For Shame

I just heard a sad story. A tragic story. a “rend your garments” kind of story.

I am doing outreach ministry at a health and wellness fair. I, like all the other vendors here, have a room in a motel from which I do my ministry. A group of women were passing by and stopped to read the signs that make up my display. They were standing out in the hallway asking questions about dreams, and the one older woman said, “I have a dream”. I asked her to describe it to me and she told me that she had dreams in which she was beating her father. I said, “Please come inside”, and she did. Privately, I told her the dream means not only is she carrying long term anger toward her father, but she carries the same anger toward God. She said, yes, that is true. I told her I would like to help her. She said, “Hmm, I don’t know”, and she left. She came back maybe two minutes later and said, “Ok”. And she sat down.

She was an incredibly bitter, sad woman. Eventually, it came out why.

When she was twelve, a friend took her to a Vacation Bible School. She loved it. She talked her parents into going to church. Although she didn’t know it at the time, it was an authoritarian church with an abusive pastor. And her father fell right into that mold.

The girl’s life became hell at that point.Her father became demeaning and controlling. The pastor lashed at the congregation in accusatory fashion. Looking at the floor, and in a voice barely above a whisper, she told me, “All I wanted was God. I did everything you’re supposed to do to find God. And God was nowhere. He didn’t come”.

None of us represents God very well, I’m afraid. And I’m sure that, at times, I display opposite expressions of His character. God help me. But when churches are so unlike God that a little girl can’t find Him there at all, and leave that little girl as disillusioned as this woman was, God help us.

I don’t know what it’s going to be like when such churches, and such men, have to give an account for themselves. But I hope I’m not there when it happens.

God help us all.

(It wasn’t the most fruitful encounter I had today. I was a little frustrated because she didn’t get as much freedom as I would have liked. But she did encounter God. He spoke to her, and she heard)

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