Lessons I’ve Learned From Horrendous Church Experiences

I think it’s safe to say many Christians from a wide spectrum of denominations have at one point or another had a horrendous church experience. Perhaps, some church experiences are more awful than the next, nevertheless, I believe many Christians have this similar denominator.

As I have written about before, I am several months removed from a disastrous church experience and it worsened when I made the dastardly decision not to listen to the Holy Spirit that dwells within me to flee from that false place. I witnessed things, felt things, was a focal point of “religious” malice that I had, at that point, only read about. So to actually live it was something you would see on an overly emotional Lifetime movie.

I felt sexual innuendos and actions from a lead pastor and self-proclaimed “man of God”. I observed these self-made church leaders talk a big game of tolerance and love, but the moment they left that pulpit, they were poster children of the Christianity that people disagree with. Hate-filled arguments with their families, belittling their children and grandchildren, and then having the audacity to blame it all on the “devil” ….

No self-awareness. No blame acceptance. Just a whole lot of ego, intolerance, and fallacy.

With that being said, Christians aren’t perfect. Lord knows, I’m far from perfect, but that truth doesn’t justify inappropriate touching and calling your grandson “to be filled with the devil” in front of church patrons. It broke my heart and during that time, I was so confused at what I believed and what this “church” was force feeding me.

It was real difficult, but I did know that love was the thing I should be focused on, but it wasn’t something that I was feeling. Love didn’t feel icky. Love didn’t feel wrong. Love didn’t make me feel like a second-class citizen. Hence, I wrote this during this time and stumbled upon it this weekend. First thing I thought when I reread it was, “WOOOAAAHHH. I’ve grown tremendously.”

I hope you can get something out of it:

With a crowd of illustrious, prominent, businessmen encircling, a young woman reaches out to the old man whose face was adorned with a grizzly beard with bits of his last dinner – which was probably days ago – strewn about in his wispy tendrils.  He reeked of filth, boxed wine, and the hot California son. 

She – an image from the grandiose Greek statues that beautified the nearby Art Museum and had an exquisite articulation to her robust verbosity – reached out to this man. 

This man who others deemed to be so unworthy of anyone’s touch, let alone, this beautiful creature. 

She displayed a crisp $100 bill into the man’s sun-leathered hand and said in a rather audacious voice, “God has blessed me, so he has blessed you.” 

Cheers, whistles, and claps of admiration were all around her. 

“Look at her!!” 

“What a saint!” 

“God is with her,” were being reverberated in the crowd.

She absorbed it all. It stroked her inflated ego to give with an abundant number of witnesses that sang her praises. She was on cloud 10…or 11…or maybe it was 12. 

She was on such an elevated cloud of self-promotion, self-indulgence, and self-centeredness that she didn’t notice the four needy individuals that she sauntered past on her way home, but it would be her benevolence and haughtiness to a homeless mother with chestnut-colored hair and vibrant emerald-colored eyes and her young daughter, a beautiful, cherished, loved little girl with a cherub dace so sweet it made a can of Coca-Cola seem bitter. 

Perhaps, she was in a hurry to get to the door of her swanky condo. Perhaps, she had a rough day or perhaps she was just tired of giving as she said to the starving mother, “You’re in my way, bum.” 

Maybe we should cut her some slack. Maybe she had a rough breakup with a rough ex, or maybe, just maybe a person’s true character is defined in their actions when no one is looking. 

And no one was looking when the young mother putting her pride on the back-burner barely tapped the woman’s hand and begged in a somber voice, “Ma’am please. For my little angel. She hasn’t ate in two days.” 

The same gorgeous creature who had been so giving just minutes earlier had succumbed to ugliness when she uttered in a disgusting display of verbal ether, “Go get a job and then the brat can eat.”

Darkness. 

A darkened pit of self swirled around her as she lurched up the stairs to the safe haven of her immaculate home. 

“Dear Father God, I’m not a bad person, I’m really not, but c’mon, do I have to give to every single low-life?” 

She muttered this in a breathy, holier-than-thou voice, as she shook out her gleaming cornflower blonde hair as if the young mother had transmitted something to her. 

Remember, when I said no one was observing her filthy exchange with the young mother? I lied. 

God was watching. He’s always watching. 

“My child, why do you give when only others are present to sing your praises?” 

“G-G-God!?!” 

“I am the King of Kings. I am your creator. I am the potter and you? You are the clay. What makes you believe you deserve ANY praise?” 

“I mean….But…I…” 

“You have forsaken my children tonight. If you’re truly a giver, why not give in solitude. With no attention? With no accolades? Why not then??” 

“I don’t know, God. I wasn’t feeling it.” 

“Feeling it? Was my one and only son, Jesus, feeling it when he was tormented, battered, beaten, and crucified for YOU!?!” 

Her eyes well up.

“There is no ‘I’ in God nor Jesus. Serve others, daughter, not yourself.” 

She is silenced, but her actions speak volumes as she crumbles to her knees and weeps.

“I’m God. I’m your Healer. Your Heart. Your Comfort. Give me YOU.” 

“Oh, God. I’m empty.” 

“Do you doubt me, daughter?”

“No, but….” 

“There are no but’s in,  the Kingdom of Heaven. Climb out the the pit and inherit all of my riches for eternity. Experience and accept my real love, my REAL freedom, my REAL gift, my REAL redemption, my REAL comfort, my REAL strength.” 

She accepts as she collapses further to her marble floor releasing years of anguish, hurt, bitterness, neglect, animosity, vengefulness, arrogance, and addictions. 

It was possible because of God. 

Matthew 7:16 says, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes and figs from thistles?” 

You know them by what they do. 

Though, this is about recognizing false prophets (Note: God gave me this scripture months ago because he was telling me this church was riddled of false prophets. God is sooo funny) 

It’s still a very pliable concept – this is a tried and true pillar of morality and love – if one does grandiose things for self-promotions sake only, but when only the eye of God is observing, they act in darkness, what does that say? 

If one speaks of love – incessantly and abundantly – but adversely never has an action to parlay or back that word up – what’s that? Is that truly love? Is that God’s love that has enshrined within us to bestow unto the world? Or is that simply immature love in name only? 

Proverbs 20:11 says, ” Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really purely and upright?” 

A child tells his lil brother: “I love you, bub.” then instantaneously socks him in the arm. Is that a testament of his love? I don’t know about you, but I believe it is not. Doesn’t that child get punished in love? Won’t he be corrected? So why are we – God’s children – any different? 

I can only speak for myself, but I seek the Lord when my actions don’t promote the love oozing from my lips. I thrive when He corrects me and in the end, that’s not a victory just for myself, but rather over this world’s futile attempt to cause disaccord. 

Finally, 1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.”

We all – as humans – say kind, sweet, nurturing words that we mean 100 percent. Absolutely. And then there are times afterwards the words we speak are the antithesis of the aforementioned kindness that’s not a result of what one just spoke to fruition. Yeah, that happens, but even more specifically is to love with the tongue. 

That’s it! You’re only admission of love is declaring it when you don’t even mean nor feel it. 

Empty words. 

It’s meshing all these spirits of love and their respective parts – the tongue, the heart, the actions – that combine for true love. 

For true love involves labor, not just a flick of the tongue. 

For true love we serve one another. 

For true love, we bear one another’s burdens. 

For true love, we forgive one another. 

For true love, we pray for one another. 

For true love, we encourage one another. 

For true love, we do not diminish one another. 

For true love, we restore one another with meekness, humility, and joy. 

For true love, we support one another with their needs. 

For true love, we minister to one another. 

For true love, we do not gossip, slander, and instigate.

For true love, we do not whisper musings of anger, bitterness, or revenge. 

For true love, we attempt to supply one another’s daily supplies – internal and/or external. 

For true love, with our brethren is ACTUAL love – actual love that is APPARENT and EVIDENT – not in name only or for just appearances sake. 

If we can come to our God broken, bloody, and emotionally dismembered and He shows us His powerful love, then poetically speaking, can’t we offer the same humility, honor and love to our brethren. 

For true love is done heartily and cheerfully and without a begrudging attitude. 

And this brings us closer to this….

A heart like Jesus. A spiritual goal. 

Yes, a heart like Jesus …. now that’s a spiritual goal. 

———————————————————————

If you have any sort of discernment on any level, it’s quite clear what the aforementioned “story” was about. What can I say? I was passive-aggressive .

With that being said, the lessons I learned from this horrendous and demeaning church experience is that not every Christian is a CHRISTIAN.

If it quacks like a ducks, walks like a duck, then it’s a duck.

If it sounds like a wolf in sheep’s clothing….then maybe it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Regardless, I’m thankful for that church experience. I’m thankful to have shared a few months with a masked homophobic, cruel, misogynist pastor and his church because without them, I wouldn’t have had my rose-colored glasses removed.

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