And I am grateful, perhaps most of all, to have a church again. To be part of a church family again, to have a priest who likes me, to take communion again, to tithe again, and to worship God again. I've missed it in ways that I didn't even understand. I've wanted to write about this process of healing and forgiveness for a long time, but I never felt that I had all of the pieces of the puzzle. It's obvious, if you've read my recent posts which were in some ways even a surprise to me, that I have great reservations about the church and church leadership. I've considered coming here and really spelling that out. Really elucidating the whys and wherefores of that to make it plain and to spell out what happened and how I got damaged. And I don't think I'd be in the wrong for doing that. It might be cathartic. But now I realize that it just doesn't matter to me anymore. I've come to think of doing that as a chore more than a catharsis.
But this much I'll say: I got sold out and misappropriated by the leadership of my church. And it wasn't right and it wasn't justified and there isn't any way to soften it. I lost many of my friends. I had to leave my church family and my church community. And it felt like a death.
And in the years leading up to the decision to leave that church, I sinned by forgetting the most simple and fundamental elements of my faith. I forgot the means of grace exchanging them for license. I worshiped church and not God. I said and did things for which I am ashamed. And I am responsible. And there is no way to soften it.
But you see, I believe that God, in his desire to reach me with mercy despite the consequences to my personal comfort and security, routed my sin with the intention of delivering me from it. In this year I have learned something of God's sovereignty that I didn't know before. I've learned something of what it means to trust God and to hope for his deliverance. And I've learned something of the mystery of what it means to forgive.
Lent has brought me the crushing knowledge of my sin and the glorious realization of what it means to be forgiven. It's something I had a notion of before, but not to this degree. Lent has brought me a love of Scripture and an understanding of the importance of worship. Lent has brought me the understanding of my need for mercy and the courage to ask for it frequently.
Every Sunday in this season, we've sung a song about mercy and repeated from the liturgy what I've come to regard as a fundamental prayer for Christians: Lord, Have Mercy. Christ Have Mercy. Lord Have Mercy on me. Every week we sing it and every week I need it. At first, I said it for myself and wept. And then to that I added a prayer for mercy for those in my small congregation who need to be delivered from all kinds of sickness, pain and shadow and wept. And then last Sunday as I sang it, to my memory sprang the faces of the people who have wounded me and I prayed for mercy for them and for their church and for the wreckage of their vision. I prayed for mercy for those who I really wasn't sure I would be able to address civilly should I see them. I prayed for mercy, but it was God who gave me the desire for it. It was God allowing me to pray mercy for them and in turn, pray mercy for myself. It was one of the greatest turning points of my life.
I felt the Holy Spirit unshackle me from the chains of hurt and hostility. I felt that as I prayed for them, God was answering my cry for mercy for myself. This is enough, he seemed to say, this gets buried now. And I feel, for perhaps the first time in more than a year, peace. I feel free to leave it behind me and progress into the life he has planned for me and about which I am so excited. It's over. And I think that my writing is going to reflect that. I think that my dealing with other people is going to reflect that. I think that the way I worship God is going to reflect that. And I am grateful to be relieved of that burden. I will try to remember to run to Jesus for mercy frequently and with abandon because perhaps more than anything else, I have learned that grace prompts the asking, but mercy covers my flaws and rights my course.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. I Peter 5:10