We’re currently taking a bit of a holiday from church.
I was getting dangerously close to exhausting my “seventy times seven” of forgiving in an atmosphere of criticism and betrayal by a small minority, including friends and those who should know better. On top of this our family are experiencing one of those times of change and transition that puts everything up for grabs.
So I reluctantly relinquished all my responsibilities at church and have only been to a service once since then.
In some ways it has been a bit of a relief. We have been able to spend more time at weekends with friends and wider family (which often involves travel), and it has reminded me that church, like any set of relationships, carries its fair share of stresses as well as joys. Sometimes we need reminding that, generally speaking, the good and positive people outnumber the critics, even when their gentler voices are frequently drowned out. I think that’s why even God has to shout sometimes!
Not many people from church have been in touch during this time?..maybe some have been embarrassed to ask how we’re doing, in view of our apparent sudden disappearance from ‘up-front’ church life, and some have probably been heartily pleased to see the back of us (maybe even believing their prayers have been answered at last).
The few who have been in touch have been to us like the unexpected glimpses of light and love of the title, messengers from God in dark times (seems appropriate at Christmas). As we wrote some Christmas cards today we both shed tears of gratitude for God’s gift of people like these.
One lady baked us a cake, and we experienced love in every slice. She could not have known how much this would mean. Other have offered listening, non-judgemental ears, and we have taken up one or two on the offer. Still more have drip-fed us messages of love, encouragement and reminders that we are loved and appreciated. Others have lovingly looked after Susie so that we could have some rare time out as a couple…once again they cannot begin to imagine what this meant to us. Our distant praying friends, who saw this time coming and gently warned us have also blessed us by not saying “I told you so” too often.
I’ve also noted that some of the messages of love and good will have come from people in the church who, to be blunt, are often looked down on by the ‘high and mighty’ among us. Those on the margins often appreciate more than most what people like us thrust into sudden ‘voluntary’ exile must feel like?..and they’re not slow to empathise and encourage.
Will we return to regular and active church life?
Well, readers of this blog will know how I feel about ‘stability’?..growing where God has planted you, and that’s one side of my dilemma.
The other side is that, sometimes church just doesn’t seem like a safe place to be…and the danger comes from ‘friendly fire’, not opposition from outside. That’s the other side of my dilemma.
Meanwhile, our love for God, and his love for us, and the people who demonstrate his life, light and love in myriad ways, continues to encourage and sustain us.