As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. -- Isaiah 55:10-11

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Honest Letter from This Side of the "Fail" Line--Part 3

Institutional Idolatry

“Institution idolatry”. I didn’t know what that meant the first time I heard it from the Lord, but now I do. It means that the church worships the institutions even if it means sacrificing the individuals. I’ve seen it for 19 years.

When Rob and I were married, it was less than 48 hours before I knew we were in serious trouble. I won’t go into details. It’s not your business. I knew the secular world offered nothing. I was a sociology major, and I knew what they had to say, so I looked for help in the church. I have found this to be a painful and stupid choice.

At first I was told I was naïve, that I was just upset that marriage took effort. I grew up on a farm. I understand hard work. Hard work didn’t scare me. A husband who didn’t want to be there did.

Two years in when I was preparing to file for divorce because I couldn’t mentally or emotionally cope with the “stuff” anymore, we went to see the counselor who was wonderful. Since he was leaving, he suggested we talk to a counselor at our new church. Rob didn’t want to go, but I tried to seek help. I was told all the ways I was the problem from not wearing lipstick which left me unattractive (didn’t know the lack of lipstick made one ugly but it didn’t matter since Rob hated lipstick so I quit wearing it for him, but did the woman in leadership ask about that? Nope.) to not having supper on the table when he got home (at 3:30 in the afternoon) to being unsubmissive, critical, and a prude. Since she never really asked me about our marriage and never talked to Rob to see if those were his thoughts (although she did tell me later young men don’t really know what they want anyway, it’s our jobs as women to simply be and do the right thing), I’m not sure how she came to those conclusions, but since she was the one all the leaders pointed to, I figured seeking help from anyone else in the church was pointless.

The last time I actually tried to get help from someone in the church, I was told I needed to simply be thankful Rob paid the bills, didn’t do drugs, wasn’t a drunk, and didn’t beat me. Life could be so much worse, and I just needed to quit griping and learn to be thankful.

So…my job was to look on the bright side, don’t do anything he might think of as critical or unsubmissive, and just smile and be happy.

In other words, do whatever you have to do to make it look good…even if that means lie. So I lied.

Isn’t it sad that the people I tried to be honest with IN THE CHURCH are the very ones who said to lie? And honestly, I feel like most of them are saying the same thing to both of us now.

Institutional idolatry. Worshipping the institution while the individuals hurt in silence. Looks good. Keeps things clean and tidy. Wonder what God thinks of the lies.

And I already hear some of you saying, “We don’t think you should lie. We never said lie.” Except most of you still aren’t hearing the truth. You hear what you want to hear. You hear that these issues are brand new. You don’t want to believe there are people in the church living in perpetual pain because we found out a long time ago that it is easier to perform than to drown in the clichés or be slapped upside the head with the law that we already know we are not able to meet. Really. It’s easier to say nothing.

Or in our case, I tried to say something…over…and over….and over, and instead of being heard, instead of hearing about healing, I was told to suck it up and do the right thing, that I just needed to “trust God”, that I needed to quit being selfish, that I needed to…keep my mouth shut or be told again how it is all my fault because I’m selfish, faithless, and godless.

So I kept my mouth shut.

And then I got condemned for saying nothing until our marriage was in such disrepair that we could no longer live together.

Now, we are being judged and condemned for being honest about the pain and chasms that run so deep that the institution isn’t a concern, the individuals are. So many people—especially leaders in the church—are focused on the geography of our living arrangements, but they aren’t concerned about the wounds in our spirits, which is obvious since none of them have actually called or emailed to see how we are. The marriage must be saved! Even if we have to lie and perform. Whatever it takes as long as we do our job and look good.

We are tired of “just doing our job”, and we figure we can’t look a lot worse, so there isn’t anything to lose at this point.

Continued in Part 4--Healing

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