The Fallacy of Being Labeled "Backslidden":
The Truth Behind the Charade
A precious grieving mother, a sister-in-Christ, wrote me this week,
"We also have not been back to church since we lost (our child). (Our) Pastor... doesn't have any deep insight in the Scripture.... We have church at home, watching some favorite ministers and reading, also having communion periodically. We have been classified as 'backslidden' which is far from the truth. Yes, I still question WHY? (My husband) is so steadfast in his faith, that although he grieves deeply, he is able to look ahead to the Blessed Hope that awaits us...."
What happens when we grievers are so traumatized that we cannot be around crowds? What happens when we have such a desperate need for God that we cannot tolerate the inane jokes and frivolous fluff that often come from the preachers' mouths amidst their sermons? What happens when the "church service" grieves our hearts because we do not sense the God of love there, the One who would lovingly reach out and touch our pain at its deepest places? We often retreat into our own solace with the Living Lord Himself, away from the hustle and bustle of crowds, away from the chintzy chatter designed to placate people, not usher them into the presence of the One who can soothe, heal, and comfort.
In a sense, we have been thrown into the pit of hell when we lose our child, as we have been exposed "up-close-and-personal" to the Evil One who our Lord said came "to steal, kill, and destroy," and we have witnessed him kill our own child, one who is most sacred in our lives. So we are standing in need of crisis intervention, not entertainment from the pulpit! Our hearts have been pulverized through no fault of our own. Evil has landed in our lap by squelching out the very sacred life of our child.
Where then are the compassionate brothers and sisters of the ekklesia ~ the true church ~ the congregation of people who love God, not a church building, not a place we "must" go to worship. Where is the love of Jesus in their hearts that would come alongside us in our pain versus shouting down at us from their ivory towers that if we don't get ourselves into the church building, then we are "backsliders" of the faith!
Seriously??? At a time when we need God the most, we are being attacked by mean-spirited fools??? Or ignored by those who are called to love because it is just too hard to climb down into our pain??? (Of course it is! And we understand that! NO ONE can come alongside us in their own strength alone, nor should they ~ that would be totally unhelpful anyway. But Christ-in-them who reaches out in Love empowering them to show His love is the ONLY way they could come to us, and the ONLY way they ever should come to us! That is the healing way.) But instead of seeking God's help to do what they are called to do in a loving, compassionate way, they choose instead the world's way out... they rationalize, minimize, and justify their bad behavior by telling themselves,
~Well, they should be over it by now anyway.
~They brought this on themselves somehow.
~Their child brought this on him/herself.
or blaming us in a different way,
~If they had God, they wouldn't be hurting...
So, they take the chicken's way out and decide to just put the burden back on us:
"You just need to come to church, and if you don't, you are 'backsliding'!"
As if the church building were really God Himself, and therefore staying away from a building (due to our trauma and hurt, mind you), to them anyway, is like we are rejecting God Himself!
Quite the contrary, most of us grievers are longing for God. Or if indeed we are feeling the crisis of our faith (like the psalmist himself often did, and yet he was declared by God to be "a man after God's own heart!), and we cry out such crises of belief as, "Where was God???!" or "Why wasn't my child protected when I cried out in prayer over them to God???" or like His own Son cried out in His distress, "My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me???" we are crying out for this discomforting spiritual tension to be resolved. We need God, but we are suddenly afraid of Him. We may feel betrayed by Him. We are confused. We are frightened. We are in a crisis of faith that is quite a common phenomenon that comes with such a life-altering crisis.
This is the very time we need our brothers and sisters in-the-faith to be "Christ-with-skin-on." The living, loving Lord who is full of compassion coming alongside to hold us up when we are flailing, fainting from the heavy load that has shattered our lives and our hearts. He would NEVER throw fiery darts of condemnation at our hurting souls. So where is the loving Christ within our brothers and sisters' hearts?
Like Peter abandoning Jesus in a crisis, they tuck tail and run from us. They are not "prayed up," "loved up", nor prepared to face the temptation to flee.
So we are abandoned.
Then we are accused.
Then we are scorned.
Shame on them. We grievers are at our lowest; what an ideal time to live out our Lord's love, be with us, be gentle, allowing us the space to cry out, to question, to find safety, to be authentic in our pain, as they love us like Christ would...
As Christian psychologist Diane Langberg says so well,
- The church (should be available to) offer long-term community support and care.
- Crisis intervention is not as much about doing as it is about being.
- Crisis intervention is one of the toughest ministries to be a part of, because the helper will be walking through some of people's darkest times. If one chooses to do so, he/she will have the blessing and honor of being there for someone when he/she is most open to God's transformative power.
- People are not human doings; they are human beings. The value of presence is what Christ calls believers to.
- It is a sacred trust to engage with people at their moment of crisis and need, and believers have the opportunity to be the body of Christ on this earth.