Writing for Five Minute Friday on the prompt “Community”:
The other day I read it: another blogger telling of a certain dark part of her life in which she “hid” herself “away.” And I said it to Husband: “Maybe I’m hiding.” And he smiled: slow, knowing smile, just looked at me with that smile, and that was the clearest reply. Drawing tears.
Yes, hiding. From community.
Ever since that night. When we stood before that group we’d called our community and (supposedly) had the nerve (no nerve for me, only jangled “nerves”) to “make a motion that the congregation recommend to the board that they rescind” a decision. A decision unethical, unbiblical, violating their own by-laws, unjust, and cruel.
And the place turned into a bad dream like swirling fog, recalling “Vanity Fair” in Pilgrim’s Progress. And a group who ordinarily sat silent and asked no questions before voting unanimous yes to every board decision… now was erupting in bizarre behavior and noisy chaos.
Nothing from that point on happened by Roberts’ procedures, except what we tried to do… And no one in leadership called for order…
No one had ever told us the secret rule. It wasn’t written down anywhere: You don’t. do. that. here.
But I knew. Somehow I’d known beforehand. That’s why I had trembled all day. Called friends, enlisted prayer. Couldn’t eat. Prayed, “Lord, I can’t do this!” repeatedly. “Lord, I don’t want to do this.” “Please take this cup…”
Now here I stood, thinking of Luther saying, “Here I stand.” And silently praying forgiveness for these people I’d thought so well of, and who were now thinking and speaking so horribly of us, for “Lord, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
We had breathed on a house of cards. We had peeled back a strip of pretty latex paint and exposed a bit of leprous wall (Lev 14:34-41) — just a little part of it — and panic now seized a community who clung to an illusion of near perfection.
My hands are shaking. My heart’s been pounding. And now the tears are threatening. My timer says I have more time, yet I feel frozen in it.
There is more to write… So much more to write…
That night, he bent sideways toward me, murmured just loud enough that I could hear above the cacophony, “I want to leave before this is over.” And I nodded, grim. Definitely. My bones felt chilled. I wouldn’t imagine the crowd in the narthex after meeting dismissal.
We slipped out of our seats while a previous item’s vote count was being awaited (unanimous, I was guessing…) And having gotten stuck with a pew near the front — last place we’d wanted, but all seats behind filled or spoken for when we’d arrived— we now filed to the back to where the escape exit was, back, back, past pew after pew, sea of strange-familiar faces, flushed red with anger, or wet with tears, or deflated and limp, or twisted with the tension of dealing with this phenomenon of someone actually questioning, of even supposing leadership could ever sin or even err.
“Don’t we trust our pastor? Don’t we trust our deacons?” she had sprung up and exclaimed, loud. It echoed in my head.
And later, only later, I read it, this sign of a groupthink group: “If you bring up a problem, you become the problem…”
And so the following Tuesday, when I knew said pastor would be elsewhere, I slipped back into that quaint country church, endured the pretend-it-never-happened small-talk with the secretary whose office I had to pass, and went to that room where we’d gathered around that table, women on Sunday mornings, class shrunk twice because of social upheavals that no one, including myself, had questioned as the odd things they were… and stripped it bare of all my things, of the hearts on the corkboard, of the little feminine décor items that said, “We’re a female community…”
Welcome no longer. Husband also, welcome no longer, but he’d already cleared his room…
and I put the envelope on the pastor’s desk.
And climbed the steps and left the building, and the door swung shut behind me. On community.
I think I’m going.
To a ladies’ luncheon in a church so different and yet far too similar…
And to Allume in October.
And linking. To the communities below.
We all long for
The safety lies in Christ.
Okay, I really cheated this time.
Time spent writing: I have no idea. I got frozen amid the 5 minutes, and stalled at later points, and, timer no longer ticking further on, I just kept writing.
Time spent on finding links and photos: several minutes
Time deciding whether to publish: Over an hour. No, make that two.
Time to publish: I asked husband.
Overdue, he said.
I have blogged for years now, and never broke that rule of silence. (Why?!) There is more to write. Much more. About a long-repeating pattern of church abuse, hidden… a disconnect from scripture, from Christ Himself, true head of the church — and a few seemingly insignificant weak spots that make many now-decent churches vulnerable to becoming abusive, even cultic, more than they would ever guess…
Here and there, in weeks to come, now and then, bit by bit, by God’s help, I hope to share what I’ve experienced and learned, what I know I need to share, what others need to know. Thank you for grace. And prayers?