I would like to begin by saying that I have no idea how I found your blog but I am very glad that I did. It was probably via a midnight rabbit trail sort of web surfing and I probably saw something I like and then in my attempt to not forget about it yet still fall asleep at a reasonable hour I signed up, signed off, and went to bed.
Recently, I have started getting your weekly updates, and have begun surfing through your blog. Yesterday, I read through your history and how you have gotten to where you are. I was shocked! I have thought for some time now that I was the only person who has gone through something like this.
Our story is similar. Different. But similar.
I have a few questions that I was wondering if you could help me with.
First, do you and your family go to a local church service now? I just can t bring myself to. It all feels like such a charade. I too am married with 3 young children (5, 3, & 1 years old). I feel like I am letting them down since my dad made us all go to church service every week. I feel like I am letting my parents down as well since we used to go to the same church service that they did.
Secondly, is there anything that takes the pain away? I feel like I am constantly fighting back pain and bitterness. How long does it take for that to heal?
I know that I need to forgive, move on, etc but I can t tell if I don t want to or if I am simply unable to. Any advice would be appreciated.
Thanks, and thanks for all of the writing and free resources you post.
Alan gave me permission to post his email online so that you could provide your input as well. Please do so in the comment section below.
Here is an edited version of how I responded:
Thank you for the encouraging and honest email. Thank you very much for reading the blog and subscribing to the newsletter. I am glad you are enjoying the free ebooks.
We do not currently attend a local church. We have tried about a dozen times over the last four years, and as you say, it feels like such a charade. Also, we don’t want to judge and condemn the people who enjoy going to a local church, but every time we try to go, it seems like such a waste of time, money, and energy when there are so many tangible needs in our community. So we found it is better if we just don’t go.
Yes, it does sometimes feel like we are letting down our children. I grew up in the church, and have many fond memories and experiences of that time. I fear that without these, maybe my children will “go off the deep end” as they get older. But my wife and I are doing everything we can think of to teach the Bible to our girls, and more importantly, show them what it means to follow Jesus into the world. We do simple things, like take bags for homeless around in our car and hand them out to people when we see them. We develop friendships with neighbors and other people, and when they go through tough times, we take them meals or plates of cookies, or mow their lawn or whatever they need. Then at home, we pray for them.
Very often, as we do these things in our community, it comes out that we are followers of Jesus but that we don’t attend church. This has sparked countless discussions about why we don’t go to church. And you would be amazed at how many people resonate with what we say! If they attend church, they sometimes say that they feel similarly, but never knew that church attendance was optional. This leads to discussions about what it means to be the church and follow Jesus into the world.
If they don’t attend, they might say that they used to, but haven’t been going in years, and feel terribly guilty about it. This then leads to conversations about why they feel guilty, what God expects of us. We can then help liberate them from that fear, and invite them to join with us in following Jesus outside of the four walls of the church.
So although my wife I sometimes worry that we are raising our girls different than the way we were raised, we think that in many ways, our way is teaching them to follow Jesus in meaningful and tangible ways which we did not really learn until more recently.
Oh, and the pain never goes away. Well, maybe it dulls a little…. But I cannot think too long about some of my past before my heart starts to beat faster, my mind begins to go back and review everything that happened, what was said and done, and how I should have responded differently, etc. And just when you think the pain is going away, someone from your “old life” sends you a condemning email, runs into you at the grocery store and says something rude, or you hear through the grapevine about some slanderous rumor being spread around. When this happens, all the pain comes rushing back. I wish I could paint a better picture…
My only advice is this: make absolutely sure that you and your wife are on the same page with this. She will be your best friend and support during this time of spiritual uncertainty. Spend time talking with her about her concerns regarding how you follow Jesus as a family, and how you raise your children to love Jesus and love others. I would also, if possible, take some of the time, energy, and money that previously went toward the activity of attending church, and put that time, energy, and money aside toward loving needy people around you – neighbors, coworkers, homeless people, and the poor.
Hope that helps a bit. I would love to hear more about your story and how things turn out. Keep me informed.
So what advice and encouragement would you give Alan? And not just him, but the millions of other people around the world with similar questions and concerns? Let us know in the comments below!