So, needless to say, the church split rocked my cozy little world and my safe walls came tumbling down. Adults whom I had known for years said hurtful things. Friends whom I had had for years said hurtful things. We were all hurting and we hurt each other in return. I turned my nose up to the idea of ever attending another Baptist church again and I allowed that hurt to settle into the deep recesses of my heart, where a tiny root of bitterness took hold. I can be a slightly cynical person by nature anyway, which didn't help anything, either.
I didn't have an issue with God or really of church in general--just of Baptist churches. I spent the next few years floating between my friends' churches, ignoring the bitterness and therefore letting it grow. My freshman year of college, I took a break from church altogether. I attended chapel at least once a week and felt it was sufficient. And really, at that time, I think it was.
My degree is in Family and Human Services and at the university I attended, this particular degree falls under the Department of Biblical Studies. That meant that along with my classes on counseling theories and family law, I was also taking Philosophy of the Christian Faith, Spiritual Formations, Theology, and the like. I studied the works of Augustine, Kierkegaard, and Bonhoeffer, and spent countless hours in the offices of my professors, discussing questions and revelations I had about my faith and the experiences that were shaping my worldview. I attended liturgical services, went to my first Ash Wednesday service, and observed Lent for the first time. I found these things to be tangible ways for me to worship and not altogether distant from my early years spent at a Dutch Reformed church that practiced its own methods of liturgy. It resonated with me and my faith grew enormously.
My sophomore year of college, I started dating the guy who would someday become my husband. I remember one night casually asking him where he went to church when he was home from college, and he said it was a Baptist church.
I don't like to think that I am dramatic, but sometimes my responses to things can be a little, eh, over the top. I promptly threw my hands in the air and declared that we couldn't date.
Thankfully, he ignored my little outburst and instead listened to the story of my hurt, the reason I felt the way I did. I was surprised when he didn't laugh or toss the story aside, but instead took it seriously. He said we would pray about where God was leading us as a couple, and that would be that. I nodded. That night I started praying. I prayed diligently every night for months, that God would release my hurt and, truly, my hate towards this specific kind of church--the same kind of church that the man I loved, and the man who's family I also loved, chose to attend. That root of bitterness had grown and had been nurtured over the years and was now a strong one. I know it seems silly to be weighted down by something that in the scheme of things seems so ... minor? Insignificant? I mean, the kind of church you attend? Who cares?
But wounds from the church are of the worst kind. If you've experienced that, you know it to be true. I couldn't forget the hurtful words, the dirty looks, from people I used to share my life with. All at a time in my life that was a decidedly poignant one.
In college, I became familiar with the Apostles' Creed. If you don't know it, this is how it goes:
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
he sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.
The holy catholic church. The lowercase "c" refers to the universal church. The universal body of believers. As I studied the Creed, I realized that these were the things that mattered. These were the pillars of orthodox Christianity. If a Bible-believing church taught salvation and adhered to these truths and followed them, then I was on board, regardless of how they chose to worship or what denomination was listed under the name on their church sign.
Maybe even Baptist churches.
It was a historical creed, one that is rarely recited in Baptist churches (though is sometimes sung), that made me open to the possibility of the idea of attending one.
My last semester in college, I knelt one night by my bed and prayed again what I had been praying for a long time--that the root of bitterness would die. And in that moment, it did.
I opened my eyes and couldn't believe it. The hatred was gone. The bitterness was gone. God had answered my prayer. It was the biggest stronghold I have ever experienced and the disappearance of it was, thusly, the biggest relief I have ever experienced. It's like holding your breath just a moment too long and finally releasing it to breathe in fresh air. You want to laugh and collapse at the same time. I probably did.
Ironically, after my attitude underwent this crazy transformation, my husband and I didn't end up attending a Baptist church. We instead went to a church across town and stayed there for six years, and loved it. Then, almost a year ago, we felt God calling us to the church where he grew up. The Baptist church. We wanted our kids to have the experience of going to church with their grandparents, and after months of prayer and discussion, we did it. The transition has been a beautiful one. I'm still the same me--I will still attend an Ash Wednesday service and I still observe Lent and read through the Book of Common Prayer. These are the ways I love to worship. I also love the genuine joy of the body of believers God has called us to, the Bible Studies, the kids running in the hallway after church, and the glow on my in-laws' faces when they see their grandkids in the children's wing. The pastor and I have had really good conversations and even if we don't see eye-to-eye on everything, I respect him greatly and he has shown that he respects me as well, which is huge. God not only released my hatred towards all things Baptist, but He gave me love in its stead.
And as I sit here teary-eyed, I'm not entirely sure as to why I felt the need to share all of this with the Internet. But it was on my heart this morning, so, there you have it.
Have a lovely day, friends.