After enduring all the stuff with my church, I was ready to call it quits. Looking back now, I kind of did! After being told I couldn’t attend a ministry school or be a leader and stay away from the youth — twice! — I was deeply hurt. It seemed that if someone else who’d grown up in the church experienced what I’d experienced, they would never recover.
I was so devastated after that youth pastor rebuked me for not listening to the church’s warning, and inside I was a broken man. I couldn’t turn to anyone because most of my friends attended and loved my church! I knew that if I told them, they would either be hurt by the church and leave, or they would deny it and try to explain away what had happened to me.
So, I kept it all a secret, everything I’d experienced, what I’d said and done. I kept it all to myself. From that day on, I went back to what I knew: hooking up with guys.
This time, I killed my conscience. My heart and mind warned me I was doing wrong, and I made sure not to feel that ever again. Almost every day I went back to that certain website to look for my next hookup and have sex with another guy!
As I said in a previous post, I loved sex and never felt ashamed of it. Before my church hurt me, I learned to love God with all my heart and wanted to follow Him daily. Thus, my love of sex diminished — but it would never disappear completely. It was always there, though I was also involved enough with my church that I’d not have time to bother hooking up with guys.
After going through all the crap my church threw at me, however, my love of the Lord lessened and my love of sex grew again. I crashed and burned.
For years and years, I wouldn’t care if I was sleeping with someone. Even if I was hanging out with one of my church friends, hours later I would go hook up with someone and never feel bad about it.
My thinking was so skewed. I was in a dangerous place in my life, I didn’t care about being responsible for myself or others. Many times I didn’t use protection when having sex, because I wanted to experience the totality of having “fun.”
I grew to distrust people, especially if they were church leaders. If people asked me how I was doing, I’d tell them I was fine and go on with my business — instead of saying that just moments before I’d hooked up with someone I didn’t even know.
I mean, how could they understand? They would just react the same way my pastors did.
All I could see was judgment and condemnation from people who called themselves Christians with these “perfect” lives.
This tainted my view for a long time.
The ironic thing was that after “leaving the church” in my heart, I would still attend there. It was like something inside me kept wanting to come every Sunday and Wednesday. Spiritually, I guess you could say the Holy Spirit was tugging at my heart to keep going. But for me personally, I stayed because my heart still longed to hear the Word of God.
Yes, I could have attended another church. But there was something about my own church that I couldn’t shake. Looking back at it now, I believe it was how the head pastor went through Scripture verse by verse, going into deep theology, yet making it very easy to understand. I mean, that’s what I love about it now!
There was a time after this whole incident that God had to take me out of the church, and I had to deal with all the emotions of anger, bitterness, and shamefulness that my church had bestowed on me. I had to deal with my own emotions from the hauntings of my past.
At the beginning of this series, I explained how I’d experimented with another kid when I was younger, and that that’s how this whole thing started. Let’s just say I put that explanation very lightly. So much stuff happened in my past that I can’t talk about online due to legalities. If you don’t understand, then you’re going to have to trust me on this one. The only way I CAN explain it is in person.
So, I understand why my church had to do what they had to do. I mean, my church is a huge church with thousands of attendees, and there have been people who have made it their mission to destroy the church’s reputation so others can question the validity of the Christian belief.
Yes, you could attend a smaller church, but problems will arise anywhere. People are going to be hurt, unintentionally or intentionally, and there will be consequences for your actions, even if it means catching up to you years later.
I made series of choices growing up. I grew up in the church my whole life and had this mentality that if I was close enough to God, everything would fall into place: the bad choices I made years before would disappear, or I would make good choices all the time when I was “spiritually mature.”
Pride took over, and I grew complacent with my comfort zone.
I believe this was my downfall. I was not prepared to face the reality of bad things happening to godly people. Life is not always going to be fair, and we need to get ready for it. I was not ready to hear all this bad news in my life. I was not ready to make bad decisions even after my downfall with my church because of my “Christianese” mindset.
This is how my pastor put it:
No matter how close you walk with the Lord, you are still capable of making a series of poor choices.
That’s something I’ve had to learn in these years, even the years I spent hooking up with different guys.
Another thing I learned most while experiencing all this was that God can call you back to Himself, even in your failure. Whether you’re still hooking up with guys, currently in a gay relationship and think God can’t use you, or left the church entirely, God can still use you mightily.
It’s taking that first step.
Then letting the Holy Spirit work in you.
Though I had a horrible past with my church and still struggle with hooking up with guys, God uses me to spread His Word to others. I’m glad I never left Him.
And He never left me.
Have you let your hurt lead you to “crash and burn” and do sinful things? Have you left the church only to return, or do you still struggle to trust the church?
* Photo courtesy Luigi Menato, Creative Commons.