Updated: May 19
At 25 years old I became a Christian. Well let's
go back a little further. I grew up a Christian in the Catholic Church. My parents took me to sunday services, CCD classes, I
believe I was baptized there and I was confirmed there. I knew about church. But I didn't have a relationship with God until Randy's father asked us to go to church with him. I went and not too long after my first visit I was saved. But this story isn't about my faith however knowing it helps you to understand the betrayal that I still feel, 4 years after Randy died.
I am a good Christian. I went to two different Baptist Churches since moving to Indiana and Randy and I raised our 4 kids in those churches. We tithed, send our kids to camp, kids youth hour, Awana, I worked in the nursery, I went to Sunday School and we were friends with many families at both church. We attended each church for about 10 years only changing churches when we moved from one side of town to the other. These were our church homes.
Then Randy died. Our current church stepped up right away. They offered for the funeral and viewing to be in their auditorium, church friends came and helped with arrangements, and cleaning and bringing food (churchgoers are masters at bringing food to grieving families). They put together a love offering for our family of $4,000.00. I was so grateful and I felt very much supported.
Then the dust settled and everyone went back to their lives. By far, that is the hardest time when you are grieving, when
the distractions go away and time stands still. I had a hard time even leaving the house but I felt that it was time to go to church again.
I wasn't sure what to expect. I guess I just wanted to see how I handled everything. Walking into the lobby where just 3 weeks ago my husband's body laid was hard but I tried to hold it together. Boy, I must have looked like I had the plague or something because I was a...void...ed. People who used to say a simple "hello" to me in the hallway passed by me without a word. No one greeted us and no one talked to us. I actually saw a "friend" whom I had known for years turn the corner, see me and quickly turn around to go in another direction. School room moms that I had know for years said nothing to us. I sat by myself in the auditorium with tears streaming down my face listening to the preaching while seeing the silhouette of Randy's casket at the alter and trying not to scream. I had never felt so alone.
But I needed to hear God's word. I needed that connection to God that church brings. I needed to know that God still cared about us. I needed our family to be enveloped in love by our church families. The love didn't come and I didn't know what to do.
So I thought that I would try another church. A church that no one knew me or my story. A fresh start. A big church. Yeah, a big church where I can just get lost. Ty heard about a local community church in our area that had a youth group that he wanted to be a part of so I agreed to start going. Yep, it was huge, about 5000 attendees. It had a coffee shop inside the church you guys. A. Coffee. Shop. Ty seemed to be enjoying himself so I started attending on a regular basis. I even went to their "How To Belong To The Biggest Church You've Ever Been At Orientation Group (I'm sure the actual name of it was shorter) but I was sure that I found my new church. Then the pastor invited the congregation to come up to the staff after service to give them specific prayer requests. So I got in line to talk to the Pastor because I still needed help. This pain was still very fresh and still very raw and I still felt compelled to talk about it to whoever would listen. So he listened as I cried. He invited me to be sponsored to a prayer retreat the following weekend. I wanted to go so I asked how I get registered and he gave me a number to call. I called and left 7 messages and no one called me back. I emailed the pastor directly without any response. Again, I felt very much alone. And CONFUSED. I didn't understand why this was happening.
And not only that but Ty was started to get ignored by the youth workers and he no longer wanted to go to youth group. I talked to the youth pastor and told him Ty's story asking the pastor to help Ty get acclimated with the kids. He promised he would and then didn't. I even texted him personally a few times asking to talk to him so my son wouldn't get the same alone feeling I had from a church body. No response.
Was I being too demanding? Was my story just too sad that people could no longer talk to me and my kids? A million questions rattled around in my head, all unanswered.
So I stopped going to church.
I still read my Bible and prayed and I occasionally watched online services as I was trying to repair my relationship with God. I did that for almost 3 years. But I still wanted to go to church (yes I do know the definition of insanity, repeating the same thing over and over expecting a different result). The heart wants what the heart wants.
So one day I walked into this small community church within walking distance from my house. It is a smaller church, a satellite of a much larger church located somewhere in Indy. Instead of a live Pastor there was a screen with him being live streamed. It was like every other church I went to, we sang, the pastor preached and we left. I was still skeptical but I thought I could pop in from time to time. I certainly wasn't going to join another church. I wasn't ready for that. Then C
OVID-19 forced all of us to socially isolate and churches were closed. I liked their pastor and watched his online preaching. Last Sunday however was a game changer. Last Sunday I listened to the message, which was really good, and then afterwards they had an announcement that anyone who had a prayer request could email them and they would pray for you. My family needed a little extra prayer at that moment so I sent a message. At the bottom of the request there was a form that asked "How should we contact you? Phone or Email. Hmmmmm. I wonder if I ask to be called if they will actually follow up with me. So I gave my phone number and kind of forgot about it.
They actually called and the pastor took the time to listen to my story and pray for my family. Wow.
Now maybe at this point you are thinking, "Really? She is excited about a church calling her and praying with her? Isn't that what churches are supposed to do?" Well, did you read my story? I have had years of different churches abandoning us in our time of great need. A single mom of 4 widowed by her husband who shot himself in their home. Yeah, I believe that warrants a bit of personal prayer time.
This is what I am hoping will happen to this story. I am hoping that you will share this with your pastor of your church. I am hoping that they will use this story to learn how NOT to treat people in need. I am hoping that the hurting will ever feel the loneliness that my kids and I felt. No one deserves that.
Then I hope the pastors will read this message and remember these words. "Please don't ever turn your back on a family in need. A widow needs your comfort, support and friendship. A witness to a violent crime needs your ears to hear their sorrow. A single parent needs to be shown resources so that she can get help. And when a family that has served your church faithfully for years leaves, but than suffers a great loss, reach out to them anyway. Aren't you supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus? Jesus did not turn His back on people in need."
I have written letters to those pastors who hurt my family and as of now they are sitting in my computer, an exercise suggested by my therapist. Maybe someday I will send them. But for right now I think I will go to the little church down the street that took the time to reach out and listen to a sad widowed single mom and her story.