Bipolar and The Church
My struggles with church started in childhood when the church I was attending split. I think the story was that the pastor embezzled money but since I was still in elementary school what did I know? I ended up on the side of the split that started a “home church” — unfortunately, the home was across the street from a cemetery and for a long time when I thought of church I thought of dead people.
My struggle continued when I attended a church where my Sunday school teacher was regularly “filled with the Spirit” which meant she’d stand up, close her eyes, and start yelling “Oooh Jesus! Yes, Jesus!!!” At the time it scared me. Now it seems weird and sexual. In any even it didn’t help my confusion about God or what church was supposed to be. I can’t remember where “Southside Christian Palace” fit into it (yes, I attended a church that called itself a Christian “Palace.”) But I do remember the bus they’d send to pick up neighborhood kids whose parents weren’t going. We sang really loud sounds like “Amen for the Christian Palace” which didn’t really seem to have anything to do with Jesus.
It wasn’t until my nephew was murdered while I was at Berkeley that I gave up all pretense in believing in a god. I stopped going to church, youth groups, or anything even vaguely related to religion and would have stayed that way if the bottom hadn’t fallen out of my world. Bipolar reared it’s ugly head and for five years I lived a nightmare from which there was no waking. When I moved to Maui and decided that selling my soul to Satan would do what suicidal attempts could not — THAT’S when I hit bottom enough to look up. Where did I run? To a church. Despite all my struggles with it and suspicions I went back to what I’d been taught. Talk about training up a child. My mom had spent all of my childhood and youth foisting church on us and when things really got bad I ran to the only place that made sense because I thought church would have all the answers.
The last 19 years have been bumpy. Not as rough as my life BEFORE I accepted Jesus… but a lot more bumpy than I would have liked. Most of my problems have been directly linked to my dealings with other Christians. But why does that surprise me? Any religion that will let me in cannot be without its issues. God let’s ANYBODY in and all of those people (including me) come with baggage. It doesn’t get checked at the door. We come into the faith with whatever baggage we’ve accumulated and spend the entire rest of our lives struggling with God as he tries to unpack it and clean all of our dirty laundry to make it whiter than snow.
This morning I’m going to a new church and hopefully God will continue to restore my faith in his church. I believe that God is going to give me a new hope. I thank God that my previous church sends me out in better shape than when I came in because almost all of of my past dealings with church and parachurch organizations always ended with me in a bunch of little mentally disturbed pieces. The church I’m attending this morning? It’s the one that I attended all of 2011. I have no blinders on. They are a bit more on the charismatic side than I am ever going to be… but that is ok. I’m going with my eyes and ears open. Lord willing, my heart will be soft enough to receive whatever God has to say to me. As I end this it dawned on me that I need to forgive “The Church.” My whole life I have expected it to be something it can never be: perfect. I have gotten angry and bitter and resentful as Christians have hurt me over the years. I began to expect that the entire CHURCH was flawed and not to be trusted. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was wrong and I am sorry. Some people might tell me I’m being too hard on myself… but I don’t think God would see it that way.
I repent of these attitudes that I’ve had. You cannot follow God without being a part of his church and I let fear build a wall… and not the good Nehemiah type of wall. This is probably still going to be a struggle for me this year… but I feel like one of the 12 spies who went to go scope out the Promised Land. Ten of them went in and saw all of the good, but came back giving reports of only the bad. Only Joshua and Caleb saw the good and the bad and said that they should go in an kick some butt. I have seen the good and the bad in this church… and while I don’t plan to go in kicking any butt, I do believe that I can handle it this time around. 2013 going in new directions and trusting God with the outcome….
*I have to leave now… so I don’t have time to edit this. Grocery shopping before church on a Sunday?? *Gasp*