Sunday, November 6, 2011

Coming Home

PLEASE LISTEN TO THE WORDS OF THIS SONG BEFORE READING

There are a plethora of reasons we walk away. Sometimes it is words spoken in anger that can't be pulled back. Sometimes it's too much drama. Then again there is always a felt sense of betrayal or maybe just boredom.


When people leave the church or in some cases, God, walking away takes on a whole new significance. 


Churches are made up of people and that is their biggest downfall. People from all sorts of backgrounds and each with their very own baggage. The Catholic Church is currently being damaged by its apparent lack of accountability and even hiding pedophiles among their clergy. Evangelical churches seem to go from one fad to the next, trying to fill their pews and coffers. "Seeker Sensitive" was one of the buzz words floating around. You would get the best band and the most gifted motivational speaker/preacher. The up-tempo service would have wonderful stories and great drama - people would get goosebumps; but in the end it was just empty. People found out they could get just as fired up by going to a sporting event, concert or movie. Then there are those who feel the entire exercise is irrelevant to their lives.


Some, myself included, due to a sin or mistake they made in their life were viewed as a pariah. It doesn't take a great deal of time for that message to sink in. Some stop coming and no one ever asks them if they are alright or if they need help, they are just ignored. There are people all over this planet, who for one reason or not - walked away. The church did not seek them out or even, in some cases, realize they were gone. This is hardly in keeping with the words of Jesus when he talked about a shepherd with 100 sheep. He counted and there were only 99, so leaving the 99 in the field, went out in search of that one lost sheep.


Leaving God is a much more difficult thing to face. I was raised in an atheist home and came to faith at around 18. For me the idea of a Father who could love me for me was amazing. Never really having a positive father figure in my life probably made me attracted to this concept. Going on to study Theology at a Christian college and then on to a graduate degree in Theology from a respected seminary, I was caught off guard by the response to my failure. For me, it wasn't the church that let me down it was God. I knew the church had politics, flaws and agendas, but I had always taught love, acceptance and forgiveness. So when I was, in my mind, betrayed - I walked away.


Others have prayed for a relative who was severely ill and God didn't appear to be around or even care - and they walked away.


Others have lost a son or a daughter, even asking God to take them instead to only see death. (In our vocabulary we have the words "widow or widower" for someone who loses a spouse. We have "Orphan" for someone who has lost their parents. But we have no word for a parent losing a child, except excruciating pain) - They walked away


In my near six decades I have seen people who walk away from God mainly because of a sense of abandonment and aloneness or at a critical juncture in their lives.


Don't worry, I am not going to throw out some glib and stupid cliche. That would be insulting and far too typical. I know there is a great deal of pain we all face; some of us more than we deserve. I can only speak  from my own heart. I had for over a decade a gaping emptiness within me, it was as if there was a black hole sucking the joy out of my life. I crawled deeper into my cave and at times contemplated my very existence. I then decided to give God another try and over a period of a few years I had a number of false starts. I am now home. I preached to the Foothills Church of Christ in Reno, NV this morning and I was scared to death, I honestly do not remember the last time I actually preached a sermon. 


I can say now the emptiness is gone and it took a great deal of baby steps. It was difficult to allow my heart to be placed again in a position of vulnerability.


For anyone reading this who has walked away, spend some time thinking about where you are right now. Are you at peace? If so great. If not, you might try a few things:

  • Start by trying to be thankful for what you have. (You have more than you think.)
  • Try and make contact with people you trust.
  • Reach out to people from your past, I used Facebook and it was good.
  • If you lost a child, if you still have any children - lavish your love on them.
  • If you have family try and reconcile with those who have hurt you and love  the rest.
  • If you have left the church, find a small congregation or group, talk to the minister or leader and tell him/her your fears, doubts and reluctance.
  • If you have left God, find something greater than yourself, as AA would say, "Your Higher Power".
  • Above all, start the journey home.
This world is too tough and unforgiving to go-it-alone. Yes, there are people out there who will love you for you, you just need to find them. Let go of anger and resentment and seek healing - even the toughest people get hurt. Letting go of anger and resentment is not an easy thing to do. You might refer to my earlier blogs: "Fallen" and "Wastelands", in which spoke freely and candidly from my heart, about how hard it was to let go of these feelings.

I don't have all the answers, you should have caught me in my 20's for that :), but I do listen and would be happy to dialogue with you.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, may his countenance be upon you and give you peace.

~Al