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*

 

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  1. January 6, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Churches are as you say filled with flawed individuals with baggage just like us. Having said that some of those flaws affect us and our worship within said church.

    Before we moved in Oct 2012 we did belong to a Church but I missed going a lot. I tried to tell myself there was a reason every time I did not go..but the truth and I finally admitted it after we moved and found a church with a very different way of worshiping ….was that I was not being ‘fed’ at the other one…..During some of those years I was going through depression still and really can’t remember anyone really reaching out to me..The minister of the church..I had confided in but there was just something lacking and I never really thought about it….I do not blame them as I probably should have reached ‘out’ more myself to them..

    This church that we now go to is much smaller and less formal than the other one….and the first time we went we were feeling so welcome and ‘individual’ …if you know what I mean. I look forward to going now.

    I pray that you find the spirit of the living God in your new church and also look forward to going each Sunday….Diane

  2. January 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Hey Diane… would you believe that after ALL THAT… I wasn’t able to go?? I grabbed something to eat when I went grocery shopping that did not agree with my guts and they have been rebelling ALL day. Not sure what to make of that especially since I’ve eaten it before. I feel better now… but it definitely had an “all dressed up and nowhere to go” feeling to it. I didn’t start to feel better until about two hours ago. I could go all spiritual warfaresy and think that Satan was trying to stop me from going. OR I could go all “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and assume that GOD didn’t want me to go so he allowed me to eat the offending breakfast burrito. OR I can just accept that my plans didn’t line up with God’s plan and trust that if Jesus wants me to go to this church he’ll find away to get me there next week!

    Having said all of that… I really WAS looking forward to going to church this Sunday.

  3. January 7, 2013 at 4:03 am

    You’re right…we can theorize or we can just accept it is what it is and try again next Sunday…Have a good week…Diane

  4. m
    January 7, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Hi there :) I like your blog; your posts give something to relate to. I’ve got some of my own issues with Christian church the way it is, on top of my own bipolarity. But in general, I love church for the hope and Bible-truth it helps me find. Most of my frustrations with it have to do with living up to other Christians’ expectations, because I just never seem to be “Christian enough” for anybody. :p I know God is forgiving and understanding, but sadly, his people aren’t always.

    As of now, I’m looking for a new church. I don’t want to attend a church just for the sake of “attending”. I want to belong somewhere, be part of something I believe in – a place where I will be allowed to serve, issues and all. I know that everyone who goes to church is actually screwed up one way or another, but some are just better at hiding it, and they think they have the license to give “the weak ones” hell for it. I don’t want to be around people like those. I hope for a non-religious but Christ-worshipping community that doesn’t condone putting on the “churchy mask”. I still believe there’s a church out there where I will fit. I’m not looking for a perfect church, but I know I don’t have to settle for the kind of church that has no room for screwed-up individuals like myself.

  5. January 7, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Hello m! Welcome to Bipolar World. I appreciate your comments. Like you, I’ve long since grown tired of having to wear a mask. I can’t fake like I’m ok when I’m not. My last church was actually really accepting. I’m not leaving because it was a bad church or that I felt unaccepted. Quite the opposite. There were issues I was unable to cope with that made it hard to be there in my own brokenness. I think God wants to grow me and like you… I believe he’s going to lead me to a church where I can experience this next phase of growth. I hope and pray that you and I both find the churches God has waiting for us sooner rather than later. :)

  1. January 14, 2013 at 7:56 pm
  2. January 15, 2013 at 6:05 am

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