I found a group of decade-old notes recently. The quotes are taken from a note from April 2003.
Dear [pastor’s wife]:
I saw a beautiful house for rent today. It has closets and floor space and cabinets. It has a large tub and blue carpet… it has closet doors that open and shut and built in cabinets… it’s in a beautiful, quiet neighborhood and a place to park in the back. There’s even an entranceway….
Oh, my. It’s the little things, hmmm? I believe this was written at a time when I found myself nearly homeless–I’d been engaged, agreed to sublet the apartment, and due to her situation had invited her to stay with me in the apartment until I got married. Then the engagement was called off by the pastor. She refused to let me stay any additional time to get my feet back under me. The pastor told me to get out. I slept at work one night, and at another church member’s apartment a couple nights.
From another note:
I’ve called every landlord that might be decent, but none have any vacancies… [except one on the wrong side of town in an unsafe area]. Can I rent [that one]? I’d feel more secure in a house on the bad side of town than I would begging church people for a place to spend the night or sleeping on someone’s couch…
I thought that after years of being single that God was finally putting some things together in my life. Then they all fell apart. Was I mistaken? Was He not in it? Did I misunderstand or let my feelings override his direction somehow? …Am I doing something horrible that I’m not aware of that causes me to be punished? Am I reaching for dreams I for some reason have been denied? … Am I a failure? What could I have done that would have made this better? What am I supposed to learn from something like this?
For starters, I was asking permission to get a place to live when I had no place to go. For seconds, the pastor backed the roommate’s right to tell me to leave after he called off my wedding, and I was STILL asking permission. There was no discussion of any consideration or compromise that I know of, and I wouldn’t have considered doing what she did to anyone. Above that, weeks before the wedding the pastor called it off, I was losing my apartment and struggling on my job, and my plans to complete my teaching certificate were crumbling. The questions may sound whiny or bitter now, but at the time those questions were a very real part of my life. Then too, this was three years after having been kicked out of a church. A later note says:
it took me quite a while to realize it, but when I left [the church I got kicked out of], I really battled some things and determined that I WOULD be blessed, and in my mind thought that if I wasn’t that God didn’t love me.
Unfortunately, ‘blessings’ are not always what we think they are. That wedding would have been a fiasco, and within a month or two of this time I had bought my first home (in a good area, with closets and cabinets and a place to park) and the problem at work had resolved itself–even ending in a raise and promotion. Unhealthy churches tend to focus or teach us to label things as black and white, either all good or all bad, blessings or curses. Some, including the one I was in, allude to the idea that if bad things happen they are God’s punishment or the devil fighting us, and lead to the types of questions I asked. They undermine our confidence in ourselves and our trust in God.
Things in life aren’t all good or all bad. There is often a mix of good and bad in any situation, and we can choose to focus on either or both. But the best thing to focus on is that God loves us no matter what is happening in our lives. Unhealthy churches may try to rob us of that, and sometimes succeed. But they can’t change the truth.