But I'm really glad I went.
If you've been reading my posts for a while, then you know that I'm struggling to recover from a toxic and unhealthy congregation where I served as solo pastor. I've known intellectually that I was emotionally and spiritually harmed by that experience, but I don't think I realized the depth of that pain until this weekend.
The theme of the weekend was "Psalms: Prayers of the Heart." The chaplain, Rev. Elaine Hewes, led us in an exercise where we wrote our own psalm, either of lament or of thanksgiving/praise (or some mixture of both). Not surprisingly, I had a lament in me. Quite surprisingly, however, the act of writing this psalm touched a raw, painful place deep within me, and I started crying. Bawling. Big, choking sobs. In the middle of a crowded room full of strangers. I got up and ran to the bathroom, where I tried to pull myself together. When I thought I had, I went back into the hallway, where I found two women from my church waiting for me, wanting to make sure I was OK. Just seeing the look of concern on their faces made me lose it all over again, and the next thing I knew I was being embraced and comforted by women whose names I didn't even know (their scarves were blocking their name tags), but such knowledge was completely unnecessary right then.
I was in a much better place after that, and I think it might have been the first real step in my healing, nearly two years after the damage was done. Not only did it help me realize some things about the nature and the depths of my own woundedness, but it also served to show me that the church is not exclusively the domain of the selfish, vicious, treacherous, and abusive personalities that caused such harm at my last call.
So for what it's worth, here is my modern psalm of lament, written by a former pastor. It's in the basic form of an acrostic, though you'll see I took a few liberties (poetic license) when necessary.
Accept me, O Lord,
because your people have not. A
congregation of your followers sought to
destroy my marriage and my faith.
Every day I live with the pain,
feeling their rejection, and my failure to
guide them back to your ways.
Have mercy on me, Abba.
Ignite my faith where it has dimmed, and show me your
Keep my family together.
Let those who have strayed from you but call themselves by your name
make right their wrongs, and
know that what they say and what they do matters.
Open my heart, O Lord, and heal the
pain that lives there.
Quiet my demons, and
restore my faith.
Show me your faithful, your forgiven people who remain
true to your path,
unable to be perfect, but
very loving, very giving.
Where are you, Lord?
Explain how this can happen in
Zeal is yours, Lord. I'm waiting for you to show it.