Deliver Me - a letter
[to a church, including myself]
I struggle with my own preconceptions, negative thought processes, feelings of disappointment in man and doubts of faith. I toss and turn in unproductive doubts and notions of self – worth which can cause me to make hard judgements borne from the experiences of being personally rejected and miss- conceptions and misunderstandings can naturally develop.
I write the following in the hope that something shifts for the good and if it seems negative then forgive me for my lack and pray for a deeper knowledge of what it is to be loved and to love.
For me - the most beautiful aspect of the life of Jesus was that he walked and ate with sinners. He walked beside sinners in such close proximity (that the fragrance of his love as opposed to the ‘stench’ of those he walked beside) made a way where there was none.
He walked and ate with those who were considered the outcasts of society and He knew them when they did not know themselves or when others could not see the beauty hidden within. He did this from love and his ministry was just that, a love ministry.
Church for me in recent months has become a no go zone.
I feel at times so bamboozled by a plethora of personal ministries.
I came to church to find community in friendship in my state of disease in the hope of absolute acceptance and to understand the experiences of the Holy Spirit in my life. I was hopeful of finding the peace promised; one that surpasses all understanding.
I find myself however, either competing for my own ‘position’ as a default mechanism or completely outcast by the overly heavy handed good wishes of others. Dare I admit that? I even feel branded in some way by both mine and others limitations of love. The out workings of this love as I perceive it and as a recipient has left me disappointed in man. Should I be confessing this openly and expose my distrust?
The wholehearted belief in the Great Commission , feels to someone like me ( who copes with mental illness) as though I am the recipient of a result orientated desire to prove that others experience of their own faith is true. And perhaps this is valid in some way if it helps?
However a cynical taste is lingering in my mouth where before there was only a childlike faith. I once believed in the hope and experience of a greater love. I too, want to share the love experienced through and in the Holy Spirit and so do understand the desire to participate in walking in love.
However I also feel at times disqualified by the very same structures that are present in society.
I have to ask, as one who has experienced isolation from the world and knows the effects of marginalisation and stigma’s sting: why are distinctions made in church too? These distinctions that are being perhaps unwittingly made, regard my worth in terms of church structures. They seem to dictate what I may not be able to offer or in fact be offered within what seems like very narrow parameters of pre judgement.
Is the church supposed to be a micro system of the same structure of the world? Are we supposed to bring the world to the church or the church into the world? We are in this world but not of it? I have to admit no answer to this in practical out workings accept in the commandment given to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. But perhaps we need to be more honest with ourselves and our own reflections in Christ?
Is it I who needs to be delivered from my illness, my mind set, my diagnosis, my confusion, my weaknesses, my needs, my disappointments, my sins? Do I need this more than anyone else because I carry with me a diagnosis and depend on medications of a certain type? Or should I be indeed delivered from challenging a status quo that seems to exist?
Perhaps no one wants to hear about my negative feelings of the experience of Church and I should say and believe the best always - yet for me - there is no risk of being outcast further and no greater experience of isolation then my experiences of being ill and unmedicated.
However I have to admit that sometimes within the Church setting it has felt truly isolating and this has saddened me greatly as I expected a different kind of love to be shown.
I do believe that what I have to say has validity in some small measure but perhaps you will disagree and think that I should simply ‘grow up’! To which I say with hand on heart that we should all endeavour always to grow.
The question I need to ask is this:
Does my illness automatically make me a recipient of others' love within a frame work that uses a subtle distinction of us and them: those who help and those who are in need. Does this somehow fulfil and inform a pre-existing structure that actually enforces a division? Could this observation have any truth to it? Should I be asking this at all?
I hope and pray that my personal rejections and paranoia are clouding my judgements and that what I feel about Church is more of my own personal problem than the reality but I need also to be true to who and where I am now in my journey and my experiences of church and so lean towards the need to pose these questions for the benefit of others who may feel like me but are without voice.
Is our zeal for Christ and the business of the church (that can at times seem to mask fears) be getting in the way of truly loving? Is it just a subtle distinction in a mind-set or motivation that needs to shift slightly more towards the example of the love of Jesus?
Jesus was so beautiful that He loved with nothing to gain but all to risk.
He simply walked beside sinners and loved them. He walks beside all of us!
What I once heard was the following statement and it struck a cord deep within my heart: ‘Love is only realised when it is given away freely.‘
May we all have the strength to do this in the true spirit of love more and more each day to make glad the city of our God and to continue to grow up in the love we have so graciously received!