Yesterday I guest posted at the Convergent Books blog, sharing a small part of my journey through the disappointments and downfalls of church and how I rediscovered healthy community:
By the time I finished seminary, I had stopped trusting most middle-aged men who called themselves pastors. But something about Pastor Tom caused me to make an exception. Perhaps it was his offer to buy me breakfast.
He was a kind man and an excellent listener, but he also asked really tough questions. I felt safe enough with him. He reminded me of the psychologists I used to visit during the hard years of my parents’ divorce.
Tom wanted to know why I hadn’t become a member of a church over the past three years of seminary. Why would a future pastor avoid the church? I told him story after story of letdowns, disappointments, and years of volunteering at extremely high capacities without so much as a thank you, but still getting tons of criticism.
“Ah!” he said. “I know what your problem is!” The way he said it made me want to storm out of the diner without finishing my hash browns. I didn’t have time for know-it-alls. However, I was curious to hear his diagnosis.
“You’re church-damaged,” he said.
I wanted to say he was wrong, that I was strong. I had endured my parents’ divorce and the years of legal fall-out that kept my family returning to court. But rather than protest, I just scraped up the rest of my hash browns and mumbled that he may have a point.
In the years leading up to that meeting and the years that followed, I had a hard time visiting any church. There may have been deeply flawed aspects of these churches, and they may not have been the right churches for me. However, the bigger issue during seven years of church avoidance was the toxic baggage I brought with me.