As I began asking questions, searching for groups online that might help, and looking for some answers, it troubled me to see how many times frustrated believers were encouraged to stay bitter toward a bad situation, and how many were directed to give up on God or their faith because of what a person or group of people did wrong. It also disturbed me that people thought I was leaving God because I was leaving a certain location with four walls. God is much bigger than a church building.
I didn’t want to leave. I loved church. Its sad when people feel they need to leave something they have loved. But sometimes we have to leave one thing to reach for something better. Life is full of leavings, after all. We leave our home to begin school. We leave our childhood as we become teens. We leave high school friends and family when we move to college. We leave college life to enter the workforce. We leave parents and siblings to get married. We watch our children grow and begin to leave us- going to kindergarten, jr. high, high school, college, and getting married as well. Through all of these leavings though, we can keep our character, and most importantly, we can keep our faith. We can’t keep God. He can’t be kept. But He can keep us.
When we leave the things I named above, we leave in order to grow. I pray, I hope, that its the same with church. There are many good things that I’ve learned as an Apostolic. I treasure those things. But I’ve been brought to a point, for now, that demands a leaving. To stay meant to compromise my beliefs and my conscience, and so would have meant to compromise myself and my God. Like in all other leavings though, I can go with God.
No matter what happens in life, we have choices to make. How to respond, how to react, what to say. We can choose to keep believing; that’s what faith is, after all- the choice to believe. And I choose faith. I didn’t choose to be hurt, but I did choose, for a while, to stay in a bad situation. It was my choice, and not something to be angry or bitter about. Definitely not something to leave God for. It was my choice, and I don’t regret it.
God loves us. Broken, hurt, wounded, even angry or bitter… and He still loves those who have hurt us, too. He asks them to change. Whether they do or not is not in our control. He asks us to forgive– not to stay in a bad situation, but also not to stay angry. Anger has its place. It is a good emotion for awhile, but eventually a person has to grow around anger or let it consume them. I choose growth.
I’m thankful for all those whose experience has been with good churches and good pastors. I hope most people never experience the things that some have. Still, within or without the walls of a Pentecostal (or any other church) we have choices to make. We are not exempted from choices by sitting on a pew. Nor are we freed from those choices by leaving one.
I hope those who have had trouble realize they don’t have to give up on God. I pray they take the time to untangle faith from religion. They are both valuable in their place, but when I was forced to choose one or neither, I chose God. And I’m glad. He’s not the one that hurt me. God is a gentleman- he will not force someone to do right. When we are wronged, that is not God and it is not the devil, it is a human being making poor choices. I can’t change their choices, but I can make choices of my own that will counter the affect of their choices in my life. Its my choice. And I choose God.