My husband posts a great deal of his thoughts and opinions about the state of the institutional church and I agree with almost 100% of them. I do feel there are many fundamental problems with the American “Church” as a whole, but today I want to focus on what I can only describe as a cancer in the institutional church: unforgiveness. At the end of our tenure at a church we had served at for 10 years I had reached the point where I would honestly say I did not love people. This was unfortunate as my husband was a message series on the book of 1 John in which a very famous passage stated:
If anyone says, “I love God”, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he who does not love his brother whom he has not seen cannot love God whom\ he has not seen. 1 John 4:20
I admit I cried myself to sleep more than one Wednesday night because I felt so condemned by this whole book of scripture. I knew I did not love these people so this meant I did not love God. I had no hope and I felt like just giving up. Over the course of many heated conversations and much prayer, I came to the realization that if my faith was going to survive I had to get out of the church system.
While this has confused many people and probably has made them fearful for our salvation, it was probably the wisest decision we ever made. I have found this truth, distance is a key component in the process of healing. I had to get away from the system in order to think clearly and begin to work with my core issue: unforgiveness. In the “church” system I was so heavily involved in, I ran across scores of people who carried the baggage of unforgiven hurts and anger toward those who had hurt them. It is a vicious cycle of reliving your pain, valid or not, becoming angry at those who hurt you , deeply desiring that they suffer, and then feeling guilty that you feel that way, because you know the bible says you have to forgive. I know many can relate to this cycle, even if they cannot readily admit they are likely on this merry-go-round even as I type this. You see I knew that I should love these people but I did not have it in me to do it, not while I saw them at the store, at a family gathering, or at church every week.
I feel that unforgiveness is a cancer because it blocks the flow of love in our lives. I have found over time that it was not a lack of love, but an actual issue of loving them so much. That realization was key in my healing. I love deeply so I also open myself to be hurt deeply. That was out of balance. So with the clarity that distance makes, I can see that I needed time away from the institution to let go of my anger and begin to forgive myself and others.
I have been taught that there are three things you cannot control: situations, possessions, and personal rights. I find this to be true, but the realization makes us try so hard to try to control what by nature we cannot control. I cannot control what others say or do, and I had to learn how to deal in a healthy way with those who strike out against myself and my family. I cannot control what they do, but I can control how I let it affect me. So I have been learning to forgive and that has allowed me to love again, so now I can more relate to 1 John in a much deeper way.
I am not sure why I am writing this at 3 in the morning and I have to get up at 5, but I can only hope this is for someone who is in this cycle and needs the encouragement that it can be broken. If you ever need to talk, you know where to find me. But even better, you can talk to the Lord.