He had me hooked. I wrapped myself in the excitement of landing my first consistent writing job. No pay. No contract. Just a promise that my written words would be read on a regular basis. With high anticipation, I ingested email after email as the job was diligently explained-an online devotional meant to encourage the hurting and to mend the broken. I relished the idea of writing for a ministry. I thought about how God would use me to put His words on paper. I thought about the individuals who would wake up to His truth with their morning cup of Joe. I smiled at the peace it would send the troubled, the glee it would create in the melancholy, and the freedom it would give to the captive. I was ecstatic to know that somehow someway God has chosen me to be a light in the darkness. I was the daughter of a king and His servant, proud and unashamed. I was ready to serve my Father. Then, by a thief in the night, I was robbed.
Receiving the gift of this online devotional took days. Losing the gift took only a few seconds. I still feel the tears that fell and the bullet of pain that penetrated my heart as I was betrayed by my own people. I had told myself that I was worth it. I had told myself that the Kingdom had called my name to serve. I had told myself that by the cross and His wounds that I was made righteous. But somehow someway, telling myself these truths was not good enough and the enemy presented a lie and that lie was believed by this online devotional.
Naively I directed them to my blog on same sex attraction to prove that my talents were existent, thinking to myself that a fellow brother in Christ would surely understand the struggle with sin and the redemption of Christ. It didn’t occur to me that the next words I would read- words of rejection, shame, and fear. I watched as I was discriminated against on sole basis of my sexuality. I listened as I was disowned by the family of God. I felt as the identity of Christ was ripped away from me. I was being punished by a member of the family of God for existing as a Christian that struggled with same sex attraction. It was incomprehensible.
At that moment, I was given a choice: to allow myself to be overtaken by what’s known as “church hurt” or to be reminded by the cross who I am in Christ. As an African American woman, I am no foreigner to discrimination. My ears are quite adjusted to the occasional racial slur. Yes, racism does carry a significant amount of hurt, but rarely in the racism I had encountered did it challenge my spiritual identity. When I was rejected strictly on the basis of my struggle with same-sex attraction, every spiritual truth I had ever acquired was immediately challenged by Satan. The owner of the devotional’s words became an echo of everything Satan was already preaching to me daily. In other words, the owner of the devotional did not introduce new beliefs about myself to me, but only gave the negative beliefs I already had about myself more power. He transformed a second of empowerment to tragic hour of self -loathing. And for a moment, I was left to ask two heart-stopping questions: “is this who Christ is? and “do I serve a God who wants nothing to do with me?”
Answering these questions wasn’t easy. I had witnessed the ugliest, most distorted image of God that contradicted every biblical truth I had ever known. Verses didn’t instantly flood into my mind to rectify the scene. Satan tried his mightiest to prevail and to push me to the side of abandoned. I hated that God had given me the courage the speak on such a forbidden topic. Even more I hated that same sex attraction was a piece of my life. I felt as God had made a mistake, and that mistake was me. My voice was now strangled by self-doubt, and my purpose fogged with confusion. In one once of hurt, I was given pounds of spiritual warfare. You see, church hurt was more than just a stab but a bomb that could have blown apart my entire faith. If I hadn’t been planted in the gospel truths and in the identity bestowed to me by Christ, I would have crumbled. Fortunately, I was able to reflect on Ephesian 1:4 which reminded me that I have been chosen before the foundation of the Earth and presented to Him as holy and blameless. According to Romans 8:1, there was no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus and knowing this truth debunked the lies of Satan. Verse after verse, I was able to remind myself of the Jesus I had known before the reflection his image was shattered; however my relationship with the church was still hurting. I felt jilted, excommunicated, and marked with a scarlet letter. It was and felt like family hurt, and as someone experienced with family hurt I knew from there was one remedy for repairing the image of the bride; forgiveness.
I reminded myself how Jesus was rejected and crucified by His own people, and one of His final words on the cross, “forgive them father for they know not what they do.” With the suffering of Christ in mind, I felt like my unforgiveness of the church was unjustifiable. I was reminded of my own life before Christ, and how I was an enemy of the truth. I reminded myself of all the times I distorted his image to others as a slave to the flesh. Then the worst of my memory arrived as I thought about the times I disobeyed and misrepresented to the body of Christ as a believer and received boundless grace. Suddenly, I realized that my “church hurt” didn’t occur because someone didn’t meet God’s standard. My hurt happened because the director of the devotional didn’t meet my standards. My standards expected the body of Christ to be a flawless reflection, and there was nothing biblical about that expectation. We serve a God who expects and allows us to fail not just as individual but as a body. Yes, what happened to me was a form of discrimination, but it was a marker of our humanity. Christ was there and understood both sides; his mistake and my pain , and both sides he sent a comforter, the Holy Spirit to both teach the director and to console me . Yes, “church hurt” is a serious matter that dates back to the twelve disciples. I think about the rift between the fisherman and the tax collectors, and I am reminded how the fisherman’s disapproval of the tax collectors wasn’t enough for them to take their eyes off Jesus. In the end of the day, because of their love for Christ, they had to learn to become brothers . After Jesus’s execution, that brotherhood became all they had. It’s the same for us. Yes, “church hurt “stings, but losing a family is insufferable. God gave us one ,and it’s a gift we cannot lose to the enemy. It must be protected no matter what the cost.