As a mama, I understand that one of the biggest needs in my child’s life is stability. He needs to not move to a new house all the time, needs to be enrolled in the same school, and needs to have a church home. While I consider most of these to be in my control, sometimes God has a different plan for your life.
My life and my faith has been a journey. I was raised, saved and baptized at Alma Heights Missionary Baptist Church in Alma, spent many hot summers at Bogg Springs Church Camp, and we later moved to Harmony Missionary Baptist, where my parents and I attended until my adult years. My church family was such a constant in my upbringing that I do not remember many memories from my childhood that do not include church (including specifically what the air conditioning unit looked like behind Alma Heights, since sometimes my mama had to take me back there to have a “talk”. Whew, my poor sweet parents, I have always been a talker). After college, I fell in and out of church several times, until I got married and went to a small church in Bethesda with my husband and sweet baby Cole (I do not remember many of the sermons, my apologies, as I was paying for my raising with my wee wild one). When I became a single mama, I felt very far away from God, and very unhappy. I could not bring myself to attend church, because I felt like such a stinking failure. Here I was, trying to desperately to provide a happy childhood for my own child, and now he had two homes, two lives, no stability and a nutjob mother. It is kind of like feeling that you need to work out before you can join a gym. You go to church and turn to God, and he helps you work it out. I had it all backwards.
My sweet parents have always supported (see also, prayed for extensively) me through my journey, and they had joined Pleasant Valley Missionary Baptist Church in Batesville. It took us awhile, but finally Cole and I went. We felt so welcomed and loved, not at all like I thought it would be. If you have never been a single mama, I know it’s difficult to understand the feeling, but you do feel like people are judging you or pitying you, neither of which is comfortable. I know that people do not really do that, but your emotions are in overdrive after a divorce.
Fast forward a few months, and Cole and I joined the church (well I did anyway, he is always my plus one). Like most churches, they are made up of people (and here’s the steeple! Sorry, could not resist), and people are human. If you have not ever felt or experienced the heartache of church drama, then consider yourself lucky. It is a given that not everyone in the church is going to agree, but church members should certainly be nicer to each other than they are on many days. I grew up with a strong church family and youth group, so that is my desire for Cole. Unfortunately, we watched, almost in slow motion, every week, as more and more of our sweet friends left our church to find a new church home. Our Sunday school class, which had become such a support system to me, filled with some of the most genuine friends, had dwindled to nearly nothing.
Even more devastating was that the target of all of this trauma (target, NOT the cause) was our sweet pastor, the pastor who had prayed for and with so many of us. The end came for so many when he stood at the front of the church one fateful Sunday and said that he needed to resign for his own physical and emotional health. People, what kind of a church do you have, if the church members cause the pastor more harm than sheep outside of the flock? How can people who have called a man to preach and to lead their flock, make him so miserable that he had no choice to find somewhere else to pastor, and a new home, possibly in a new town?
We grieved the loss of that church, many of us, week after week, would say to each other “what do we do?? This is not what we wanted for our families?”. Even more troubling to most of us was that our pastor now did not have a home or a job, and was completely living on faith.
So, after much prayer, tears and consulting with my family, we left. In our journey to find a new church, we have found some healing, and have found ourselves crying again with joy and praise during the service, instead of tears of sadness and grief. I have a little set of eyes, and a precious little person watching every move I make (and having rolling commentary on all of it too), so I needed to find a healthier place for him to be, where we don’t get in the car and he asks me “why were you crying in there mommy?”. We have only visited a couple of places, and think we have found a new church home. I kind of knew that we were home when I heard the song by Kari Jobe “We are the light of the world, we are a city on a hill”. I am so sad for our old church, because so many there were lights to others, including our pastor, but my own child is such a light to others than I had to find a new church home for us, so that I could grow as a mother and a Christian, since I am such a constant work in progress.
Cole is so much heartier than I am, and is very content as long as he has Sunday School, his Nana and Papa, and a happy mama (that last one is negotiable, he so adores his grandparents). We are hoping to grow in love there, with old friends and new friends. We continue to pray for our old church, that God will guide them and heal them as well.