I wanted to run. I wanted to feign illness and get my mom to drive me home. I wanted to be anywhere but at church that day.
It was the Sunday before my grandpa’s funeral, and our family was reeling from the sudden, tragic loss. In my emotionally fragile state, I decided to hide in the bathroom for a while before facing the world (the church world, that is).
While I was out of view, two ladies walked in, talking about the events surrounding my grandfather’s death. I stayed where I was, knowing if I walked out, I’d only make the situation more awkward. I heard them wrapping up their conversation, and as I laid my hand cautiously on the door of the stall to open it and slip out, an unkind comment about my grandmother shot a dagger through my heart.
Their shoes clacked heavily on the tile floor as they left. And I crumpled to the ground, broken under the weight of everything that had happened. I got through church that day, but the pain of those words has stuck with me.
Wounded by Gossip
The pain of those words has stuck with me.
If we can’t trust the church, who can we trust? I’ve pondered this question many times since that day. Bitterness, coupled with pain, began to rise in my heart. People who were supposed to stand by me and support me, who were supposed to have my back when things got tough . . . didn’t.
Some church this was. These people claimed to be followers of Jesus. Yet when a family was in a vulnerable position, they gossiped about them?
No, thank you.
The day of the funeral came. I hoped it’d be over quickly so I could be with my family—and away from this church. I heard the same platitudes over and over:
“God has a plan.”
“He’s not in pain anymore.”
“He’s in a better place.”
But none of that could plug the gaping hole in my heart as I tried to process my loss.
Served with Love
After a funeral, my church provides a meal for everyone, and one of the sides is cheesy potatoes. They’re absolutely heavenly. While I was getting my potatoes that day, one of the ladies cooking looked at me and said, “Just want you to know we are praying for you—and love you.”
Wait. She loved me? She was praying for me?
I was struck by her words because I could feel how genuine she was. I didn’t expect the cheesy potatoes to taste so good that day—something about them, paired with the warmth and love in this woman’s kind words, encouraged me. I started to see love and care from other people too. Friends wrote cards to me. Many people prayed for me. Still others brought food to our house. We ate a lot of cheesy potatoes. And the bitterness I’d harbored faded as I opened my heart to the love being shown to me.
Going Back with Hope
So instead of running away from this church where I was deeply hurt in my time of deepest need, I keep going back. I clear my Sundays and Wednesday evenings, attend VBS, and go to potlucks. All the reasons not to go are overcome by the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ. People still mess up. People still betray trust. People are still people. Churches aren’t perfect; it’s true.
But my imperfect church means the world to me.
My imperfect church means the world to me.
They show me the love of Christ, weep with me in the hard times, and rejoice with me in the good times. Seeing Jesus in and through others, like that lady in the funeral serving line, gives me hope and courage to continue to love broken people, to build up the body, to glorify God by not forsaking the assembly of the saints. That’s why I keep showing up to my local church—and eating more cheesy potatoes.