What if My Church Mess is All in My Head?
I don’t know about you, but I have a vivid imagination. So much so that I can create heartache where there isn’t any. If you Googled the term “negative forecasting”, I think you’d see my headshot.
I come about this trait honestly as I have been dealt a pretty crappy hand and the fallout has been serious. Among the many titles and credentials that define my life-status, education and persona, Mrs. AR0174 is my least favorite. Insert eye-roll and squished-up-nose face here.
For those not-so-savvy about prison identification numbers, let’s just get the fact that I am a prison wife out of the way as quickly as possible. Ummm, yeah. I am Mrs. AR0174 and it sucks as badly as you might make up in your head.
See, that’s what I mean, I make up in my head that you make up in your head that being a prison wife is demeaning, horrible and has an ick-factor of 5.9 and that you are already mentally distancing yourself from me as you read on.
That was my biggest problem when it came to finding a church home post-sentencing. After my husband was tried, convicted and sentenced in a very publicly humiliating way, I was left holding the metaphorical bag filled with our family’s reputation, social status and livelihood. None of which had any value anymore. I became collateral damage to something I had nothing to do with, yet suffered the full consequences of.
In the months and, dare I say, years afterward, I became a tiny version of the woman I used to be. My demeanor, my hope and my faith all began to shrink under the weight of the shame and pain of walking out this road. God was shining no light unto my path and I struggle to say with certainty that He was even shining a light unto my foot. The weariness that welled up inside me was crippling and as my world got smaller so did my coping skills and effort to find a way forward. The only thing that grew was my imagination which consistently told me how hopeless my life was, how unaccepting people would be and how the only thing left for me was suicide. I am going to admit something to you- lean in, this is the good stuff. I believe now that having the choice to choose suicide as an available option was the thing that kept me from it. Holding my own life or death in my hands was the one thing that society, the courts, my employer and the other demons in my life couldn’t steal.
When I was suffering the most, I wanted God the most. I wanted him to white knight His way into my existence and clear a well-lit path straight to the beauty for the heaping pile of ashes that was my life. I wanted community, I wanted to bathe in worship music surrounded by people who loved me, accepted and me and my story. The whole story. The one that included me being Mrs. AR0174. But my imagination wouldn’t hear of it. My imagination created church hurts long before anyone had a chance to know me, love me or reject me. My self-created church hurts told me that people were unable and unwilling to come alongside someone with such a huge stinky dying carcass hanging from their neck.
So, I went to church and hid. I tried to remain as anonymous as I could and all the while begging God for community and peace. All the while denying myself community and peace.
Ultimately, God broke through my misguided and totally made-up church hurts and put me into situations where I had no choice but to share my story and surprise, surprise, I discovered that everyone I met had a heart for my story and wanted to come alongside me and cut off the death that clung to me and cast it aside.
I learned a valuable lesson that I apply to all my social exchanges today: I cannot change the truths about my life. I cannot change the fact that my husband is in prison. I can; however, reject the notion that everywhere I go, I will be rejected. Though my entire journey leading up to the sentencing was filled to the brim with rejection, it doesn’t mean that my social status is static.
God used my most broken pieces to create something for His glory. Out of my darkest times, I came face-to-face with death at my own hand and I said “not just yet.” I allowed God to step in and show me options B, C, D and E.
Your story may not have the social stigma attached to prison life, but what I know for sure is that the range of human emotions is the same no matter what your hurt. To the best of your ability, resist transferring your expectations for rejection onto others. Be open to the fact that some absolutely will reject you out of ignorance or arrogance. It is going to happen. But, I say to you with confidence and the full support of the Holy Spirit that many more will not. Risk the potential for hurt in the name of the potential for finding love.
Faydra Koenig, MA is an author, blogger and podcaster who is determined to end the effects shame-based ridicule has on people. You can find more from her at DoingLifeWithFaydra.com and find her books at FaydraOnAmazon.com. Catch her podcast Coming out of the Fire in iTunes and Stitcher radio.