If anyone has ever been become disillusioned by the church as a lay leader, it’s Merissa.
Several years ago, Merissa and her family were spending some time in the Caribbean, and Merissa was taking a break from some of her regular duties.
As she stood on a deck, looking out onto the great expanse of a calm sea and a cloudless sky, she was struck by how “crowded” she felt inside—crowded with fear, disappointment, and disillusionment. She cried out to God, aching for something she couldn’t articulate.
Suddenly Merissa realized that she had been hanging on to all the hurt in her life. She decided to let it go, there on the shores of the Caribbean. “In the days that followed I felt that God and I were in an empty room together,” she recalls. “The room was my heart and I could feel the emptiness echo off its walls. Slowly, over the length of our stay, my heart began to fill with good things.”
When she returned to her home in Alberta, Canada, Merissa took a position on their church board, full of hope and passion, eager to share the magic she was experiencing. Sadly, halfway into the three-year term she stepped down, completely expired, wounded, and disillusioned. The decision-making over finances, staffing, one case of moral failure, severe congregational discontent, and gut-wrenching relational issues had taken its toll.
During that time Merissa had seen two sides—she saw miracles happen as people cared for one another. But she also saw how mean and calloused Christians could be to each other.
The year following her resignation was difficult. She preferred not to go to church—where she had experienced so much pain—but her children loved going so much, and she didn’t want to squelch that desire in them.
Merissa’s heart went back to her time in the Caribbean, to that pivotal night when she let go of all her hurt. The process of relinquishing was more difficult this time, though. She says, “Truthfully, my faith in mankind took a harder hit than my faith in God. But largely (and strangely) thanks to the efforts of others, it is also being restored.
“There are many things I cannot explain or understand. The world is full of tragedy and triumph. So far, God has not asked me to endorse his actions. He seems quite able to stand on his own, full of mercy and mystery. But he has made clear a path for me, and I want to walk in it.”
Like Merissa, many of us have been disillusioned with the church. Have you let go of the hurt yet? What’s your story?