Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When Church Makes You Crazy, Part 3

I expected to finish this list last week but my life just isn't going as I'd planned lately. The most recent mishap was a wood splinter that pushed itself under my fingernail. On the index finger of my dominant hand. I thought I pulled it out but now that the finger is swollen and complaining, I think I missed a piece. Going to the doctor tomorrow for what may be a very unpleasant repair job.

Anyway - here's the conclusion of my strategies for coping with a church that makes you crazy.

Coping Strategy #4: Get Professional Help. By the time we moved away, I had the support of a psychiatrist, a therapist and a pastor. I needed all of them. Most of our life is connected to church so a stressful church setting means a stressful life. I desperately needed the relief and perspective that these people gave me.

My pastor gave me two essential things: the words of Jesus applied directly to my life and the words of an experienced churchman. I never imagined that church could be threatening. He understood how betrayed I felt and helped me hold on to the hope of Christ even when the church made me want to throw up my hands and give up.

I needed the psychiatrist because I needed medication for my depression. I've been told that constant stress can lead to depression. Other occupations have the benefit of divisions between home and work that cushion exposure to stress. I don't think we're the only clergy family that finds it difficult to maintain those boundaries, so stress oozed all over our lives.

Seeing a therapist helped me get some perspective on my situation. I had a hard time seeing my life with any objectivity and she offered different ways of thinking about what was happening in my life and how I could respond to it. I also needed the safety of the therapist's office, where I could say anything that was on my heart. Every other part of my life seemed fragile but her office was a sturdy place to tend my bruised heart.

Coping Strategy #5: Expect Blessing. I had a friend who kept saying that to me and I often thought she was being kind of a ninny. Do you not see what is happening to me and to my family? Don't you see that God is letting us wither here?

Later I began to replay the phrase and consider that possibility that God would bless us. It is hard to be hopeful when everything looks bleak, but because of Christ we always have reason to hope. Like the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' robe, trusting that He could heal her even though she'd been suffering for years. She expected blessing.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:25-34)

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Thanks for using this space to share your encouraging words.