I have been around the church from the day I was born. My parents have served in various church leadership rolls my entire life. As a child, my siblings and I were at church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and all the special events in between. It was all I ever knew, and being a homeschool kid on top of it, it was my only outlet for friends and connection.
I had a great childhood and watched my parents demonstrate the importance of taking their faith seriously and serve those around them in whatever capacity needed. But as with all children raised in the church, at some point I had to decide what I believe for myself, rather than what I had been raised to believe.
I believe there are defining moment in our lives where our faith is pushed from head knowledge into real life. My defining moments were having children, walking through a health crisis that affected every area of my life, and starting a social media platform to help women understand their mental health struggles. Each pushed me a little closer to where God knew I needed to be in my faith.
Those early days in my depression my faith wobbled. . . wouldn’t it just be easier to go with the flow, take no hard stances, and just work to make everyone happy all the time? Is there even a God orchestrating every little thing that allows such hard things to happen? Wouldn’t it just be simpler to believe in some undefined higher power or maybe nothing at all?
It was in those dark thoughts that I had to make a choice of faith for myself. I had to wrestle with all those questions and determine the truth. God met me in those moments and over a series of small victories guided me to understanding my identity through Him, my faith as a driver of purpose, and my passion to share my story to help women who are struggling with similar issues.
Now, my faith had been made whole. It was in faith that God helped me find the strength and resources to start my health journey. Has it been easy, nope. Have I done everything correct, nope. Do I still have a long way to go, yep. As an individual who struggles with anxiety and is prone to depression, I must be intentional about not only what I am putting in my body, but also what is going on around me.
At peak depression I had no interest in really engaging in church. All I felt was guilt and condemnation that I couldn’t just pray my way through my anxiety, and a constant pressure to serve somewhere despite feeling like I could barely take care of my children. I struggled even wanting to take my children, but I did out of a sense of duty. When covid caused us all to go on lock down it was the best excuse to stop going to church. I could explain away the difficulty of watching online consistently, due to a horde of small children at home during the service.
It was like a breath of fresh air to just be, with no guilt about not physically being present. I was able to take that time and really reflect on my beliefs, spend time establishing a quiet time, and discover myself as an individual with my faith and beliefs. God placed mentors along the way to hold me accountable and continue to push me forward in His truths.
I have spent the last two years discovering what is true connection; learning how to establish intimacy in all relationships. I have talked with so many beautiful women through my podcast over this last year. I’ve heard so many stories of victory over some very heavy topics.
But here is something else I’ve heard. Many of these women were told by individuals in the church that they needed to pray harder, have more faith, or that they shouldn’t talk about those hard things as it makes people uncomfortable. They were shunned, outcast, or never really supported because no one took the time to really understand what they were experiencing. I heard how deeply the “church” has hurt people because they lacked the ability to understand empathy, compassion, and failed to share the grace that we all desperately need.
Now, I know that individuals are not the church, and I realize that not all people are that way. However, as a culture I think the church has lost the ability to truly empathize. The façade of perfectionism has become so rooted in the church we often miss how to really serve those around us who are hurting. We fall into focusing on the speck in others’ eyes and miss the plank in our own.
You and I both know that perfect is not real life. We are broken people in a broken world. The struggle to do the best we can is a daily pursuit and that is the exact reason we need God’s Mercy and Grace. I think the lack of vulnerability and empathy is why we are driving people away from the church and why I am struggling wanting to go back to church consistently.
I don’t have time for fake, I don’t have time for soft messages to make everyone feel good. I need Jesus and a lot of him. I need to feel like I am not alone and there are people who understand where I am coming from. I want to be loved for the broken, messy, sinner that I am. I want to pursue depth of conversation and pray for real life struggles, not just safety for a cousin who is traveling, despite that being important too.
I have come to realize that this change won’t occur until we start talking about it and demonstrating how real connection functions, to ask the deeper questions, to show others what vulnerability looks like, and to love unconditionally. Now, we can love unconditionally and still be accountable for our actions, but that requires an understanding of empathy. Empathy is the ability to know we are all broken, and that brokenness can drive poor choices, but at the end of the day we all need Jesus.
So Sunday I will go to church and seek out real connections, demonstrate true vulnerability, and show love to those around me. I know I will have moments I fail, moments I need a loving friend’s correction, but that is why God calls us to community and discipleship. I hope to see you there.