For the longest time I have felt that within the walls of the Church I could not be myself. I felt that I had to shape shift into the holy picture that a woman was supposed to be. The gap in my heart got larger as I grew up attending the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church. I admit that I have had the hardest heart toward the people that I grew up with. I thought their ways were barbaric and that their hearts were shallow. I understood that people could hurt and slice me to the bones with words said without malice. I would let every single word take my thoughts captive.
When I was young I grew up to fear God. I grew up to think that my parents believed the same way the people at the OALC did. I have been proven wrong tonight over and over again. I met with someone from that Church who had similar beliefs about faith. They had similar beliefs about sin, sanctification, and love. We talked a lot about what it meant to be a Christian in this terribly broken world.
To be honest I had thought that following Jesus was going to be easy. It was for some time. I became a Christian at sixteen you know. Yet my heart was heavy with many things I could not shake. I knew that I was meant to be something but I could never put my finger on what. I knew that sharing the Gospel was the heart of who I was but my sin and my health got in the way.
I felt as though I had to hide my struggle until it became too real to stifle. I used words of hate toward the OALC because my parents convinced me to believe something that they did not understand themselves. I thought they like other churches were lists of rules and regulations. I have been to plenty of churches on either end. At the OALC you dress simple and plain to free yourself up and divide yourself from what could cause you outside pain. Perhaps think of it this way: If you do not go near the line then you can never gain the confidence to cross it. This means in the way you dress, talk, view the internet, view television, and view other things deemed worldly. You dress up for the church as respect to Jesus and other around, you do not view television because of the awful things on it, you view the internet as the terrain where the enemy can grasp you and pull you under quickly. I have been to a Russian Baptist church where I felt like the image was absolutely everything. The nicer the outfit the closer to God? I felt that. I have been to churches where you sit and sing, where you stand and raise your hands and sing, and I have been to churches that speak in tongues.
What I could not forgive Church goers was the idea that each of you thought in some way you were the highest level of Christian conscious. So I hid like Adam and Eve. I ran away like Jonah not wanting to do what the Lord asked of me. I busied myself so much like Martha. I got drunk and stumbled and completely made mistakes like Noah. I did not live in agape. I lived hidden.
The few times I reached out in ministry or church I felt as though I was betrayed. My confidence was betrayed because I thought for some reason a man would not let me down agian. Yet you did. So I closed up my heart and I left Cru because a woman hurt me so deep that I was afraid to ever touch that again. I cut out everyone who believed in Jesus lately just as I had done in the past because you hurt me. I thought it was different with Christ Followers.
I have forgiven you. I have forgiven the way that some people in various congregations have hurt me. I have decided that leading up to this day I would never forget what had happened that way you could never hurt me. I neglected worship. I am sorry. I neglected community, yet my pastors consistently reached out to me reminding me of love and light that is at the beautiful heart of Christianity. I was reminded that sin runs deep but grace runs deeper. I even after twelve years of fighting decided to forgive my old church. What reminded me to do this was simple. A previous preacher at that church gave me a letter that I wrote when I first became a Christian. Back when I was fresh and clean and ready to pursue the Lord. He has kept this letter for eight years. It went like this.
To be honest when I walked into confirmation I had trouble believing. I had trouble understanding and I even blamed the church and more so Jesus for what has occured in my life. I acted like I belonged in the world, when my heart has been given to Jesus, and I trust that by our nearing of confirmation that my heart lies hidden in Christ exactly where it should be. That I verify my CHristianity. I now understand church and what Jesus did for me. How he died and bled for me. I understand that we are all living in Gods shadow as we may sin and stumble, that our Christian brothers and sisters may lend us a hand in this struggle. That which I have found in you (The Preacher) and my new Christian family. I hope you forgive me for my negetivity, judgements, and know that I trust and love you. You have opened my eyes and awakened my heart. Still keep me in your prayers for I new at this. For my struggles in Christiandom may never cease. Yet I do hope and pray that I go to heaven.
Those are the words of a baby Christian maybe steps into her new life. These are the words of tired, worn out, sad, lonely, discontent, and failing Christian now. I have seen this new day and this new light. My forgiveness is all I have to offer and many of you do not understand what hurt me. I think I may be sensitive. Yet my confidence is no longer put on your shoulders, but I weigh my identity in Christ. Where my heart is finding solace and peace. Where you have been my constant companion in mental health, heartbreak, addiction, and anger. You have listened when nobody would. You have cared like nobody could. You have shown me, Jesus.
I am so sorry.