Since 2007 I have been asked and invited numerous times to go to church through friends and family. Each time I decline. Typically when I give a short explanation they are left shocked and never say anything about church again.
I severed my ties with what seems a long time ago. People at traditional and or contemporary churches have shown their true colors. I won’t say all people though because there are a few whose words match their actions. One person in particular I know was raised to be considerate and open minded to people no matter their back ground, be kind to others and do not judge.
In 2002 I found myself in a chaotic, disheveled and messy marriage of six years. My now ex husband has been an alcoholic for much of his life as well as an on and off again drug user. I was tired of the way my life was and raising two kids and an adult who acted like one was taking a toll on me. A neighbor at that time was attending a fairly known Southern Baptist church that has a membership of about 400 though typically about half actually attend Sunday School and church.
At first I felt welcomed with my two kids. I really enjoyed my Sunday School teacher who made sure I felt welcome. He is one of the deacons of the church too. My daughters Sunday School teachers, a husband and wife were amazing people. They adored everyone of the kids and treated them as if they were there own. They have been married for 40 years now but never had any kids of their own. The husband is also the janitor of the church. Anytime I would have to come up to the church he was always there to greet me with a hug. My son’s Sunday School teachers were good as well. They just were not as lively as my daughters or my SS teacher but they loved my son being in their class.
I attended church with my kids as much as I could which went on for about a year and a half. In that time my marriage was crumbling even more especially since I was going to church with my kids. On my birthday which also fell on a Mother’s Day and on a Sunday, I was baptized at the church. It was a very special day and time for me.
When my now ex husband fell into a deep depression and his doctor signed papers for him to be on medical leave for work, our finances got rocky. I was not allowed to work but only in the summer at a plant nursery where my mom works. At that time I had to stay at home with the kids and go to my daughters kindergarten class to volunteer and go on field trips. Then we got to a point where I had to work to survive, keep the vehicles and the house. My mom was able to get me a part time job at the nursery even through the winter months, potting and covering the hoop houses and doing inventory (on 40 acres). I also landed a temporary job on second shift at a local, nationally known manufacturing plant. It was exhausting but it had to be done.
While I was trying to get everything back under control financially I still needed a little help so I went to the deacon who set up an appointment for me to talk with the pastor. My son who was 18 months old at the time became extremely ill with RSV and was hospitalized for three days with it. His fever at times had spiked to 105. It was a scary time for me. I felt stressed because I needed to be a mom to him and also to work to support the family. I felt truly by myself at that time. My now ex husband wanted to sleep all of the time and our really good friend tried several times to get him up to bring me a change of clothes so I could shower at the hospital. When he realized he couldn’t, he offered to stay with my son while I ran home to get a change of clothes. He also brought me some food too and for that I will forever be thankful for.
Instead of having a warm, concerned pastor about my sick, hospitalized child, I was lectured about being more responsible with my finances, which I would have appreciated not going there. Exactly what was I supposed to do, being the sole breadwinner, the one whose self esteem was at the lowest to do? In the end, the pastor relented though in order to receive help from the church I had to make time to come up to help repaint the walls in the lobby area. I managed to drag my now ex husband to the church after I got angry with him that I had to ask for help in the first place. It was the least we BOTH could do.
I will say that one thing really eroded away my encouragement to keep going to church. Shortly after that incident I quit going altogether. And then I returned at the end of the year.
In between the time I quit going and when I returned my life seemed to be improving. I quit the second shift job when I was offered a full time, salaried position at the plant nursery. A short while later a friend of mine at the time who was also the bookkeeper found out how volatile my marriage was and insisted I get out with the kids. She worked with the owner, my direct boss to make it happen.
I put on my brave face and started packing my things when my now ex husband realized I meant business. He quickly packed his things out of the house and moved in with his mom. I got an apartment where we had lived prior to getting the house. It was bittersweet because I had wanted both of my kids to grow up in the house, but my income alone would not be sufficient enough.
I got moved in and the first two weeks were the hardest being alone. After that I felt a huge relief because I could finally breathe on my own, I didn’t have to answer to anyone and I wasn’t being constantly questioned about who I was talking to on the phone, being cussed at, being ridiculed anymore.
A few months later I took a path I never thought I would take and the consequences would lead me right back to going to church. I got involved with my boss and ended up pregnant. He terminated my employment when I refused to have an abortion even when he offered me $5K to do it. I look at this way even today: $5K wouldn’t last me a life time, but the emotional scars that would come of the choice to abort a child would be there forever. I chose the hard road instead.
And believe me it was an extremely hard road.
I drew up the courage to talk to the associate pastor of the baptist church I had been attending and was a member of. He was an incredible person who was so open and understanding. He knew the pain emotionally I was going through. Having a meeting with him helped me feel like a person again. He even brought up the idea I have a mentor from the church which I quickly agreed to.
My mentor is an incredible person as well. She treated me like family and adored my kids. I enjoyed the Saturdays I could meet with her for a few hours at Panera Bread. We talked about our children and the situation with my unborn child’s father and then later about legal issues. I had even connected with a Christian Counselor whom I met with for the next two years.
I was also going to a crisis pregnancy center every three weeks to meet with another mentor. I was also reading a lot of Bible scriptures and completing Christian based booklets to earn mommy dollars towards “buying” clothes, diapers, wipes and other things baby related.
When I got back into church I still felt shame from my choices. Very few people knew at that time about my situation and I wanted it to stay that way. During that time I tried one more time on my marriage. My now ex husband was willing to be there and everything. I had ended up in public housing, my deepest low I had gone to in my life.
By the end of the year and after my son was born the marriage was over with. My now ex husband made his choices by choosing to be in possession of pot when in the apartment. He thought I was asleep when he was conversing with his best friend about it and admitting I didn’t know about his pot. I confronted him later. His drinking got worse again and there was ZERO support from him with the kids. The final straw came when I punished our then three year old son who had poured syrup into his toy box. Instead of him getting up off the couch he got in my face and called the police. The police came and asked him exactly what did he want them to do to me? All the police officer did was take pictures where I had spanked our son and then left.
I immediately called my mom who was furious for his actions against me. I was contemplating separation and then divorce but I felt guilty as a Christian because of the things I had been reading and been told.
When I told my Christian Counselor what had transpired she was furious and immediately told me that was enough and I should sever ties with him. I also consulted with my pastor who had just had a discussion in a class I took about marriage and divorce. Afterwards I asked him about women or even men who were being abused and if they should leave or was it a sin to leave (divorce)? In my situation he understood and suggested the same as the counselor did.
I had also just returned to college after a 10 yr gap. I wanted to make something of myself and be able to support my three kids. My now ex husband wasn’t much of a supporter of me going to school and “dumping” our son and my son off at a babysitter, whom I worked with at the plant nursery (she quit shortly after the incident that happened with me). He also made me trade in my mini van for a better vehicle for him to drive since he was once again the breadwinner. For a few months I was stuck with his 88 Oldsmobile car that was like a boat. It made my friends and family mad the way he was treating me. When I could drive his Jeep Grand Cherokee he would check the mileage and question where I was at. Luckily I received a lump sum of child support, enough to buy a used a car and get it registered soon afterwards.
In the summer time the opportunity arose for me to sign up to teach Sunday School to kids. I spoke with the associate pastor who made the decision to let me team teach with a couple in the second grade class. I was so excited and felt this would be a great way for me to get experience as I wanted to become a school teacher and I wanted to refresh myself about stories in the Bible. Out of the whole ENTIRE Sunday School year I missed ONE Sunday and that was when I was in the hospital with pneumonia. The couple I was team teaching with missed at least a half dozen if not more Sundays because they would either be working, on vacation or at Hockey Games.
I was attending church at that time on Sundays, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights and involved with Vacation Bible School and other church related activities. I absorbed myself and my kids into church.
During that time though is when the Associate pastor announced he and his family were leaving and moving to Virginia. I was disappointed. I knew things would not stay the same once he left. He was bold and strong and took up for the weak people, including myself. Him leaving left me vulnerable.
When my year of Sunday School team teaching ended, I was overlooked to teach again. I asked the pastors secretary about it since her husband was the interim associate pastor. She said she felt I needed to be with adults again…Really??? Talk about feeling discouraged. I wasn’t asked I was forced to go a path I really didn’t want to do, but my feelings never mattered. I should have known when she never told me about the SS teacher meetings and the banquet. The one time I did find out I was told if I didn’t have anyone to watch my kids (which I didn’t) that I couldn’t attend.
The one Sunday I missed because I was in the hospital with pneumonia? The pastor came during his hospital rounds and the secretary and her husband did come to briefly visit only because there were other members on the same floor. She NEVER informed the couple I team taught with about me being in the hospital. They felt so bad that they did not know. In fact, I wasn’t put on the prayer board so most people didn’t know.
See, her husband was a teacher at the same high school where my youngest son’s step mom also worked so they knew each other. That got held over my head and she acted like a spy, because I found out later that in court some things could not have been known unless she was the one who was the informant. She also made it clear if she went to court to testify she would testify AGAINST me.
This person had befriended me for almost two years until I had to go to court and then dropped me like a nuclear bomb. Another lady who works in the nursery on Sundays pretty much did the same thing although she apologized on the surface.
Here I was devoting myself to church, the Lord and focusing on raising my three kids in a loving, Christian home even as a single mom. I was beginning to feel like that didn’t matter to some at the church. I took two weeks off after my birthday in May to contemplate my future with the church.
See, the pastors secretary gave me three choices for Sunday School: I could join her husbands SS school class which was very primitive and too boring for my taste, attend the other married couples class ( I was divorced by then) OR I could join the College class (where students were single and about 10-15 yrs younger than me). I chose the other married couples class since the deacon I talked about earlier, was teaching it.
I got into a Sunday evening class that the deacon and his dad (a retired Methodist minister) was teaching together. I really enjoyed that class. After that, the deacon’s parents really helped me out. They encouraged me so much and were so proud of their son for standing up and doing the right thing by helping people like me. I could say otherwise about the deacon’s wife though.
A gentleman I met in early 2006 at the church when he offered a class on Sunday evenings also helped me out by showing me how to set goals and go for them. He showed me ways to improve my self esteem and confidence. He also team taught the other married adults class with the deacon.
At the end of the year that gentleman became my Life Coach. He showed me how to become independent and do it with confidence. I learned the basic maintenance on my vehicle at his shop. He really helped me climb out of the huge rut I had been in for quite sometime.
When the pastors secretary found out she warned me I should stay away from him and his wife…Okay?
A short time later on a Wednesday evening I found it odd that he was sitting outside the church with the deacon. He never comes on Wednesday nights. At the time though is wife was working at the church daycare center.
It turns out some vindictive person with an unnecessary thorn in her side wrote a letter to the pastor about my Life Coaches wife. I found out later on that there were things said in that letter that were very untrue but obviously said because the woman was angry. But, apparently the pastors secretary had got to read the letter beforehand and made her own judgments.
When a part time position came open at the church that would pay nearly $10 an hour I jumped at the chance to be working, especially in a place I was familiar with. I had my college classes online so working wasn’t a problem, except having reliable childcare.
The pastor gave me the job, but I had to find childcare to do it. My Life Coach and the deacon spoke with some of the church members, including the pastor about giving me a scholarship so my youngest son could get into the daycare center at the church. He would be with familiar people anyways.
They refused. And I was discouraged.
I ended up turning the job down. The deacon and my Life Coach were also extremely discouraged. In fact, the deacon was stunned at the behavior of the people in the church towards me and my situation. And according to the pastors secretary, I was basically being punished for my past behavior (resulting in my youngest son).
In the summer, the deacon and his wife hosted a married couples summer party. Ahead of time, my Life Coach asked the deacons wife if he knew of anyone who would be willing to help me out with the baby. Instead of a reply towards “I will check and see if there is anyone,” he gets the reply ” that’s her problem.” Stunned and upset, he and his wife help me out at the party. I didn’t know till later about the above incident. On top of it all, after that day there were several who questioned them helping me.
That became an issue especially when I started sitting with them in Sunday School and in church services.
My last straw with the church came when my Life Coach told me that a rumor had been started by the deacons wife around the time I was pregnant with my youngest son. She was telling people I had been to jail, which I have NEVER been to.
My kids and I went to their schools family science night and a lady from the church whom I thought I knew turned on me in front of hundreds of people. I had some people come up to me and apologize because it left them upset that someone would do that, especially over a ping pong ball that belonged to my son.
A few months later along with my Life coach and his wife, I helped write letters to the church relinquishing our memberships to the church. No one ever called or sent letters to us, although I mysteriously received a card with $200 cash in it from someone at the church. I have an idea who it was.
The times my Life Coaches wife has gone up there to chat with her former co-workers(she quit about a month before I sent the letters) the pastors secretary has always asked about me and when she tells her I am doing great and talks about the great things I done she appears disappointed as if I haven’t fell flat on my face.
It was a combination of things that has left me burned about traditional/contemporary churches. Now that my kids are older they remember some of the things that happened along with the things I have shared with them. Needless to say they are also not interested in going back to church at least a traditional/contemporary one.