Thursday, June 16, 2005

Losing my religion

PPW's recent transparent post has encouraged me to be transparent myself. As a PW, I have to say that I feel compelled to be encouraging, hopeful, faithful, at all times, even when in the deepest places of my heart, I'm not 100%.

So be forwarned, this is not a perky post, nor is it the most encouraging, but it is honest and not as uncommon as I would've once thought. God help us.

You may have noticed that I've been blogging less lately, and although colds and other aches and pains have been a part of that, mostly I've only been able to stare blankly at the screen, wanting to let out a flood of disappointment and frustration, but of course afraid to admit them.

Stagnant waters of discontent only erode the heart, mind and spirit, so I'll be brave and admit, things are not well. Not that they have been for a very, very long time. But like most PW's, I've smiled and been hopeful and optimistic through most of it. But, dear God, it's so very tiring at times, and most others it's frustrating.

I've worked, overworked and worked some more in the church, and usually that has kept me from becoming discouraged, or at least busy enough to overlook many of the shortcomings and various issues in our church. But if I slow down, or stop at any time to take a glance around me, I physically feel beaten, my heart hurts and I feel tears threatening.

Here's the scoop, just like PPW, my husband is bi-vocational, yes lots of work, my FIL is the pastor of our church, and the communication between DH and FIL is not very good, nor are their visions and methods anywhere near similar. However, we respect the authority of our pastor and never contradict him in any way to the congregation, although when enough has passed DH has been very honest about his observations and opinion. I cannot say the same for FIL - and yes, many a times we've been shot down because FIL doesn't see the value, importance or potential in many of DH's ideas.

And yet, the methods used by FIL have resulted in a congregation that is stagnant, very small, slow to grow, spiritually immature, petty, disorganized most of the time, chaotic many times, and so not being used for their God-given talents or encouraged in any way. The great sadness we experience is in the fact that we see so much potential in our members, but they are not being shepherded to reach that potential, and although we see their value and strengths and DH makes every effort to encourage, FIL often chooses to point out their shortcomings, inabilities and failures - completely undoing any building up that may have been achieved.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe FIL's intentions are to help and grow, but the methods and effort he chooses to put into the congregation are not achieving results, but he is so completely opposed to trying, often proven, techniques for success, growth and spiritual maturity in the church. I believe this has much to do with his attitude that DH is his kid, and FIL as the authority figure does not relinquesh control, delegate and doesn't take opinions or suggestions very well - and that's from anyone really, even more veteraned, successful pastors.

We have tried to do it all - nearly burning ourselves out, we've tried to delegate, we've tried to back off a bit - all behind that invisible line on the ground which often feels like a brick wall really. But we've waited, and waited, and felt compelled to leave, and run the full range of emotions and concerns and questions.

Yet we know that if we want our children to have a positive, useful church experience, if we want to be adequately fed by the teaching of the Word, and more importantly if we are to be useful in the work of the Lord, it is not in the place we are in now.

So many, too many, Sundays we arrive home a bit more frustrated, a little more disappointment and feeling totally helpless. This has been going on too long, it has to stop. We both know that - our hearts ache with that certainty.

The worse part of it is that I feel like I'm losing my religion in the process. Our church is very conservative, extremely so, let me say, and many would say old-fashioned in its opinions or interpretations of the Bible. Interpretations that I find myself questioning in my discontent and honestly coming to the conclusion that they are not my convictions.

Breaking away from a church that both DH and I were raised in, and the majority of our family firmly believes in, would be like a giant rip in the fabric of our family quilt, at least that's how it would be taken. Then there are the uncertainties of a big change. And there are my personal questions regarding my part in my DH's leaving the organization in which he was ordained and the question of where his ministry would end up?

And yet, we feel compelled to go, to step out of the boat. We believe God has something better. He will be with us. He will make us useful and whole again.

But we hesitate. Like Peter when Jesus told him to step out of the boat, we see the potential tempest that such a move would cause and we doubt.

But we continue to pray, struggle, but pray and hope in the Lord. God give us direction, make your way apparent to us!

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