The alarm goes off like it does every Sunday morning. The bed calls for you to fall back into it and slumber. However, years of habit and routine have taught you to ignore its call. It seems like a normal Sunday, but this time it’s different.
There is something else holding you back from getting out of bed. You remember, again , that you are not going to the place you normally go. You are going to try that other church that your friends have invited you too. They heard your story and invited you out of sympathy. They said you would be welcomed there. Maybe you will be, but it feels weird- like a small betrayal. Still, you’re a believer, and believers have to worship…somewhere.
You did not decide randomly to attend a new church. You were not thinking about this a week ago. Seven days earlier, you walked into the congregation you have always belonged too. It was the one that became your home. Then you hit your breaking point. Someone said something deeply hurtful. They blamed you and judged you. Made you feel worthless. Your children were mistreated. You were cast out. Years of being treated poorly and enduring insults have finally come to a head. You are going to a new church, because you cannot go back home.
“Lord, I can’t go back there. What am I supposed to do?”
If you go back then everywhere you turn you will see the person or persons who hurt you. The anger and rage, and then the tears will come bubbling to the surface. You don’t want a million questions about what happened last week. You are tired of thinking about it anymore, and talking about it is not going to help. People will try their best to make it ok. They will try to understand. Or are they just afraid the numbers will take a hit if you go? No. Going back is impossible. The hurt is too much right now. It will suffocate your worship.
I’m writing this as a pastor. You might expect an appeal to come back to your old congregation just like you always have. Sadly, that’s not what I’m going to do. It would be unrealistic.
Instead, let me tell you that I know. I may have never felt your particular pain, but I know how mine feels and so does every other pastor. Every time we turn around on Sunday morning we see the faces that have hurt us. The ones who betrayed us. Those who gossip behind our backs, but they think we do not know. The person who we overheard condemning our parenting skills and the one who might only be coming to watch us go down in flames.
I remember the first morning as a pastor that I did not want to go back to church. I never thought I would feel that way, but I could not deny it went it happened. I was hurt. My family was hurting. I barely kept it together that entire Sunday morning. My heart pounded inside my chest for three straight hours, and I was the first one out the door after the last service.
I too have prayed: “Lord, I can’t go back there. What am I supposed to do?”
Do not go back to church the same way you always have. Go back wounded.
There was one who was cut down, doubted, cast aside, and betrayed. The deepest hurt came from those who called him Lord. They abandoned him and ran away. He was nailed to a tree and left for dead. On the cross, Jesus received wounds that he would carry for all eternity, because the church is even capable of scarring the Lord of Heaven and Earth.
Jesus knew the full meaning of these words: “You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.” Psalm 88:17
He was not raised from the dead to create a new fellowship for himself. He went back to the very disciples who betrayed and abandoned him and revealed his wounds saying: “Peace be with you!”
Given the choice between breaking fellowship or seeking revenge Jesus chose to reveal his wounds and speak peace.
Parents, I beg you not for my sake or for the sake of numbers, but for the sake of Christ: Come back wounded. Whether it is your hurt or your child’s they will see the power of the resurrection. Yes, they will see your weakness as you wrestle with the hurt. They will also see the faith that bears witness that Jesus is alive. He rose though he was wounded. He forgave though he was murdered. How will he not renew and heal the parts of his body of believers that have broken apart?
You cannot go to church the same way you went before, but you can go. You can go wounded and in hope that there is no wound, no matter how deep, that Christ cannot speak peace over.
It is interesting how we look back through history to find the exact moment that something significant and world-changing happened. There is no clearer example of this than that fateful evening Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg.
God had been building these ideas in Luther for some time before this seminal moment.
Luther was going to become a lawyer, but he was literally thrown off course. He found himself in the middle of a life-threatening lightning storm in 1505. He prayed: “Help me St. Ann! I will become a monk!” He kept his word, and became a monk upon surviving the storm.
In 1510, he visited Rome and saw first-hand the corruption that had run rampant throughout the Catholic Church.
Afterwards, he lectured on books of the Bible as a professor at Wittenberg. He had made his way through Romans and Galatians where he said things like this:
A couple weeks ago, both of our daughters had trouble going to sleep. Tracie and I were watching Monday Night Football when they both came out and complained: “We can’t sleep.” (Insomnia is apparently contagious.) We had already sent them back to bed a few times that evening so we decided to have them lay down in the living room while we watched football.
They were both awake as the game was just beginning. Sometime before or after the national anthem there was a moment of silence for the victims of the massacre in Las Vegas. Tracie and I both looked at each and waited for the inevitable question to be asked. There was a tense silence for a few minutes.
And … nothing happened. Whew!Neither of us were ready at that moment to answer questions about the nature of life and death from a pair of frightened and confused children.
Last night was a bit scary. We felt our house shake a couple times as the wind ripped through North Georgia! Things seemed to have calmed down, but there are many places without power. This means that many places are closed- especially school!
Today I am working from home. I don’t mean to brag, but we are fortunate to have both power and WiFi. Maybe you are at home today too, and if you are, this is a great opportunity to spend time with the kids! Below I want to offer some thoughts on how to take advantage of this break from the routine, and spend some time with family in prayer and devotion. Perhaps, God gives us these interruptions so that we can do just that.
1) Read God’s Covenant with Noah in Genesis 9:1-17 (You can look over Genesis 6-8 for background) and Jesus Walking on Water in Mark 6:45-52 together. Depending upon your children’s age you can read these stories from either a children’s bible or a normal bible. This is a great time to talk about how even in the midst of a terrifying storm like the one we just had; God does not forget his promises or his people.
2) Spend some time in prayer giving thanks for the many who were kept safe. Also, pray for anything else that might be going on in school or other activities.
3) Have your children draw their favorite bible story or act out everyone’s favorite story together as a family.
4) Rest. No explanation needed here.
5) Play! Break out the play-do, Legos, board games, cards, watercolor, etc.
What ideas do you have for an unexpected day with your kids? Comment below!
God’s blessings on this wonderful-unusual day. I pray that you and your family grow together in faith and love for Christ today and every day.
P. S. It is not too late to join Tracie and I in our 7-Day devotional challenge! Today is day three. Check it out here!https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/4157-parenting-under-pressure