROUGH [ BECAUSE HE LIVES I CAN FACE TOMARROW] LOVE YOU, DEAR GIRL.
Love you too, Aunt Betty!! Thank you so much!
Great job kassie.Hold fast to the faith and fellowship of Jesus Christ and his word and life will be worth living under any condition.GramPa
Love you so much, Grampa!
Been in this place more than once, & am currently close again! The struggle is surely real, but sometimes I wonder if anything ever changes. I know I have. I’ve become much more forgiving because I realize churches are made of people as imperfect as I am but, honestly, sometimes I want to walk in hollering that I’m still alive & thanks for checking up on me while I was M.I.A.!
Let it just serve as a reminder that we need to show up for others. That’s all we can do. Much love to you, Carol!
Read Anne Graham Lotz book wounded by Gods people and it will help us to see things as they really are. We have all been there. It is available through Lifeway book stores.
I’ll put that on the must read list! Thanks, Nancye!
Very good read! I could relate so much to this article.
Thank you! I’m so glad you got something out of it!
I especially like the point you made about “so much energy poured into appearing beautiful, but never truly acting beautifully.” Isn’t that exactly how you described the church you were attending? The band was great, the music was lively, familiar faces to greet you at the door – all great presentation! All appearing to be beautiful.. But, who ACTED beautifully when the need arose?
Thank you, Bee! Love you, precious!
Thank you for putting my thoughts into these beautiful words! I am in such a bad place right now, but I go to church… twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday night. I go for my kids ages 14, 11, and 9. I fake every bit of my existence while I am there. I’ve tried to talk to people about it, but they just brush me off like it is my fault. This is the church I GREW UP IN! I moved away for college and then got married. I moved back home 9 years ago. I think the elders still feel like I’m that teenage girl who was so involved and loved everyone. I tell you this because it is real. This is happening in so many churches and we wonder why we can’t keep people in the church!
Jennifer, I am so sorry to hear that. The only thing I can really say about it is that none of that is your fault or your problem. You can’t be expected not to grow and blossom. I hope things improve for you all! If not, maybe try introducing your family to a new church. Your kids may really appreciate it later on.
I saw this shared on Facebook and had to comment. It speaks to me so well.
Yep. This is the modern church. Going from small churches to big, multi-service, professional production music, exactly 59 minutes, 59 seconds compartmentalized services, etc…no. I don’t think the church should be that, it should be personal, and everyone should know and care about each other.
You could say that there aren’t enough small churches to fit that many people in these cities, but our small church closed down because we weren’t getting enough participation or taking in enough money to pay the rent, and it was the best church experience of my life. I had even delivered a few of the messages near the end myself as we struggled to keep it going. So many professing Christians would seemingly rather hide behind the facade of just going to a place to sit and watch someone talk for an hour than actively participate in being community with others, even for just that 59:59, second of three services, diet mocha latte frappe whatever in hand.
Thank you so much for sharing this with me, Brent. That last line is so painfully accurate.
@kasmitchell. I completely understand. Take a look at the JW.org website to see what true love based in the Bible looks like. Recently Russia has wanted to ban those who live by bible teachings. In support of these beautiful christians, JW.org requested that fellow christians write a letter to the Russian authority’s. They provided all addresses. The message was peace, not hate. Millions and millions of letters were sent on behalf of people we had never met. I would love to talk to you some time. Please feel free to contact me:). Christian love, Laura
Kassie, thank you for your vulnerability and beautiful words full of truth. I don’t know you well, but am so encouraged reading this post. It hits home for so many of us, because as you said the church is full of sinful people (Rom. 3:10). I’m so sorry for the hurt and trials that both your family has been going through in recent years and in the ways you have suffered through this. Every local church will ultimately let us down at some point, but God never leaves us nor forsakes us. God’s hope is found in your story through how His grace protected you from being angry with God. How His spirit within you allowed you to let this sad and hurtful experience spur you on and grow you to have more grace and forgiveness for others and to truly show up when needed. And through you sharing your experience, (1) God is made much of and His grace, love, and care for us is made evident; (2) You are spurring on others to step up while lovingly revealing areas in our lives that we need to grow in; (3) You’ve encouraged me by reminding me of these truths and calling me to be the child of God He has called us to be in Colossians 3.
Thank you so so much for reading this, reaching out, and offering genuine words of love and encouragement! I can’t tell you how much it means to me. 🙂
i have always thought you didn’t have to be in church to know god or to talk to him i to had something kine of like that happen to me every church thinks god should be worshiped their way are we all not worshiping the same god
The bigger picture tends to get lost in the details.
It’s heartbreaking to read about all the people who have had similar experiences. Me too. Moved from a small town to a much bigger town. Got involved in a church. Like really involved. Small group, getting to know you dinners, helping with youth group. I even painted a mural in the 2-3 year old classroom. Then…a tree didn’t fall on my dad (how horrible it must have been to go through that) but cancer did. I reached out to the associate pastor, who, along with is wife, I had gotten to know in all the activities, and had thought we might even border on friends. I got the standard answers, we’ll pray for you, you’re in our thoughts, mindless words. I even reached out to the senior pastor, who looked at me like I had three heads, but gave the same cue card phrases. Not one time did I get a phone call, a hey where ya been visit, or even a bloody postcard. zEven my best friend forgot where I lived. Fast forward 3 months I see my associate pastor walking toward me down a hall at my work. He stops and says ‘hey, how’s your uncle, was it?’ Dead I say as I walk right past him. I never went back to that church. I was so desperately heartbroken. I was mad at God for a little while, more to do with dad dying than anything else. But we yelled it out, which consisted mostly of me pacing around and screaming at the ceiling, so, we’re good now. I still have a miniscule (no bigger than Mt Rushmore anyway) chip on my shoulder about church. I may never get back to trusting people, even though the church I go to now is full of fallible, broken people just like me. Maybe some day, but I don’t really care if I do or not. Long way to say, thank you for writing about something that hit me dead center. I’m sorry it happened to you and I hope trust comes back for you. I also hope your daddy is doing better. Thank you
Valerie, I am so sorry you experienced any of that. My heart breaks for your family and your dad’s passing. I give you my sincerest condolences! It’s normal not to trust people. It’s normal to be angry and have questions. Take the time you need to meditate, pray, and wrestle with it in your mind. Ask the what-ifs and the whys. Give yourself time. Just try to listen to your gut and your spirit, and most definitely THE spirit. And always remember how you were treated and make sure that you avoid letting it happen to others.
I LOVED this post, Babe! I was burned by the church when I was young, and spent a very long time holding anger over it. Finally, a few years ago, I had an amazing ‘Aha!’ moment working in the garden when I realized that Nature was my sanctuary. The trees, flowers, birds, bees… They were my true core-community of spiritual beings. While I still have no interest in returning to a church, my growth alongside the garden has helped me to move past the anger and resentment that I refused to drop.
Love is my religion, Nature is my church <3
This was a really good article. Thanks for your transparency. So much truth. I pray that God will restore you and help you to find a church home again. Thanks for being a mouthpiece, because the church needs to be there for one another. You said it well, be God’s light!
[…] most popular blog post, It Isn’t God I’ve Been Angry With, It’s The Church, reached thousands of people within 24 hours of being published on my site and was published on […]
I had a similar experience with regard to realizing the shallow nature of the church and walking around with a chip on my shoulder. I can identify with almost everything you wrote here. I think it’s God’s providence to have shown this to us as it keeps us out of the hype-bubble, recognizing, as you did, the real moments in life and how God is there. Having discernemnt as you look on the activity of the shallow crowd and are able to see things that they cannot, then becoming a exhorting voice to wake some up out of the group-think that is gradually pulling the herd away from God.
recently on the blog