When Church Hurts

I know most of my readers are church folks.  And anyone who’s been a part of a church for very long knows that eventually hurtful things happen in a place that is assumed safe and caring.  Why?  Because everyone in the church is flawed, broken and in need of the same transformation as you and me.

As a pastor’s wife of 40 years I have experienced what one man calls both “the beauty and the brokenness of the church.”  Sometimes the brokenness comes for the unexpected reason that we Christians too often and too quickly think we get things “right.”

You can read more of my story here.

It’s an honest story.  A sad story.  But a story where I hope you’ll see redemption and hope.

Because my story, like yours, includes God.

I would love to hear your feedback on this one.

The Rusty Table

Today is tax day. And I’m thinking of owing people stuff.

Several years ago Benny and I borrowed a folding table from some friends. We really did mean to return it. Our friends asked about it several times and we said, “So sorry! We’ll get it back to you!”

Honestly, at one point when they asked I thought, “You live five minutes away. Can’t you just come by and pick it up?” But I didn’t say it. I just told them we would bring it back.

But we didn’t. We hunted around for it one day and couldn’t find it anywhere. Frankly, we assumed we had returned it and they must have loaned it to someone else. They said we hadn’t returned it…but they stopped asking.

A few years later we were packing to move. We found the table in a storage shed rusty and covered with junk. Our friends had moved out west and we couldn’t give it back. Besides, it was ruined.

I talked to my friend on the phone and apologized. Her words pierced my heart: “Oh, Sheree, it’s fine. When we loaned it to you we knew we may never get it back.” In response to my questions she explained that they had come to realize over the years that allowing people to borrow things required being willing to never get them back. “After repeatedly becoming resentful that borrowed things got lost or were never returned we realized we had two options: to stop loaning things to friends or be willing to let go of our stuff.”

Gulp.

Recently these friends came to mind as I mused over expecting love in return from someone. I had been loving and patient…and I expected those things to be returned to me. When they weren’t, I realized I hadn’t given anything away — but had only loaned my kindness.

Please understand I don’t feel badly for expecting to be loved back. The problem was I expected to be love in the exact way I had shown love. What if they person was being loving to me — just in different ways than I had shown love? Or should I say, loaned love?

Our friends asked for their table back a couple of times. But when we irresponsibly didn’t take it back they chose not to resent us. Rather, they focused on the ways our friendship was a blessing to them. An unreturned table didn’t mean as much to them as not getting frustrated and angry with us. By the time I called them many years later they had actually forgotten about it. What good friends.

Remembering the rusty table has been good for me recently. It’s helped me to realize that loaning love isn’t the way to live. It not only tempts me to withhold more love until what I loaned gets returned, but could also blind me to ways love is being shown to me in ways unlike how I show love. I want to be the kind of person who doesn’t insist that love to be returned to me in kind, and chooses not to punish the person with silence or resentment or angry attempts to wrestle “my kind of love” from them when maybe their way of showing love is just different.

Or perhaps they simply can’t find the love I’ve loaned them because they think they already gave it back.

Do you find yourself, like me, loaning love to people? A rusty table is reminding me that love is best given, not loaned.