I met with a friend the other day who is a true soul, a breath of fresh air, a magnitude of quiet wisdom. You know, the kind of people you meet and from the moment God allows your paths to cross you think, wow! ..this is a relationship worth investing in.
We met for our usual “cheap date lunches:😂 and the dialogue flowed as naturally as it always does. Laughter mixed with the refreshing ability to be brutally honest with no fears of judgement. As we spoke about things at length I caught myself telling my friend that ” I am taking a break from church right now”…as the words flowed out of my mouth, given how at ease she makes me feel, my radar immediately went up looking for signs of disapproval or an agenda brewing in her brain of how to get me back. I should have known with this particular friend there would be neither, which is what had drawn me to her in the first place. Its just when you find yourself being so honest you also catch yourself waiting for the shoe to drop from the other person. The conversation continued on and later she said ” tell me more about you taking a break from the church” .
That simple invitation unlocked a dam of emotions that had been waiting for a safe place to land. I hesitated for a moment because what I was going to tell her could sound harsh, could sound like I didn’t like the church or the people in it. Nothing could be further from the truth. And so I handed her my truth and trusted her to hear it from a loving yet hurting heart. God never fails when he brings you these kind of friends. He knows just who to send you to let you have a safe place to land.
I told her how the church I attend like many across the country carry the banner ” FOR …and you fill in your county”….However; for families like mine it had become painfully obvious that the church as a whole is not ” for” children like mine. Now that being said I must say, our daughter has by far the most loving group of teachers in her Sunday school class who love her to the moon and back and they have loved my family so well. But a group doesn’t represent the overall opinion of the collective body.
One of the hardest hits came when our church formed a new campus. Super close to our home and for awhile there we kept hearing contradictory stories about wether or not this new location would have a Special Needs room. So we set up an appointment and walked the building with a campus director who showed us on the original floor plan there had been a designated Special Needs room, but that it got nixed. I couldn’t understand, so I asked. The general conclusion was that the numbers had been crunched and they had anticipated needing so many rooms that could only accommodate a certain number of kids per room so they had to do away with it. In my mind I was thinking … Wait, what? So we are making room for an anticipating and preparing for “typical children” but kids like mine just got nixed. So, I pointed out that in this area alone there are 3 elementary schools 2 Middle Schools and 2 Large Highschools with some of the highest numbers of special needs kids in the entire county. But we don’t anticipate their families needing a place to have someone FOR them?
Later that year, I had the opportunity to go and work for my church. I was so excited! I thought surely here was a great opportunity to make strides for ” my community of special needs parents” in a way I couldn’t as just an attendee maybe. You see the problem became when I would be wearing my FOR shirts and attend Special Olympics events or be around our daughters baseball team ( which started out as one team and has grown to 3 because our community of special needs is so large) and I would inquire of my friends there, where they went to church ? And without fail, they would tell me, we have tried going and it was just too hard, or we can’t find a place that is really accepting of our family. And the horrible part is then when you have to let them know, that my church who is “FOR” everyone and just built a church in our community doesn’t have accommodations for them either. Ugggg, it is like a knife stabbing you through your very soul. Yes yes, they have programs for all the other kids, yes their slogan is FOR…no I am sorry they didn’t factor you into the numbers and don’t have room for you.
I told her how currently our daughter has a great Sunday school class, it isn’t near us but we faithfully went because we loved her teachers so much. But in a year when our daughter enters middle school they have no program for her. Ironically they have space for her at the campus we drive to but no current Middle School class. So after you have invested so much of your time going all through elementary you will eventually reach a place where there is nothing left for our daughter once again.
I told her how my husband growing up had been hurt by his church and walked away from all organized religion all together. How in his eyes, church was just a business and that was it. I had never been able to fully wrap my mind around that. I had been raised that there are no perfect churches and that if you find one you should leave. But then our son had convinced him to come to church with us and he really enjoyed it. Only to have it come back around full circle to ….they have made room for everyone in his family except his little girl. How do you explain that one to someone who was leery of church to begin with.
I have to say I am thankful for this moment of searching for me. I would have never been able to truly understand how my husband felt until now. To have a hole in my heart placed there by the very thing I have grown up loving and always being a part of. I wouldn’t trade this season for anything. It has made me search out Jesus and His ways with a fervor that I would have never had, had I not been so hurt.
I am beginning in little ways to see why it is God allowed me to leave my job. As I have said in previous posts, it was the weirdest thing. I think He knew I would need to work this season out in my own heart and need some space. And He also has shown me His matchless love in ways I would have never seen except through this journey.
You see after I had left my job, a woman who had given a Staff Mtg presentation and I were having lunch. I had written to her after she spoke to us and let her know how much her talk had meant to me and shared some of my personal story with her. She wrote back and said she would love to meet sometime for lunch.
While sitting in the parking lot waiting to meet her I was listening to Beth Moore on Podcast. I was having a long and emotional talk with Jesus about how I just needed a break from ” church” and how sad that made me and how I was sure He was disappointed in my choice but I just needed some space. And in His loving and most perfect way, a girl I had met while working at my church texted me and said she and her husband were starting a small group and would my husband and I like to join? I wrote her back and said YES I would love to join but I can guarantee you my husband will not. He is a very private and extremely introverted personality type and I just can’t see him agreeing to this, but that after my meeting I would talk to him and get back with her.
And I smiled, I was then realizing this was Jesus hearing my heart and giving me exactly what I needed at this season in our life. I still needed a place to belong, I love church but the church isn’t contained in a building it is when 2 or 3 people gather together in His name there He will be also. And so we started this small group, and it has been the best most life giving thing we have done and we are only at week three 😊❤️
You see, Jesus knows the heart. He knows I love the church I attended and worked at and the people in it so very much. But He also heard and felt my pain and provided me a new path to walk. He is so gracious in all His ways. And as my earthly dad told me, just keep searching sweetie…some church body will have anticipated your daughter, will have already had programs for she and her friends. Some body of believers will make a way for the 90% of unchurched special needs family to come and find a place to be poured into. I can assure you these people are desperate for a welcoming body of believers. And I am also quite certain these would have been some of the people Jesus spent his time with, the ones out in the margins.
I have been reading the book Chasing Vines and Beth Moore sums it up so beautifully when she says:
Take a look at the edges of our fields, and you’ll see people our society claims don’t matter. But in God’s inestimable worth. And these people at the edges of the field are hungry. Hungry for affection. Hungry for friendship. Hungry for a listening ear. Hungry for hope. Hungry to know God is there and that He cares. And I wonder- have we harvested with the margins in mind? Do we intentionally serve people on the edge?
We have gleaned such grace from the Vinedresser’s field. ” Freely you have received”, Jesus said. ” Freely give” ( Matthew 10;8)
My friend listened so intently and in all sincerity said ” I am so sorry”. She asked me to be a mirror. What she meant was that sometimes the only way people can see what they are missing is when you reflect back to them what you see. So this is me trying to be a mirror since I am not good in person. 😉 And I hope it has come across in a loving tone that only wants to educate and not tear down. ❤️