Some of the hardest places for people to walk into are the places filled by Christians.
How thankful I am how the Lord has been showing me this these past few years.
But how hard it has been to see.
And to some times–even FEEL.
We’re a welcoming bunch…right? Christ followers. Christ imitators. Inclusive. TOTALLY inclusive. Right?
Some times God takes His own children to really hard, dark places so their eyes will be opened…so they will step outside of their comfortable and know better how to be REAL–to really love.
And some times those Christian-filled places we run to are really good at loving each other–but when an outsider comes in…it’s just as easy for the outsider/newbie to
I’ve tossed and turned about sharing this as it’s a hard for me to be THAT vulnerable–but the Lord won’t allow these thoughts and feelings to leave my heart–and if it encourages someone–just one out there–then it’s worth sharing the hard seasons. If a Christian filled place has made you feel unwanted–you my friend–are NOT alone. Even Christians experience this–so don’t give up on Jesus just because of ‘us’.
And I want to say something else before you read further…
I’m sorry if you have ever felt that way.
I’m sorry someone didn’t come alongside you.
I’m sorry we/they didn’t know or see or try to understand.
Please know that wasn’t Jesus.
It was man.
Sinful man. To caught up in making things comfortable. Or easier. Or wanting to dodge the hard…that may or may not have had you in it.
I’m so, so sorry.
Even Christians mess up and their vision becomes cloudy.
It could have been me that made you feel that way.
And I’m sorry–I’m sorry if I…we…other believers ever made you feel that way.
Please, please do not see it as Jesus.
Because He stands at the door…always waiting…over and over…with His arms big and wide–accepting you. Loving you. Welcoming you. EVERY TIME.
If you’ve felt anything else–it wasn’t Jesus. And I’m sorry.
Recently I found myself in such a place…okay so like a year ago…but the wound fresh–and this place has haunted me…even as a child of the Most High. Even knowing what HE thinks of me–and what those who know and love think of me.
Just last year–I was in that place many of you find yourselves in when you experience a BIG life change. What feels like a TORNADO. We had just brought home a 2 year old who didn’t speak English. I was homeschooling and had found a sweet environment for my kids to go to a couple of days a week while they learned (something I knew we’d need with bringing home a special needs new one that required lots of doctor appointments at first AND being a homeschooling family!).
A Christian community would be a safe place for them to keep doing school work and at the same time I’d have a couple of mornings to connect to our new one. My hopes had been being a part of this Christian community would be a big support for our family during this life change–only for whatever reason–at the time it seemed to add more to my plate rather than remove it. I asked for help. I honestly needed help. Not as in help-help…but as in–other believers to come alongside me–encourage and cheer me on help. And one day (okay for lots of days!) I found myself overwhelmed.
Sitting in the directors/administrators/whatever-you-want-to-picture-because-I’m-carefully-trying-to-honor-this-place-and-not-share-too-much office…I felt relieved. Today was the day I would pull one of my kids OUT–leave one of my kids in who was THRIVING–because keeping up with 2 different things in our crazy…well, felt very hard AT THE TIME. I was DONE. DEFEATED. Overwhelmed.
Our other child, who was THRIVING, we hoped to keep in. But as we sat there talking–the staff shared how unsure and CRAZY my emails sounded as I shared in some how much I LOVED it there but in other emails like I couldn’t keep up.
(Have YOU ever been there? A momma overwhelmed after a major life change…no sleep…taking ONE day at a time—knowing if you can just get through THAT day…tomorrow would be a new one. It’s a FRAGILE, yet holy place to be. One we run from and never ask to return to–unless…unless He has something refining there for you to shape you more like Him.)
And then already quite broken…the words were spoken that haunt my heart.
“I want to speak truth to you Andrea. Your emails hurt my heart and make me so sad. Your emails sound like you are schizophrenic…”
This was speaking truth?
But for this momma’s heart–at the time…it caused that world that was already spinning to only go faster as I sat there.
I kneed Richard under the table. Is this really happening?
Y’all. I truly felt. In that moment. CRAZY.
Maybe to these leaders–these Christ followers I really looked that way in this season.
But the only problem with this “truth speaking”–is that I was and am not schizophrenic or crazy–but rather I was going through a REALLY hard time.
(Have you ever been there?)
I sat there as the world turned–and before I knew it…we were leaving with not one–but with both of our children exiting…trying to figure out how in the WORLD we would break the news to the other who loved it there.
Really? You think both need to go? Oh my. Not our plan. But okay.
They encouraged us to take both littles ones out–and to be freed up to be us.
We were in this together this family of ours.
I sat in the car with Richard–and the tears poured down my cheeks.
I didn’t feel loved.
I didn’t feel supported.
I didn’t feel wanted.
I felt weeded…OUT.
OH MY. And I even FELT CRAZY!!!
I even ran home and googled whatever illness this Christian leader had just said I might have!!
Here we were. Without weeks of sleep with our new one home from China. Trying to homeschool. Hoping to find others to walk with us…hoping this might be the Christian community to encourage us through it.
But we had it all wrong.
Expectations all over the place–in the wrong places.
We DID need help from other believers–but we had gone to the wrong places…and I’m quite sure some of my emails DID sound crazy at the time as I wanted my kids there but felt so overwhelmed trying to keep up!
Have you ever been there?
In a hard place.
Feeling out there or alone. (Y’all this is SO vulnerable for ME to share–because NOTHING has ever made me feel crazier than that experience!)
I came home and called my best friends. My family. Surely they would tell me the truth.
I called my mentors. And maybe even a counselor.
Was I crazy??!!
Most tried not to laugh at me as I asked.
I told them to please take this seriously–because clearly to these people–I sounded crazy!!
They did, in fact, take me seriously when they realized I was.
They loved me.
They said they were sorry.
They offered play dates and Moms Night Out…until we got through this season of hard.
Because they knew.
In that season.
That was the last thing this mom adjusting to a whirlwind of change needed to HEAR.
What it truth? The fact I might have been so in love with my children–wanting the BEST for them–but feeling sleepless and tired with all the change…YES…I might have some times sounded confused or crazy. BUT–as believers–is this how we love each other? Do we show each other the door? Weed one another out? Avoid? Or love? Like really love…
I’m QUITE sure I sounded pulled. Overwhelmed. Confused. Maybe even crazy some days. But–this. This isn’t the truth we as believers EVER need to speak.
Because some times I think we THINK we are telling hard truth.
But often–it’s not truth at all.
In fact–I’m still working through the lie I heard that day. I clearly know I do not have what this Christian leader said I sounded like–but I do struggle with the lie that “I’m too much.”
What I needed to hear in the middle of the hardest days…
“I can tell you are overwhelmed. I can hear it in your emails. How can we come alongside you? How can we pray for you? How can we be the body of Christ? Will you not give up on us as we choose not to give up on you? Let’s do this together. Keeping our eyes of Jesus and pulling in others to help you through this really hard time.”
I had no idea.
I really had no idea what to say when others around me were struggling.
This has been one of the sweetest gifts of even growing our family through international adoption–where little loves come to us after months some times years in hard places. Adjustments are never, ever, EVER easy. I’ve seen more families go through marital crisis after adopting unprepared for the changes and stress of helping a child heal from trauma and life change.
And when families go through hard times…when friends go through hard times…when strangers going through a hard time happen to reach out to me…
My FLESH…the un-Jesus part of me…I probably wanted to weed them out.
To do JUST ENOUGH. To avoid. To take them a meal…and say I was praying–and to walk away.
To say, “Now when you get things worked out…we are still here…and then–then…THEN…we’d love to have you back.”
Why do we have to go through this hard?
Why does it come?
And what do we do with it?
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
I really believe the Lord had us go through that difficult season so we would be able to better walk through others when they go through theirs.
Often God will also show us “our people” by who says the LATER (“How can I stand beside you through this”) instead of the former to us in the valley. This. This will be worth the valley alone. I promise. To know you are in the presence of those willing to walk with your family through whatever may come–and love your children through it as well–in your valley you will find them because God ALWAYS provides when you ask. Finding these brothers and sisters in Christ–this alone will be worth your valley.
It has changed me.
I want to look for (even seek out!) the struggling and pull them in…because God’s going to show up. Where the church is–HE ALWAYS SHOWS UP.
When she sits across from me in tears–as she weeps…maybe the truth my flesh wants to say is, “Sweet friend. I have so much going on. You have GOT to go to a counselor. Can I help pay for a counselor?” That sounds nice doest it? Or easy? But not always the church…
Maybe instead–I’m supposed to sit there, LISTEN and go there. To just be a friend. Or to find someone who has been in that same place to join us…to encourage her and point her to Jesus.
Maybe instead of weeding out the uncomfortable or getting the hurting out of our environments–we are supposed to invite them in and walk with them through the most difficult. Maybe we are supposed to give them food and shelter and take really big, hard, sacrificial risks…at all costs…because they are worth it–being the church–His Kingdom come…is worth it.
Maybe instead of being annoyed by the jobless that to us seem so capable–we need to look deeper at their past…maybe the loss or hurt in their lives that is causing something much deeper than we can even see. Instead of worrying and justifying that we are just being enablers if we help–we need to leave that in God’s hands and do the good we know we can do right before us. (James 4:17 “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”)
If you’ve seen a church…it’s steeple…and you opened the doors–but you didn’t see it’s people. I’m sorry. Many of us have done a terrible job of showing Jesus–and I ask…for your forgiveness.
If you are in a hard place–RIGHT NOW…I want to pray for you. Check in on you. And to remind you that you are not alone. So please contact me any time if you are reading this right now or 5 years from when it is posted. I would be honored to pray for you even if it’s across the country and I can’t be there to physically walk with you through it. But I would love to pray that the Lord would provide those who will.
Know that if you go to one place and you don’t feel Jesus–it’s NOT Jesus…because Jesus will always welcome, always walk with you, always care and always refocus your eyes on the Bigger…carrying your burdens–the yoke–until you are strong again. Keep looking for and seeking Him out–praying to find His people. He is faithful and will bring you a great community to run beside you–just as He has done for me. I’m so thankful for those He has brought into my life to shine His love into my life! If you aren’t in a church and you hate visiting them–I get it. But don’t give up. Take breaks if you need to until you find a place that feels like home. Where HE is present. I promise–it will be worth the wait and the search.
May we be truth tellers with vulnerable hearts–inviting others into our worlds and learning and living what it really means to be His people. Give the things you have heard that are not from Him TO Him…and walk freely knowing He is enough for you. And remember–tomorrow has enough trouble of it’s own–so just get through today…focus on today…and look for HIM in today. You can do this no matter how big or hard whatever you are going through may seem!!! He is faithful!!!
You are loved!