“My mind is a burning building and I am trapped inside. Is there really NOBODY who will brave the flames and pull me out?”
It’s Sunday morning — seems like as good a time as any to talk about church. More specifically, why I’m not there. I used to go every Sunday without fail. And to Bible study every Monday. And to Recovery ministry every Thursday. But, about 2 years ago when my depression was starting to get the best of me, I stopped going. To all of it.
I’m doing so much better now, but I still haven’t gone back. I’ve thought about it several times but every time I do, I begin to have extreme anxiety and talk myself out of it. I’ve wondered why. It didn’t make sense. I always left church feeling so good, so energized and ready to serve. It was my favorite place to be. It’s been puzzling to me, and frustrating.
But last night I was looking through my notes app in my iPhone. It had gotten way too cluttered for my liking and I was trying to find old notes that I could clear out. I stumbled across one I had written in July 2015. A little more than a year ago. I had forgotten it was there, but now that I saw it I remembered exactly what I was doing when I wrote it. Laying in my bed, in the dark, alone, sobbing — just like I was every day back then.
As I started to read this note, tears flowed. Even now as I write this they flood the keyboard. Yeah, this one still hurts. I have to work on it. I have to give it to God and let it go. Here is the note in its entirety:
Hello church? I wonder, have you even noticed I’m missing? Don’t you think there might be something amiss when a member who sat in the same seat in the same service every Sunday for years suddenly stops showing up? Shouldn’t it at least warrant a phone call? An email? A Facebook message?
Many of you know that my mother died recently. I know you know because of the many condolences you posted on my Facebook page when she passed. They were helpful and I appreciated them. But did any of you ever stop to think that I might actually need you after the first day? Maybe a meal or two. I don’t know.
Oh, I know that you’ve been mighty busy rescuing orphans, standing up for the sanctity of marriage and unborn children, and spreading God’s love to the corners of the earth. How could you possibly have time to notice that one of your own is drowning in a sea of darkness. You see that head bobbing up and down in the water off in the distance? That’s me. Is there NOBODY who cares enough to rescue me? My mind is a burning building and I am trapped inside. Is there really NOBODY who will brave the flames and pull me out? What must I do to get your attention? If I marry a woman or abort a child will you notice me then? Maybe, but I doubt it.
My guess is you’ll be too busy going about your Christian business to notice me until someone finds me lifeless in a pool of blood on the floor and contacts you for funeral arrangements. You’ll notice me then, but it will be too late. I’ll be with Jesus and won’t need you anymore. And you’ll be free to carry on all your Christian duties while being completely oblivious to those who are drowning within your walls
Clearly, that note was written when I was in a very dark place. There’s a lot of anger in it. I know it’s very self-centered, and that church isn’t all about me. That, in fact, it isn’t about me at all. I know those things. But when I wrote the note, those feelings were very real. I was desperate and distraught. I prayed every single night that I would not wake up in the morning. I just wanted to go to Heaven and be with Jesus. I realize now that, in all fairness, if anybody had tried to reach out to me I probably would have sent them away. But I needed to know that I mattered enough for someone to try.
Now that all of this has been brought to my mind again, I realize why I get anxious at the thought of going back to church. It’s that word I hate. Vulnerability. This seems to be a theme for me, doesn’t it? Going back to church would mean letting people in again. People that have the potential to hurt me. Again.
Now don’t get me wrong. My church is a good church full of good people. Full of wonderful, well-meaning, fallible, imperfect, human people. And I don’t want to make it sound like they were never there for me. They were, many times. It’s just that this one time when I really needed support from God’s people, they were nowhere to be found. Once more I felt abandoned. Invisible. Just like I had all my life. 30+ years after high school and I still wasn’t one of the popular kids.
I’m not at the point in my recovery that I am comfortable going back to church again. It doesn’t feel safe. Would you pray for me? I want to go back but I lack the courage to do it just yet. Until then I will rest in the knowledge that even though my church failed me, my God never will.
“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. ~ Psalm 118:8″