I think often of Washed and Waiting, a book which has helped me a great deal in the last seven years of my walk with Christ. In it, Wesley Hill talks about his loneliness even in the midst of the crowd. If one were to examine Wesley’s Meyers-Briggs against mine, I’m willing to bet we’d test differently. Wes’ and my personalities more than likely create situations where one of us might be drained while the other was being recharged. The experience of loneliness and desperation, however, are not tied to one’s personality. They are very nearly universal in the lives of those who are human.
Nearly a year ago, I experienced a heart-breaking split from a church that I loved. I have found my new church home to be challenging in good ways and I’ve grown a lot from the preaching, teaching, love, and community there. There is, at times, a gnawing loneliness and heartache I experience when I talk to folks from my previous church, especially people I see as having stood by and done nothing while I was being told extremely hurtful things by the interim senior pastor; things like, “By calling yourself a gay Christian, you unite the name of your sin to the name of your Savior and bring dishonor on the gospel” (my bosses, mentors, and seminary professors disagreed strongly). People didn’t want to get involved.
How do I cope with this heartache? A few ways.
- I’m trying to grieve. The goal is, of course, to grieve well. I’m not convinced I’m doing that, but grieving is better than stuffing one’s feelings away, even if it happens to be messier.
- I’m trying to have honest conversations. I’m trying to give people space to have different takes on what happened.
- I’m trying to remind myself that despite my emotions telling me that I’m all alone, that allegation is a quantifiable lie.
- I’m frustrated with people who do pastoral ministry who don’t “get it.” I’m trying to give them space in my heart to let the Spirit do his job in them, but some days are better and easier than others.
Living in God’s story right now is hard. Even knowing the ending as being one where God wins is small consolation when I’m in the thick of frustration and isolation.
So please help me (and others in your life who have loss) by praying. Not simply, “God be with them,” though there’s nothing wrong with that and I’ll appreciate all prayers. Please ask God to give me a gentle, abiding sense of Himself. Pray that my church family will continue to surround me with love and grace. Pray that all of our eyes will be open to those who hurt and gently direct us when we are tempted to hurt the hurting–because in mourning Wesley’s loneliness, I’ve seen the need to be gracious to myself and others in theirs.