Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A letter to the one who left church

To the one who left church because of me:


We were running late to service.  It is one of my husbands least favorite things about Sundays.  With four (and on that day, seven) kids in tow, it is rare that we can get them all picked up from various Bible classes, delivered to children’s church and us to our seats before the opening hymn.  Maybe I talk too much.  Maybe.  


I don’t know you, but you’ve changed something in me.  I know you’ll likely never read these words, but you are now a part of my story.  To be honest, I never considered before that our rushing to our seats might impact someone else.  I guess the fact that I consider the section “mine” is my first problem.  Its just that we ALWAYS sit there.  The seats in the way back are on a slope and kinda make my feet hurt.  I thought about my feet again this Sunday and was willing to forge forward to find prime seats.


I’m sorry that in seeking those seats, I misunderstood you.  When I asked if you were saving any of the  seats around you- two on one side, three on the other- I understood the answer to be “no”.  When I asked if you minded scooting in, you clearly said “I’d prefer not to”.  No problem, we’ll sit around you- hubby and I on one side, 3 in-laws on the other.  Only it was a problem.  Apparently it was a big problem to you.  Within minutes you gathered your belongings and left, minutes later you came back for something forgotten and left a second time in quite a huff.


I’m sorry because I know now it wasn’t about the seats.  The conversation we had after I followed you out of the auditorium went so poorly.  I have a feeling that nothing I said or did in those moments would have made a difference for you.  The pain and anger ran too deep for me to “fix”.  But I still hate that I couldn’t.


I’m sorry because as I stood there listening to the hateful things you said about me, the ridiculous nature of the blame you placed on me and the emotion with which you carried it all, I could only think “This is like nothing I’ve ever experienced from a stranger.  And a stranger IN CHURCH. My word.  


But as you walked away and said “You didn’t even see me.  YOU ARE THE REASON I CAN’T BE IN CHURCH,” I knew my persepective had been wrong.  Completely wrong.  Especially in church.  And I’m so very sorry.


I want to apologize; because it is absolutely true- I followed you for me.  Not for you.  I wanted to fix it so that I could make myself feel better.  Surely if you knew me, I could make it ok.  If you knew why I’d been consumed with myself that morning, you’d understand.  If you knew about the kiddos I’d brought with me- desperately hurting children- you’d be compassionate.  If you knew my pain over having to decide where they were going to live- you’d see my heart.  If you knew about the conversation I’d just completed, the first healthy conversation in 3 years with someone I love, you’d understand why my mind was consumed.  


I just knew that if you could just SEE ME, you would understand my blinders.  And you’d understand why it was a simple as me moving to a different seat, you coming back to service and definitely forgiving ME so I could eat my lunch after church without another thought to the matter.


But it wasn’t that simple.  Because what rocked me was a realization that I had missedwhat I rarely consider in my Sunday rush to my seat.  As I come to worship, I rarely consider that we all come into that auditorium the same way.  Maybe in varying degrees of blindness, but all with things in our own lives- whether joys or sorrows- that keep us from seeing.  Really seeing each other.  


I am sorry that I felt so justified in my self-consumption.  I do have some tough stuff in my health, in my emotions, in my life. But as a result, I could not see you.  Even now, I remember you were wearing a blue sweater, but for the life of me, I can’t remember your face.


I am sorry because just before you stormed away, you gave me a peek into your pain.  And I could tell it ran deep.  You mentioned grandaughters that you never see.  You alluded to a hope that they would join you that morning.  Before your anger out-weighedit, I saw a glimer of your hope and emotion.  But only in retrospect did I realize that my pain had kept me from asking you for any information about those girls.


I am sorry, for I may never know if they were the root of your pain.  I will never know if ill-begotten seats represented their faces to you.  I may never know whether you meant you were leaving the auditorium that day or leaving the Lord.  And for that, I’m so incredibly sorry.  


I’m sorry I did not see you.  

I’m sorry that my pain blinded me from yours.


But I want you to know, it did not destroy me.  And the efforts Satan made that morning to trap me in a pit of self-pity, were conquered by a God that I went to worship in the first place.  And you were a vessel in that deliverance.  I can’t promise you that there won’t be more Sundays of self-consumption.  But I promise to try to see.


Thank you for opening my eyes.  You helped me realize that I am neither alone in my pain nor alone in my desire to have it quenched.


Thank you for putting a name to my self-consumption.  You helped me hear clearly that morning that even “God-work” can be an idol in which I place my self-worth and which dictates my actions and emotions.


Thank you for giving me the will to fight off the blinders that have swallowed me.  You restored in me a spirit that does not want to be consumed, that wants to see others and more than anything wants to be present.


Thank you for reminding me why I come to Worship.  You showed me that in worship, not just in that auditorium, I AM BEING RENEWED- despite my flaws, despite my pain, despite my busy-ness, despite my longings.  


I’m writing so you’ll know that I’m praying for eyes to see those around me.  To not be consumed by my own life in a way that keeps me from living beside others.


And most of all.

I’m praying that you find your way back to Church.  Not a building full of people who can’t always see, not an auditorium full of seats that get too crowded, not worship that is a band playing in volumes with varying degrees of audience preferences, but CHURCH.  A body of believers, encouraging each other while we hope for what we can not see.  Worship, the experience in which we can be our messy selves, yet full of so much more.  You helped me find my way back there on Sunday and I hope you’ll join me.  I don’t want you just to join me in those crowded seats on Sundays when we come together, but join me in giving what little we have to the One who always ALWAYS sees us.


And give me a chance to see you.

I’m sorry that I didn’t.

I’m sorry that sometimes I won’t.

But thank you for helping me want to try.







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