Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Haters, Joy Suckers, and Church

I’d promised to put up some personal posts this year, and I’ve had this one in the holster for awhile. In the past I’ve posted personal things and they’ve garnered no discussion, and I just felt foolish and more alone than I had before I posted. But the truth is, I built this blog based on the need for connection, and friendship comes from trust, and you just can’t trust someone who doesn’t put out the sad, hard stuff, too. Unfortunately, I’m the kind of person who keeps those things pushed way down until the pressure builds and there’s nothing to do but let it all out in a spew of words that must either relieve or frighten those closest to me.

But the truth is, although I can change, I can’t be anyone else. So here’s a glimpse into my heart these days.

I rang in this year under the suffocating blanket of depression. It started last fall and worked its intermittent way up to the full-blown bewilderment of emotional crash. I couldn’t tell you what I thought or why I thought it. The thing about depression is it takes control of you; it thinks and speaks for you. And you’re left to act. But the sadness impairs your desire and strength, and action is nearly impossible. One night I finally broke down and called a Christian Science practitioner (one who heals using prayer), and we turned to God for healing.

The weight was blown away one morning in church. I walked in suffering. I walked out completely healed.

All of that prelude to this statement: My church is what heals me, but it’s also, these days, what breaks me. Our church, which is very small, is in the throes of what those in my faith call animal magnetism, the inability to see past the human to the spiritual. I won’t go into the ugly details or state my case, because frankly, I’m too worn down by the whole situation to choose words for it. I will, however, tell you that people are hating, people are choosing teams and taking sides, people are telling lies and holding them against others, people are letting go of Christ. And there exists the sad truth that every individual at our boardroom table (of which I’m chair) has seriously considered leaving the church. Some still are considering. Some want to close the church to end the pain. The ache of inharmony and hurt feelings is too much for most of us to bear. It makes me so sad. And lately, it’s making me angry. And honestly, I can’t tell you the last time I’ve felt anger.

One of the dictums I live by is “stay clear of haters and joy suckers.” But the question arises, what if those haters and joy suckers are found in your church, and your church needs you in order to move forward? And you need your church in order to move forward? What then?

The truth is, right now when I walk into my church for services, and to lead the board, and to be the Sunday School superintendent, and to be a good wife to my husband who also serves the church, when I walk in on Sunday morning, I don’t feel holy, I feel sad, scared, despised, shamed, exhausted, too tender. I have trouble holding my eyes up during the service. I feel that I’m walking around without any skin on, and any barb or blade will hurt that much more. I feel like my efforts to forgive those who hate me are spoons full of water on a raging fire. Not enough. Never enough.

I know these things are going on in so many churches. It’s why people are leaving in droves. It’s why attendance is down and why some people profess hatred and distrust for organized religion. It’s why I hesitate posting this at all. Will it become fodder for someone who needs church to deny church? A friend recently asked me, “How can you serve in a place that’s so painful to be in?” I said to her what I truly believe (though have trouble holding to): “I believe that God doesn’t put me anywhere where I can’t shine light.”

So, that’s my “currently”. That’s what’s consuming all of my emotional energy. I'm spending as much of my time as possible trying to keep my thought right, my motives pure, and my prayer hoard dry.

And someday, I’ll write a post from the other side.  


  1. It must have been a difficult decision to write and post this! I admire your bravery in doing so. I'm in a very different place than you are in terms of religion--but I can tell you that I believe that I share your experience with depression, and I believe that I share your feelings of isolation and anger and sorrow when facing the damage or loss of something that is so central to the core of who you are. I hope that you found some relief in working through some of your feelings while writing this. You are not alone!

    1. Thanks for your sweet reply. But I'm so sorry you can identify. I have a feeling there are a lot of women like us dealing with depression, and it's hard to talk about it. For me at least, it feels very shameful. I have a great life, what do I have to feel depressed about?

      I've really missed you these last several months. I hope everything is alright and that you're back to your blog for good!

  2. Bookmammal here again--I hope you're coming to realize that depression isn't something you decide on--it's a real illness that has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of your life, can strike at any time, and that there is absolutely nothing shameful about it--just as there's nothing shameful about someone who has bronchitis, or chicken pox, or any other ailment. I agree with you--there are so many women who deal with this illness, and so many women who feel it's something to hide. I hope you're able to find a remedy that is right for you, whether it's prayer, or meds, or talk therapy, or something else, or a combo pack of different things. It is possible to get better and to feel better! (But it's hard to keep that in mind when you're in the middle of it!)
    I've really missed blogging and am hoping to get back to posting at least 1-2 times a week--and to commenting regularly on my favorite blogs! Things have settled down a bit in my "real life" so I'm hopeful!

    1. Oh yes, I agree depression isn't a choice or anything to be ashamed of. I think part of what makes depression so successful is that it makes you think these things! I think the trick for me is to recognize the signs and get help sooner when it tries to settle in.

      Glad to have you back!

  3. Carrie - you write about your emotions and feelings in such a real, honest, moving way. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    “I believe that God doesn’t put me anywhere where I can’t shine light.” That touched my heart. You are doing so many good things, and you're right--I have faith and confidence and hope that there will be another side as well where you'll be able to look back on your experiences after you're through the fiery furnace.

    But in the meantime, I think sharing those honest thoughts are helpful to so many of us (and hopefully, helpful to you, too). Thanks again for this. I'll pray for you and those in your congregation.

    1. I'd forgotten until I wrote this just how cathartic writing can be. I felt so much better after pressing the "publish" button. I forget which author said, "I write to know how I feel," but I second that. I used to write and publish quite a bit, but since getting married, I've become very private about my life and feelings. Maybe it's time to come back to writing.

      Thank you for your comment and prayers. It's sometimes a rare thing to have people in one's life who will pray for them, and I treasure you for being one in mine. Thank you for that, Amy.