I used to believe the local church was the hope of the world. I declared this publicly in front of hundreds of people as a Pastor's wife and Staff Leader of a thriving church. I first heard this statement from Bill Hybels the now accused resigned Pastor of Willow Creek Church of Chicago. I embodied this hope for over 34 years. Church was my life, all I had ever known. Then late one Wednesday night it all changed. I found myself the damaged soul suffering from betrayal at the hands of my husband and Pastor. By Sunday, my husband was resigning as Pastor via video, I was shell shocked, curled up in a dark room, by the end of that Sabbath, it was all over. I was met with silence and isolation, no income, no job, no support system, drowning in an absence of life. I felt foolish for believing in the church. Six months later our divorce was final. Where was the hope?
The isolation was the worst. The greatest offender of this isolation was God. I felt nothing sacred. I did not feel he was bigger than this. I felt he had disappeared from this. All I really knew to do was walk. Somehow these walks helped me get out of my head long enough to decide to stay on earth another day and see what unfolded. One morning 9 months in, as I was walking I heard a clear voice in my head that spoke, "If you like, I can show you who I really am". And God returned to my world. These walks turned into what I now call a modern day pilgrimage.
God indeed showed me who He was. I realized His ways were nothing like my ways. I literally experienced fleshing out working out my own salvation. For me church is a part of my past, it is not my intention to return, ever. Betrayal is a very deep place to recover from. For most, that takes a miracle. Spiritual trauma is not something God wants you to overlook and keep showing up for the weekly reminder. I am at peace that God is okay with that. Each week I bask in my own Sabbath that brings healing to my soul.
So where is God in all of the pain of #churchtoo? Inside of you, waiting. Waiting for things to get quiet enough to gain your attention. His eyes may not be locked with your eyes, but He is there. You figuring that out, is the hope of the world. We are the hope. The church was never ever intended to operate as the hope. That is on us. God needs us, he needs our bodies, to embody and do good towards each other. He needs us to witness the pain. God needs us to stop saying "let me know if there is anything I can do for you" and rather show up and shut down the isolation that cloaks the suffering. God needs us pursuing our potential, our dreams for this is how He innovates in our world. God needs us capable of loving, for this is how He heals in our world. To be clear, the church does not need us, God does. Be the hope.