In 2009, my favorite non-chocolate candy in life at that time was Sour Punch Straws, and strawberry and blue raspberry flavors in particular. I loved the sweet yet tart flavor, the texture…even the sweet, fruity smell. I used to buy these at Walgreen’s when they were on sale: 4 for $3. I’d gorge myself for days prior to my girly time, and it would be heaven. Until I was bloated and my mouth hurt from chewing so much sugar and citric acid. I discovered if I never ate another one for the rest of my life, it would be too soon. This was in 2009. Needless to say, I took a hiatus from these tasty treats for several years. Nary a Sour Punch Straw has passed my lips since 2011. I quickly turn my mouth downward in true duck-lipped fashion when offered one.
This is what has happened to me in regard to the church as I knew it. I was raised in a church that had a more Apostolic, Pentecostal bent to it. I left churches of that sort because they were #teamtoomuch, meaning they were too religious. The makeup, the hair, the fashions, the do’s, the don’ts, the can’ts. Hearing I was going to hell every single week because I had missed some crazy law, and groveling before God for mercy was how I got back into the world for a while. Somehow, I missed who Jesus was in some of the more religious teachings. There wasn’t a lot of room for grace. All I could hear was religion and rules. I wanted relationship. I wanted to know how to live in the world successfully and still rep Jesus accurately. Over the years, I received that. What I also received was a lot of grace, and not so much truth.
Around April/May last year, I was really beginning to seek the Lord. I felt like I didn’t have a real grasp on who He was. I wanted to know HIM. While I had a glimpse into my purpose on this earth, I began to feel like I was missing something. I really began to look for Him, and He was drawing me closer. As He began to draw me closer to Him, things in my life I treasured began to disintegrate. A valued relationship with a friend I loved dearly evaporated. To this day, I still don’t know why. She wasn’t graceful enough to tell me why. I have forgiven her, but I didn’t for awhile (just telling the truth). At one point, I was so angry at her, every time I saw her at church, I wanted to slap her to kingdom come, wherever that is. Real talk – that’s how I felt at that time, and I never, ever acted on it. What I learned later is she was being used to teach me a lesson – one on healing. You can’t use topical ointments on deep wounds requiring surgery and stitches. Since we served in volunteer capacity together, it was a challenge for me to even look at her face, let alone serve together. That was the first sign of something different happening in my life.
The next thing was contention about my husband’s job. He got a new job and the hours were grueling. Six, at this time, was being kicked out of daycares left and right due to his behavior. My hubby couldn’t help because he wasn’t even allowed to take his phone with him on the floor at the new job, so I was overwhelmed. All this while I was on a new job for only a month without support – a role I was kind of thrown into without much guidance. At the new job, I met a very bright young man, who said he loved the Lord. What I didn’t realize is the Lord sent me there for him…to mentor him and nurture him. More on that another time.
As the months went on, I found myself dissatisfied in general, particularly with church responsibilities and my husband’s job in relation to our son really frustrated me. The only solace I had was working, and although I thought I was doing a good job, considering I had zero guidance, I later found out no matter what I did, the owner was NEVER happy. Or if he was, I never knew it. He seemed to only pay attention to me when he wanted to voice his displeasure, and that’s usually the only time he would bother to show up to offer guidance specifically about the position – a total of maybe three times – and this after my telling him communication sucked. The solution? Meetings that were scheduled weekly but he never called to communicate about, let alone showed up for. It told him I was feeling ignored and he’d promise to do better. He NEVER did. *SIGH* By the time October rolled around, the job had me completely stressed out.
Rather than look for another gig, I decided to pray and ask for guidance on what other things I could do to make capacity within myself for the job. I wanted to keep it. Despite the idiocracy that occurred with my boss, I really did like the people I worked with, including the owner, and I needed a paycheck at that time. Not to mention, when I did believe I was doing things correctly, it was good. Until he would throw a boomerang at me full of unstated and horrific expectations, admittedly on his part. I digress. Anyway, I would blog here and journal on paper to keep some sanity.
I was volunteering at my church. I was still in a couple leadership roles, and I had Six. I wound up pulling back a LOT from church because of work. Church required a lot, and it was easier for me to let that go, than to let go of my job. I also pulled back a bit because I was a little bored and not satisfied. It was noticeable. So much so that people wondered what was up. Little did I know all of this was part of the shift.
December found me jobless. At the end of November, I quit after a meeting with my boss over incidents in which he was negligent, and still blamed me. Despite making me promises to improve and then not following through, and on top of having constant headaches, nosebleeds, sleepless nights and crying insanely at home (and one panic attack at work one afternoon), it was not worth my health. In a flash I saw he was going to habitually make me the scapegoat for his own shortcomings and it wasn’t worth my sanity or my life. So I quit right in the middle of the meeting. I felt like the job was going to kill me if I stayed. I’ve never done that before, nothing like it. I thought I was losing my mind. When I quit, I filed unemployment because my husband asked me to. I didn’t even want to really because it would be an uphill battle I had no guarantee of winning, and I was plum tired. I set out to find work though. I wanted to do something different with my life – yanno collect a paycheck to cover the bills and daycare, but nobody was biting. Shortly after quitting my job, I completely quit my other duties at church. The only other thing I didn’t quit was my marriage and my son. I struggled because I am not a quitter. I wasn’t a giver upper. I am known for my fight and tenacity. Quitting my job and my volunteer positions made me feel like a failure.
I did continue going to church. However, it seemed like I had to work to get into worship. I had to work to pray. I began hearing things said in corporate prayer and worship that didn’t sit well with me. On a humbug, I searched the tenets of faith and it was missing some info I had become accustomed to seeing. It was a very, very small thing yet important enough for me to side eye. I chalked it up to someone overlooking this one small, yet important aspect of our faith. It was annoying, but not life-altering enough for me to stop going. What ultimately raised my antennae was one person.
I introduced a friend and business associate to a church member for some potential business exchanges. My friend, who is devout, knows the Word of God and loves the Lord with all of her being. After she met with the church member, who I recommended highly, she informed me of some of the beliefs this church member held. And it was NOT according to what the church believed, let alone the Word of God. It began to bother me that this person, in a highly visible position, was able to still serve and influence others when they were not believing the truth or practicing it. They were, for all intent and purposes, living a deceptive life. What was even more scary is one incident in which this person was able to mimic a form of witnessing to someone. This disturbed me beyond words. Our witness is supposed to be authentic, real and a testament to the glory of God. This person was…false. At that point, I was beginning to feel like I and the church were missing something – something essential. I pondered how no one noticed this person’s beliefs were influencing their own outcomes and were more than likely influencing the very lives of others. Yet and still, I pushed it aside. That nagging feeling got louder.
I was tired of fighting so hard: fighting to see and feel Him (the Lord), fighting the nagging, just the fight period. I was exhausted. I asked God for a break, for some clarity. He answered.
One Sunday afternoon in December, I had a vision in church while trying to worship. It startled me because I had become frustrated over not being able to enter into the presence of the Father as much as I wanted to. Either it was cut short because of the church’s time schedule, or I kept trying to fight my own emotions about my lost friendship, and it hindered my worship. Anyway, in the vision, there were three cords. They were a pea green color and very thick. Two were broken but the third one wasn’t at first. I saw a pair of scissors cut the third one. It was a two-fold vision. The first meaning was about my deteriorated friendship. The second meaning was interpreted by a friend as this: “Ecclesiastes 4:12 “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” If the cords were together, they wouldn’t break. It represents the body of Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. The green represents the TRUE VINE. The 3rd cord was the body succumbing to the enemy…hence the state of the church today as a whole.” Mind. Blown.
This sent me into a state of serious distress. I then really began to evaluate my relationship with the Lord. Began asking Him for Him. I had no idea what I was asking for. By this time, it was January. I had been doing my own praise and worship at home (with my hubby nightly after he got off work). On January 8, 2018 during this type of session, I felt the presence of God, and His Spirit asking me a question that I answered with this entry:
I can’t turn back now. Lord, I’m too far in this, chasing you too hard to go back now. I cannot go back. You could have stopped anytime you wished, but You did not. Even beaten beyond recognition and bleeding and upholding the weight of your cross, your cursed, dead tree that would be planted, not by rivers of living water, but on a hill of degraded, rotten human flesh and suffering…you chose to go and plant death, defeat and desolation there on a hill – an elevated place for and designated for humiliation, shame and defeat. Yet, You planted victory and life in the defeated moment. Now I know I am too far gone for me to turn around. And although fear threatens, ruin beckons, ridicule calls, I know, somehow beyond knowing, that You work and are working this, these things together for my good, and ultimately for Your triumph and glory. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back. There is no shadow of turning or abandonment with You. I will and can trust You, even when I do not understand. Even when I feel fear rising, I can trust You.
I had not really understood what I was saying in response to a question. I still don’t know what was asked. However, that Monday, I listened to a young man preach a word, met ten people who changed my life, and I haven’t looked back. Why? Well, there’s a point in calling this candy coated. You’ll find out in part two.