I’ve been asked this a lot recently, especially by some of the younger adults, the ones I taught in Kids Club or assisted in the Jr./Sr. High Youth Group…What brought you back? They didn’t really know much other than one day me and my family just up and left. We turned in our membership certificates and walked away from our church family. In the years that I’d been away, close to 6 years it would seem, much water has passed under the bridge. That water was mostly dark and polluted, clouded with a lot of sin and sinful ways of life.
In a word: Pride (aka: self love)
Nothing but pride can really be to blame. Sin took me away, pride held me there. My heart, that most deceitful part of me, turned me from what I knew was sound and right, and took me on a long and twisted path through a very dark and godless place.
There were many reasons that we chose to leave our church family, but each boils down to one thing, ME. Issues with the music (it was too slow for me, all those hymns, not upbeat enough or contemporary enough), the teaching (I felt unfed and uninterested) the people (hypocrits, gossips, unloving). I wasn’t living a Christ honoring life, there was a private, sinful side that was well hidden from everyone, that I entertained. Sure I went where my spouse went, and I could easily point a finger in judgment and blame him, but then no one put a gun to my head either. One can carry that whole submission to your spouse thing too far when it is used to cover your sin. And for a while, when dissatisfied in that dark way of life, I inwardly tried to cover my sin with that. At any time I could have walked away. I blamed the music, people, teaching, ex..when in reality the problem was within me, my own sinful heart.
First…submission ends at sin’s door. I have no problem being the godly wife that submits to the husband’s authority. But when the leader/head of the wife begins down a wrong path, that is right where the submission ends. I was enticed by sin and once it was conceived in my heart it gave birth to a wretched way of life of my own chosing. I should never have taken those first steps, which started with the mind with fantasy. What is it about God’s people that when they fall, sins of a sexual nature are where we stumble? Maybe because the most intimate display of love for each other is the one most used by the devil. Once you destroy that fabric, the physical bindings of the marriage, the rest will unravel. Trust me on this, it is true.
When I focused on MY likes and dislikes, rather than on the Lord, I was no longer on solid ground, I was standing on sinking sand. See, the worship service isn’t about me at all. It is about GOD, it is about WORSHIP. Worship of the Lord, adoration and praise of my Savior, not about me. I focused on ME, not Jesus. My heart was in a wrong place outside of the church, already on a road to destruction. I had taken my eyes of Christ and put them on me. He was no longer the object of my passion, I was. Worshiping the Lord through music isn’t about the beat, how fast or how slow, how old or how contemporary….it is about the content of the words I’m singing to God. Those words of the old hymns are timeless treasures. But I was hung up on me and missed that. YES there are many wonderful contemporary songs, but the point is not the music, it is the words I am singing, from the heart, that matter.
God’s word, no matter what passage, is right, holy and perfect. But I wasn’t leading a life that sought His Word, I was seeking my own desires. I began to find fault with the teaching, then the teacher, the elders, and the church family. The further away I withdrew, the quieter that still, small voice of God within grew, until I could no longer hear it at all. I heard instead my own thoughts, desires, and followed myself.
There were times that the Lord sent a gentle nudge my way to bring me back. A brief light pierced the darkness but I shyed away. Light uncovers things and I certainly did not want anyone to see my sins, so I turned away and hid. I knew in my heart of hearts that I was far from home, squandering the priceless gifts God had given me, but caught up in the sin it was hard to go back. The further away I got, the more I sinned. When at last I brushed off the last of that sinful way and turned around, pride got in the way for a while. I was terrified of being judged. I knew that many were aware of where I had been.
I feared what others that might know would say, what people might think. When I left I was married and my spouse had sat as chairman of the deacon board. We had been very active in the body of believers, and now I was divorced and smelled of the pig pen I had been living in, my sin. Pride wouldn’t allow me to take the steps to return.
Thankfully a dear friend (actually many) had prayed long and hard since the day we left. This one dear friend was nearing the end, ready to give up and accept that perhaps I wasn’t meant to come back. God was faithful to her, and the others, and when she was reaching the point, His divine intervention allowed circumstances to roll into place and we reconnected. The Lord used her and my favorite comfort food, to open the door and let the light shine inside my heart again. Instead of hiding it, I confessed it. And I listened to the wisdom of God, shared through this beautiful vessel of my long lost sister in Christ, and it grabbed hold.
2 days later I walked back into my former church. I was very apprehensive and afraid of being judged. Again, pride got in there. I have nothing to fear of the judgment of others, believers or not. I have a judgement coming my way, we all do, one I need to be concerned about, and that was only a piece of what she had shared over dinner. Nothing I wasn’t aware of, just nothing I was thinking about as I should have been. The Father is gracious to His children, and as I entered those doors my heart and soul knew peace. I felt like the prodigal child come home. There may have been those that stood in judgment that day, but I never saw them. I instead saw open arms, warm embraces, and no shortage of tears of joy that I was home again.
I want so much to say to those young people who have slipped away, the ones whose parents I now worship with once more….swallow your pride, put to death the self, and please, come home again.