Another looking back post, there’s going to be a few I think. Another one that was written months back and yet needed time to settle and reflect on. These next two are really about how I found myself feeling vulnerable and isolated when unwell. My whole perspective changed.
So this one is about getting out, well in this case, getting to church. Something I do every week, have done for years. It’s a place where I feel at home, loved, have friends. I have never had a problem going into a church, I spent a lot of time in churches as a child (due to my parents being bell ringers) and so I’ve always felt at home in a church building. But this, well this was different. Suddenly for the first time in my life, church was the hardest place to get to.
So a week after my back going, feeling very emotional, either from pain or pain killers, or both, I attempted to get to church. And boy was it hard. I mean physically it was hard but way more than that was the mental struggle. I am a pretty outgoing person, wear my heart on my sleeve and talk about almost anything but one thing I find really difficult is showing weakness, in whatever form. I don’t need you to psychoanalyse this, I have done enough of that myself, but I do know it about myself. And you know what I’m ok with it, bold and open as I may be we all need some things that are private. So going to church, feeling a shell of my usual self and in a lot of pain was, flippin’ tough.
I wanted to arrive early to avoid seeing people and get a seat at the back so I could hide (we usually sit right at the front), but everyone in my family was late. I was so cross with them because I had specifically said how important it was for me to be able to hide. In fact I was pretty much crying in the car on the way to church and desperately trying to get a grip! I don’t think I’ve ever felt so vulnerable.
So we arrive late, I had to try and sneak in (hardly inconspicuously as I was hobbling along on crutches) then first of all my husband left me to go and get some tea and my kids ran off to find friends. All of a sudden I was isolated.
And wow, did I feel it.
I felt conspicuous and unprotected.
And all this in a place where there are people I love and am very close to. A place where most people know me. A place where I meet with God every week. And yet there I sat, feeling very alone and vulnerable.
The first song began and was all about singing and dancing – the worst possible thing to hear at that moment when I could hardly walk. Not that that is any fault of the church of course, it was just for me, more than I could handle, a simple song and one that I absolutely love normally.
Finally someone came and spoke to me. At that point no one had even said hello. Which on the one hand was a blessing – you know when you feel bad and just about holding it together when someone says ‘are you ok?’ and it all falls apart…
but on the other hand I just needed someone I know to come and just hold my hand.
So then someone did, but to be honest, what they said made it worse, they just didn’t get it. Didn’t get where I was at. And why would they of course? I didn’t need to be second guessed or cajoled, I just needed someone to give me a hug (very gently!) or to sit with me.
Eventually I went to hide at the very back. A few others came over and literally just stood next to me. That was all I needed right then. It made me cry but because I felt they were just standing with me…
Then I was literally pointed out to everyone from the front. So that they could pray, admittedly. Now I’m an extrovert but I didn’t thank him for that at that point, not at all, I wanted to hide, not be seen. Seen by the entire church, in my weakness and pain.
I basically sobbed through that service. In fact it was the last one I went to for a while as after that I was advised to rest at home on my back, then after the op I couldn’t get out for weeks anyway. I don’t know what I expected it to be, I think I just needed to be there. I was drugged up and can’t remember any of what was preached. In all just a handful of people spoke to me. Two in particular really knew what to say, they weren’t people I know amazingly well, but enough, and they understood exactly what I was going through. In fact they made all the difference that morning.
The thing that really got to me was just how hard it was to get there. I have always known that for some it is hard but this really brought it home to me. If someone like me, who knows the church and the people and has felt at home there, can find it hard, how much harder for those who have never been, those who are struggling like I was, for those who feel unworthy, or unloved, or out of their comfort zone?
How often do we either expect people to just come? Or how often do we not even see the difficulties they have to get over in order to come to church? How for so many it’s just way too much to even consider.
And if they do come, how do we support them? make them feel welcome? encourage them? Stand alongside them?
I don’t have any real answers, just that I feel very much more aware of this now. I am so thankful for this opportunity to see how tough it can be, for so many reasons. And I pray that God will help me to keep my eyes open to this and for people who might be struggling…
Starry JacksonDecember 16, 2015 at 6:55 am
Grace & Peace
I certainly pray that your back is much better than it was and healing successfully.
I commend you on an extremely well written blog. I felt like I was experiencing the emotions you expressed so detailed and raw.
I for one was not raised in church and or any form of religious belief system.
I started my search around ten years old.
I was interested in reading the bible and had many questions.
I started a bible study and the bible came alive for me as did my relationship with JEHOVAH GOD.
I was invited to many different churches and settled in at about three different churches in the course of four years.
I found there was a disconnect…the members with eachother as well as with the Pastor.
I could not put my finger on it exactly. But as my friend put it who attended church ALL her life. I had to learn the politics of church.
Needless to say I was disappointed and left feeling unforfilled.
One issue for me was JESUS was not the biggest topic in each church. There were so many other activities abound. Somehow JESUS BECAME SECONDARY.
Another concern was being a NEW member it was very easy to get lost. Because regular members tended to be clickish.
I would leave feeling alone empty. With little enthusiasium to return next Sunday.
It almost felt like people were searching for a feeling but in the meantime going through the motions.
I stopped going to church but continue to meditate daily on the scriptures in the bible. I realize the importance of a personal and intimate relationship with JESUS. Praying for wisdom & discenment and imitating JESUS when it comes to relating to people in general. Leave preconceived notions at the door. Allow yourself to be vulnerable FREE and open to the movrment of the holy spirit.
We are ALL CONNECTED BY OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST WHICH MAKES US FAMILY. If you find that JESUS IS BEING UPSTAGED I WOULD SUGGEST FINDING ANOTHER CHURCH.
JESUS SHOULD ALWAYS BE THE LARGEST TOPIC IN THE CHURCH. HE IS OUR SALVATION AND WHAT FILLED MY VOID AND I AM OPEN TO CONNECT LOVE AND IMITATE OUR LORD AND SAVIOR BY ASSOCIATING WITH PEOPLE FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE. THAT SHARE A COMMON DESIRE TO LOVE EACHOTHER AND JESUS!
JulesDecember 19, 2015 at 1:04 pm
Hi Thanks for this and sorry you had a hard time in your church. Hope you’ve found another one? I think it’s really important to be in fellowship with other Christians.
I wasn’t meaning to criticise mine just to talk abut the issues facing people in church. As I work for the church and will shortly be ordained I think it’s so important to address these things and not just let them sit under the surface.
Totally agree, Jesus must be the centre of the church!