Tuesday, May 17, 2011

keep your eye on the prize.

I wrote this post almost two years ago...and never hit "Publish".
And for the record...we still haven't found a new home church.
Nor have we tried very hard. 

I've got a lot of work to do...internal work, heart work, soul work. I've allowed myself to get to a place that I don't like very much. I was telling myself that I didn't mind being where I was at. But that's not true. That was an excuse. I don't like where I'm at...or how I'm thinking...or how I'm feeling. Or how I'm acting for that matter.

We haven't been to church in about 2 months. That's a long time for a family who rarely missed a Sunday for over 10 years. We are a church-going family. We go to church...we pray before meals...we tithe...we serve and do bible studies and play instruments on worship teams.

But for the last 2 months...nothing.

It's not for lack of wanting to...but circumstances. Things happened. People happened. Humanity happened. And suddenly...we found ourselves without a home church. It was a weird feeling.

We visited a church we thought we'd like to attend...but on both visits not one person said one word to us. Not a hello...not a get out of here...nothing. Weird.

We took that as a cue from God that it's not where He wanted us. And that was fine.

Instead of continuing to look for a new church home, we decided to take some time to get our house in order...specifically the backyard. And it's been good to have the time to do this. For the past 10 years every weekend has been full of church or baseball or wrestling or something other than taking care of things around here. Now our weekends are full of making our backyard habitable. It's been really good.

But eventually we need to get back into church.

The thing about church is that people are at church. And people are...people. Imperfect people. Messed up people...as Joyce Meyer literally just said on TV, "Hurting people hurt people." True dat. It's not an excuse...just a truth.

And I will say...I got hurt. Pretty bad. That's the thing I've been trapped by for the past...oh, year or so. Hurt. I like to fancy myself more Godly...above being hurt...above being trapped by self-pity...ha. Like everyone else...I'm part of that whole "people" thing. I am imperfect. And I'm sure I hurt people, too...not on purpose. Not anymore, anyway.

No excuse.

There comes a time when we know better. And when we know better...we are expected to do better.

To whom much is given...much is required

Can I just say...through all those years of hurt and confusion I learned a very valuable lesson. One morning I was praying...and I asked God why I was being treated in such a way by this person that I trusted.

"Why are you allowing this, Lord?"

And just like God always does...He answered quietly and simply and directly...

"Now you know how NOT to treat people."

Simple. And so HUGE. God allowed it so that I would learn from it. And so that I would never treat people the way that I was treated. And I pray...earnestly...that I NEVER inflict that hurt and that confusion and that pain on anyone else. If I fail...I pray for forgiveness. I ask the person I've hurt for their forgiveness...and I mean it. No sense in giving fake apologies...or empty forgiveness. Don't bother. Do it for them...not just to make yourself feel better.

No. I mean it. I don't want to hurt others. I want to encourage others. I want to build others up. I want to be a part of their success...not their stumbling. That is my desire...Lord I pray I do what my heart desires to do. I pray I am goodness and light to others...not a stumbling block...or a cork...or a hindrance. And if I am...SHOW ME so that I can STOP.

Yes...I've got some work to do. I need to get out of this rut. I need to get my focus back...keep my eye on the prize...and that prize is living my life for God. The prize is powering through my days here on Earth...being light in the darkness...so that one day, when I'm in heaven, I will see what it was all  about...what it was all for...Jesus.

Jesus is the prize. He is the way...and the truth...and the life. Keep my eye on the prize...on Jesus...and my paths will be straight, my feet will not stumble, I will not grow weary, I will not faint...I will not be burned, I will not drown...keep my eye on The Prize.

Jesus. He is the prize.

And if I can just keep my eye on HIM, nothing else will matter. No hurt. No anger. Nothing.

If I keep my eyes on Jesus...my Prize above all prizes...all other things will fall into place.


joyfullyjulie said...

I appreciate your honesty in this post. We attend a large church with many services and it saddens me how quickly we can go unmissed when we don't attend. The only one that matters is God, obviously, but it would be nice to know someone noticed. We live in a large suburban area and have assigned parishes so going to a different church isn't really an option for us, nor is it necessary. We just need to attend each weekend, no matter how we are feeling or how busy we are. We need to remember that we GET to attend church. We are so blessed. I hope that you will find what you are looking for. Peace.

Kris Watson said...

What a wonderful gift this post is. Thank you.

It strikes me that you are not in church because you are hurting. And you want to help those who are hurting. Well, maybe they are not in church either. Maybe BEING the church would work for you better than GOING to church.

You can read a pretty good book here: http://www.jakecolsen.com/contents.html Just click on the chapter titles in the table of contents.

ThyHandHathProvided said...

I like to think of church as a place where a bunch of imperfect people go who want to do and be better. Unfortunately, a lot of mistakes happen on the way to learning. A book you might be interested in is called "Church: Why Bother?" by Philip Yancy.

Thinking of you during this time of re-alignment:-).

Denise said...


Talitha said...

I love your transparency. It takes a lot of courage. And I support you completely. The pastor at my church has been talking a lot lately about being "givers of life" instead of "takers of life". This sounds like the same thing. I'll be praying for you and your family while you search for a new church home. Love you!

Shannon said...

My goodness you are speaking my language (but, saying it muchly, much better than I).

Our family also recently went through about 2 months of not attending church and have found a new one that we are "cautiously optimistic" about. I have been to so many churches and been burned so many times that I am about ready to throw my hands up in the air and forget about it entirely.

Not my salvation...just the church. Only thing is - God commanded us to worship together and He reiterated the importance of strong relationships where "iron sharpens iron" and we support one another through life. I am all for that. Sign me up!

Problem is...we've been seeking this and not finding it, anywhere. We end up in places full of sanctimonious, agenda filled, cliquey, social clubs. Something I want nothing to do with. I haven't and have no desire to join my local Country Club because of these same types of things and wonder why the local churches all seem to mimic the same behavior.

I want to go to church to learn more about God. To form deep and lasting relationships that encourage me and the other believers to be the people God created us to be. To be different from the rest of the community in the way we relate to one another and to those around us. Paul wrote that "they'd know us by our love." How can unbelievers know us by our love if I, a believer, can't even decipher a difference? I know that I am not perfect and neither are the people at church. But, for heaven's sake there ought to be some kind of indication that at least an effort is being made to be at peace with one another and to be loving towards one another and above all else to remember the reason we are even there...not for music, programs, socializing...but for, as you so perfectly put it, "the prize."

Wow - I've now written a short book. This just really touched a nerve and I am right there with you. I will pray for you and ask if you'd maybe do the same for me?

"Jesus is the prize. He is the way...and the truth...and the life. Keep my eye on the prize...on Jesus...and my paths will be straight, my feet will not stumble, I will not grow weary, I will not faint...I will not be burned, I will not drown...keep my eye on The Prize."


Anonymous said...

I relate to what you wrote. I myself was in a three year rut of hurt, being angry and not forgiving or looking at why this happened. I'm reading "Celebration of Discipline" and it has made me do some strong soul searching and see that I have not been in a place to hear "God's voice" because I've been in a spirit of anger, sadness and bitterness. I've just been quiet and connecting with God and it's helping tremendously. I feel his spirit shining brightly through me as I have forgiven and let go. People are imperfect and will make mistakes. I sure miss seeing your face because you made me feel so comfortable and I definately feel the void. <3

Sara G said...

Thank you for your open post. We've tried to go to "church". Our daughter loves going most of the time, she's nine. We've been but yup, no one speaks except at the welcome part. No one stops to say anything or even help us. I'm disabled. But the real reason I want to go is to worship God and be a part of fellowship. How can one be a part when no one helps or speaks out? We aren't stylish or even "dressed right" but does that matter? The kids are welcomed easily but is it that hard to talk to new people? Hurting people do hurt others but not always on purpose. It's tough. So I pray that God will open the door for the type of fellowship He wants us to be a part of and show us the way.

Big hugs!