Every year we saw missionaries from all over the world come visit to present their work, in hopes of gaining more financial support. It’s always inspiring to hear of the ‘miracles’ occurring in other countries and I couldn’t help but wonder why we weren’t seeing them here. I had romanticized about becoming a missionary just so I could see these amazing things happening in people’s lives, but the stories of giant spiders and scorpions quickly killed my interest. It’s not that my heart wasn’t still compassionately desiring to see people’s lives changed, it’s that I’m a big chicken when it comes to insects. I would secretly beg God NOT to call my husband and I into the mission field. Thankfully, we were called to a mission field right here in the States.
We spent just over a decade serving those in jails, prisons, and in a faith based mission for those exiting the system and/or who had been homeless, or addicted to drugs or alcohol.. Our specialty was in serving addicts through spiritual counseling, work training, and life coaching to help get them back on their feet and into the work community again. We helped countless men and women to get their lives back. Each person would spend up to a year with us as we appeared by their side in courthouses, pleading for second chances. Some of them did so well that they were given an open door to earn their way back into their children’s lives and even several marriages were saved. The thing about mission work like this was the difficulty to find others who would serve alongside us. Some would ‘serve’ from afar by sending monthly donations, but many congregations didn’t want to support the work with their own hands and feet.
We figured a large part of that hesitation was due to fear. Some of it was due to self righteousness. We know that to be true when some folks actually said things like, “Not in MY church. I was here first!” Another was, “I saw the newspaper today. I can’t believe the judge gave THAT guy another chance.” This was said, not knowing THAT man was standing right behind them in church at the moment. I usually would just walk away and not engage in such pettiness, but that day I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer.
That kind of mission work was what helped US get OUR lives back on track. It infuriated me that church folk would close the door on someone. God didn’t give those people the keys to heaven, yet they were acting like he had. My disgust with the Christian community continued to grow.
We would travel through different churches, presenting the work like the missionaries do. We would plead with congregations to come serve meals, teach a Bible study, or even just visit the clients on visitation day. We did have a few faithful souls who dared to walk through those gates on Saturday afternoons. They would give up a few hours each week to come talk to men and women. They would pray with them and meet the family members who did happen to visit. Seeing an entire family come visit their relatives was rare. Most of these men and women had burned their bridges long before.
It’s a rough mission field. We faithfully served in that field for nearly 15 years before we were faced with the decision to leave. Leaving was one of the hardest decisions we had ever made. We deeply love the work and the lives who were being served there. However, there was another field awaiting our hearts. We didn’t know what or where it would be, but we knew something special was coming into our lives.
When God said, “Go” he didn’t give us a direction. “Just start walking”, he said. We tried several different congregations, but we didn’t get confirmation on any of them.
We later became aware that serving God didn’t require that we be a part of an organization. We began learning what the hymn meant to “go into the highways and bi-ways of life, where many are weary and sad. Taking the sunshine where darkness is rife, making the sorrowing glad”. We wanted to be a blessing to someone, anyone.
Then one day I took the children with me to a volunteer day at the local park where a woman was gardening along the creek side. She was the only one who attended this event, until we got there. She taught us about which plants needed to be pruned that day and why. These were plants that would quickly take over the land if not trimmed on a regular basis. We each grabbed a tool and put our hands and backs to work. We began talking about what brought us to this event and I shared about our past in mission work. The conversation grew and she opened up a bit about her previous Christian life. She was no longer a Christian and after hearing a bit about her story, I could understand why. Now she is a Druid.
Many Christians don’t understand what would cause a Christian to flee from God and embrace other Deities. They’re often accused of heresy and labeled ‘apostates’.
After the amount of abuse I have seen in church communities all over the nation (and in countless denominations), is it any wonder? Just type in “pastor arrested” into the Google search engine. We know it’s inevitable that some men will end up violating a child or seducing another man’s wife, but when the pastors themselves help silence the matter, it becomes horrifying to a whole other level.
We began truly listening to the stories from other people who had left the Institutional style of ‘church’. Many of them no longer trust the system at all.
They won’t go back.
They are out in the highways and bi-ways of life, many are weary and sad.
The system isn’t perfect, but we don’t reject it entirely. There are some decent charities at work that are trying to grow and advance in their practices and beliefs. It’s going to take time for a major change to be seen.
But the system is not where we were called to. We were called into the wilderness.
I love when Rachel said,
“I want to prepare tables in the wilderness, where everyone is welcome and where we can go on discussing (and debating!) the Bible, science, sexuality, gender, racial reconciliation, justice, church, and faith, but without labels, without wars. “
This is exactly what we have been doing these past few years.
We’ve grown with our community of friends. Many from all different backgrounds and different faith systems. We’ve grown to love and respect one another and there’s been no need to demand that we each pledge allegiance to any specific doctrines or communities.
We’re not at war with Evangelicals, Catholics, or even Atheists.
Oh there is a war, just not how we were once taught to believe in.
The war is within ourselves.
Each person is at war with some thing, some one, or some belief.
What we have been called to is not something that can be organized, financially supported, or even compartmentalized with fancy cling-on labels.
Who we have been called to has brought on just as much criticism, if not more, than when we served drug addicts and the homeless.
Today’s world wide congregation is still trying to figure out how to love those in the LGBT community and still waging war over it. How will they ever be able to love folks they deem as “satan worshipers”? It’s one thing to try to love a gay man who pleads the blood of Jesus, but how do they love someone who has totally “left the faith”?
They are so caught up in winning the war within their church culture that they have missed the fact that Jesus and Paul went directly out to dine with pagans and share the love of God with them.
I remember the first time I spoke up on behalf of a pagan woman. A woman I didn’t even know. There was a blog competition on a larger site. They had several categories of awards, one of them being “faith”. Though, the site did not specify which faith. This woman’s blog had been nominated, successfully entered into the running, and was leading the vote; leaps and bounds ahead of several of the most popular Christian mom blogs. A blog war ensued as Christians waged war on her for “attempting to intrude” and “take over” the faith category. In their minds, faith most assuredly meant Christian faith. Yet, the site administrators had not made that claim.
The amount of backlash this woman got as a result was one of the ugliest displays of piety I have ever seen in the Christian culture (until last week anyway). This mom had done nothing wrong, she didn’t even know her blog was entered, much less in the lead.
As the witch hunt continued, I could no longer hold my tongue. How in the world were pagan women ever going to see the love of God in a long line of screaming Christian women holding torches higher than their own noses? I had been friends with these same Christian women on Facebook. The gossip and misrepresentation of pagan beliefs that I saw on those women’s accounts were down right hideous. Their imaginations had run wild! They were being motivated by fear and an obligation to uphold some pious standard to the point of willingness to assassinate the character of this blogger and her entire community.
You might have thought a cat fight would break out, but instead I saw grace and kindness coming from the pagan women. Grace and kindness that blew me away. They wanted to take the loving path. They pleaded for their own readers to be still their frustration and instead…to forgive.
I couldn’t stand by and see Christ so horribly misrepresented. Not only that, I couldn’t hold coats while others stoned them with hate.
After about a week of pleading with my Christian sisters to be slow to wrath and to extend love instead, I was unfriended…by many. They no longer responded to my tweets about housekeeping nor answered my pleas for WordPress help. I was on schedule to speak at a homeschool conference and “kindly” informed that they could no longer have me as a speaker. I was cancelled. I was told it was a financial issue for them, but the timing was more than coincidental.
Many of them had held their tongues while I challenged doctrinal issues in the months prior, but this must have been their last straw.
How dare I stand up for pagans. I fell off the deep end; I slid right down the proverbial slippery slope to hell.
I never could understand how Christians would financially support missionaries to peoples and tribes of pagan colonies in third world countries, but cry “HERETIC” when it’s done State side.
They will extend the hand of fellowship to Christians who study the pagan culture and beliefs in foreign lands, but disown me as a Christian sister for doing the same on the sandy shores of California.
Just as during the years in rehab ministry, here we were again..alone in our mission to love others as God loves us.
We have grown to love our pagan friends. We’ve learned a lot about their vast beliefs and rich culture. We love them not just because God calls us to, but because we truly love them for who they are.
Our little community may not be steeped in Christian church culture with floor length dresses or sharp tailored suits, but we are clothed in love.
While the larger congregation of God works toward loving our LGBT brethren and sisters, there is so much more to be accomplished. There are so many other beloved people who have been wounded by religious zealots. There are countless folks who have been shunned by their own families and excommunicated from various congregations for choosing Earth inspired spirituality.
God loves them too. The Divine sparks within us all and is not a respecter of persons.
That means he doesn’t discriminate.
He does not say to the rich man, “sit here with me” and to the outcast “sit under my footstool”.
His love is for all people and the invitation is always open.
Christendom has a lot of growing to do and I have hope that love will ultimately win.