Wounded In Church

When your ministry is dealing with the underbelly of the Church you end up seeing a lot of pain. Hope After Betrayal ministries serves wives betrayed by their husband’s sexual brokenness. Sexual Addiction is the epidemic no one wants to deal with. I certainly wanted to run when my marriage was infected and broke open seventeen years ago.

Seeing women who married Christian men in love and faith, only to have their dreams shattered by lies and deception could make them critical and judgmental. I felt some of those feelings in the beginning of this journey. But the Lord was kind and He showed me a much bigger perspective while ministering to my own wounded heart and brokenness.

I grew up outside the church and I always admired families who had generations of Christians in them. I always assumed generations of faith meant closeness and harmony but now know that is not always true. I grew up overly responsible and codependent.

Sadly one of the first families I admired had generations of church attendance. They also enjoyed key positions in our church. For a long time I did not see their flaws, faults, or interpersonal issues. And as new believer, I had huge expectations and assumed any conflict was somehow my fault as the younger believer. My history was a recipe for many hard feelings and opened me up to personal injuries while spilling over on my young children.

Fast forward to my marriage imploding: My first response was, “something must be terribly wrong with me.” Then God ministered to me through His Word, His Spirit, and other healthier believers who understood what I was going through. It was a beautifully messy process that taught me basic and complex truths about myself. I had wrong ideas about God, myself, and others in the church. Thankfully as God taught, redirected and gently convicted me, there was no condemnation. There was only and an overwhelming sense of His greatness, wisdom, and love compared to my smallness and ignorance and misplaced affection. Every time I felt my brokenness, my dependence upon the Lord grew stronger.

First God showed me that other people’s choices are theirs alone. I am not responsible for them. My huge burden was lifted. Then I learned that I am 100% responsible for me, my choices, and my responses. That became my full time job. I will never fully be able to be like Christ, but daily I can surrender more and more so His Spirit can act in lieu of my flesh. This is the sanctification process and it should be happening in every believer.

I accepted Christ at age fifteen, but like many new Christians, I more fully understood that decision at age twenty two. Growth was slow. That means for many years, I was operating pretty much as I did before knowing Christ. Professing what I knew about Him and most likely misrepresenting what I thought I knew about Him. I shudder to think of the injuries I may have caused. I have tried to take responsibility for any past poor choices. And even today I pray, “Lord show me my blind spots or lies I believe, so I am not hurting those I love and most of all, You.”

Going through the fire showed me that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. We are all broken in need of a Savior. So with the church full of believers, who cover a large spectrum of spiritual growth and are all over the sanctification continuum, is it any wonder injuries occur? I see now that in almost every conflict the problem is really missing information, assumptions, and/or unspoken expectations. We all have them and must learn to seek understanding when things get heated instead of demanding to be heard. It takes a lot of discipline to lay aside an injury long enough to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Those who do this well are a rare gift. I am drawn to them.

Finally, I try to remember that every conflict is an opportunity for growth with both parties. Sadly, both parties don’t always do the work of growth. But I am only responsible for me. So as much as it is in my power, I try to be at peace with other believers. Sometimes that means I apologize, sometimes, it means I extend grace, and sometimes it means walking away to protect my heart from further injury. People are a good reminder of our need for a perfect Savior in the midst of an imperfect world.

Whatever you do, don’t give up on God because His people don’t always represent His heart accurately. Let the trials of this world always draw you back to the One who will never leave you or forsake you. Stay in the refining fires of sanctification so that you are part of the solution and not the problem. For better or for worse, human believers, are the church. Whatever you do strive to know Him better so you can be a better representative.

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