Self-Inflicted Wounds {When Church Hurts}

There’s a lot of hurt.

I’ve witnessed the stuffing it down, drowning it out, and all colors of avoidance and denial, but underneath it all there is hurt. Deep cuts. Deep grief. Deep, deep pain.

From some views it looks like a blood bath, from others, a wasteland. Victims, not yet dead, whispering from the shadow, “I don’t know what to do with this hurt. Help me.”

Last week I wrote about some personal pain I had been processing. When I wrote it, I didn’t think much about it. It seemed like a pertinent piece of ‘me’ to share as it related to my struggling with the Lord. A struggle to gather up all the pieces that shattered like broken glass when our family had to make some hard decisions last spring about our church. What I didn’t know when I wrote that small paragraph, is that this tiny, little spot I’d hidden in would become so crowded with the others who were also in hiding, doing all they can to nurse their wounds and keep their fragile, faltering faith on life support.

Having read emails and listened to stories, I can’t believe how much hurt is out there. I thought I was alone and now that I know I’m not, I wish I was. My heart is heavy and sad. It is also urgently awakened. My friends, the church is hemorrhaging from self-inflicted wounds.

There is too much hurt.

What are we going to do? If you are one who has been hurt, you can’t keep that limb on ice forever—the flourishing life is back attached to the body. If you are one who hasn’t been hurt, how long will you keep stepping over the bodies?

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” I Corinthians 12:24-27.

We are all suffering from the hurt, whether you feel the pain or not. We’re not whole. We’re broken. Our wounds are speaking louder than a our words to a world that is listening—listening to us “roar our terrible roars, and gnash our terrible teeth, roll our terrible eyes, and show our terrible claws,” just like a scene out of Where the Wild Things Are.  But Max never comes to say, “Be still!” and so we just go on with so much hurt.

If you have been hurt by church, I am sorry for your pain. You are not alone. I don’t want you to go on in your hurt. I pray that we can begin to talk about the hurt and maybe by our talking, we’ll find comfort…and ways to stop the bleeding, for us, for others.

While I don’t know why the church hurts, here are two convictions I have held:

  1. The Bride is not to be confused with the Bridegroom. Jesus didn’t hurt me. He has however, offered me healing and He is patiently sitting with me while I receive it.
  2.  The church hurts because it’s made up of people—people like me who are flawed and failing. However, these people, me included, can and should be doing a better job of mirroring the One they declare to follow.

I have avoided writing about this. Frankly, it feels vulnerable. I prefer for people to not know I’m hurting. {Anybody else out there like to wait until the hurting is over to declare it?}  I also know that anytime you start to speak out, you’ll be spoken at. So be it. I can’t keep stepping over the bodies. The lost need finding. The broken need binding up. The blind need sight. If we all suffer together, then we all need to press in together for a day of rejoicing. We need to step out of the shadows of our pain and shine light by speaking truth.

I plan to dedicate some time here over the next couple of weeks for us to discuss the topic “When Church Hurts.” Whether you’re in or out of a church…or even if you’re in, but your heart is safely hidden away, how do you see the church hurting? Why do you think the church is hemorrhaging? What has hurt you? How do you think we individual people who make up the collective whole could do a better job of putting the “Christ” back in Christian?

If this has been your struggle, I would like to hear your story. (Honorably, of course…know I love the Church and I want to see her built up and shined up for the glory of the One for which she was created.) I think we have a lot to learn from each other’s journey and I hope you’ll see this as a place to share, ask questions, and find acceptance wherever you happen to be.

There’s a lot of hurting. Too much. We need to do something about it.

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