So small…

I went out to a Halloween party several weeks ago. I was dressed like Nicolas Cage from National Treasure, but that’s a story for another day.

At one point we landed at a bar that was packed with people. I was standing next to a bunch of friends at the bar, and behind me was a group of people sitting at tables. It was so tight that a waitress could barely squeeze through. Although I wasn’t the cause of her issue I caught myself saying to the waitress, “I’m so sorry.”

The week prior I had hung out with some of my girlfriends. One friend was telling us that her daughter mentioned that mommy says sorry too much. We made a vow at that hang out to catch ourselves when we were saying sorry for things we didn’t need to. Ever since that vow I have started noticing how small I made myself over the last few years.

We were part of a church where (for some reason) we never talked about anything related to politics. No, I’m not talking about who to vote for, or saying crazy things from the pulpit. I’m talking about blatantly obvious inequalities that people who care about loving others should give some thought to. If you never question your own privilege, and if you never learn to have empathy for others – can you ever really grow as a person? I don’t think you can.

Del was a pastor at a church for a little while. We had a congregant who posted something horrific on social media. It was both inaccurate and inappropriate. Del did what he thought was right and gently corrected the person. That person then proceeded to leave the church. I thought we were somehow keeping ourselves safe by making sure we never upset those around us. If I just stay quiet enough, if I hold in my own truth, I won’t bother others and then I can keep myself safe. It’s a tactic that probably worked for some point in my life.

I gave birth in 2020. Yes, it was a pandemic. Yes, it was a very difficult time for many people. But do you know how many people from our church staff checked on us? It was exactly zero. I had stayed so quiet to keep people around, and no one came anyways.

In 2021 I started getting our tax information together. The day I was doing our taxes I also drove into town and saw a line of homeless people waiting to get food. I pulled up online how much money we had donated to our church over the years. It was a lot. Then I asked myself a very important question. Stephanie, what are you doing to feed people in need? And I answered to myself, “nothing.”

For almost a decade I stayed complacent and gave money to support a building of people. I stayed quiet when I should have spoken up because I thought it would help me build relationships.

I was wrong.

I am working on no longer staying small when I can use my voice to speak up. Science matters. People of color matter. Women are important. We need to support the LGBTQIA+ community. And the model of churches in the United States is not serving people with the greatest need.

We stopped tithing that amount of money. Instead we started giving to others. Organizations that feed people. Missionaries that are doing great work. Places that support the arts. Friends and family in need. And good people we know who are building a new church.

Saying I’m sorry for things that don’t need an apology is a habit I’m trying to break. But I am sorry that I stayed small for so long. Sorry to people that needed a voice. I apologize for supporting organizations that were detrimental to many. I will do the work to be better. But mostly – I’m sorry to myself for not being the truest version of who I am. I am starting to voice my own needs and boundaries.

Staying small stops now.

On judging gay people…

I do not pretend to be a Theologian, although I’ve read the Bible a few times. There are people I know that are better versed on these issues. Yet it seems wrong to see groups of people being publicly condemned, and sit by idly without uttering a word.

Last week, I came upon a Facebook post that broke my heart.

A pastor I know posted on his church page about the evils of homosexuality. He then proceeded to condemn gay people to eternal hell fire.

There are so many things wrong with that post:
-It’s five years behind cultural discourse
-It pits people against each other
-It condemns an entire group of people
-It misses the opportunity to minister to people
-It’s a straight-up – douche bag thing to post

A close relative of mine left the church several years ago. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of this person and pray for him. I pray for two things: 1) I pray that Jesus finds a way to work in his life – but mostly 2) I pray that the people that caused so much pain to my relative see the pain they caused and apologize.

There are many reasons people leave the church – or never come at all. And it is naïve to think we can do anything and everything to ensure no one ever leaves. But we need to do more to invite people in, and let them know they are welcome.

If you have been hurt by the church, I am sorry for that. That sucks. If I have hurt you, I am sorry for that.

If someone has unfairly judged you, that was wrong. There are many Bible verses about not passing judgment upon others. (Matthew 7:1-5; John 8:1-8; Luke 6:31-36; Romans 2:1-3).

When you ascribe to Christianity, you must have standards and there are things that must be believed. We cannot disregard that if you know you are leading a life that is detrimental to God’s purpose for you, you must choose to walk away from that. I do not ascribe to know the plan God has for each person. However, it is of the utmost importance to show kindness to others. That includes people you like, dislike, agree with, or disagree with. I can’t believe I even have to write that here. I mean, have you read like – ANY of Romans?

And why is there such a huge focus on homosexuality above all else? There are so many other issues impacting us, why is this the great focus? Why not topics such as: divorce (hey, I’m divorced), affairs, poverty, abuse, lust, theft, drug abuse, laziness, body image issues (I struggle here), working too much (I struggle here too), selfishness (ok, real struggle here), lying, etc.

In case you’re a judgmental jerk, let me spell it out for you. Just because you read the Bible every day, and pray a lot – doesn’t mean you get a free pass on passing eternal judgment against an entire people group. The only person that gets pass eternal judgment died on the cross. No one made you king of anything. So kindly hold your tongue.

Moving forward, instead of using these words we have to divide, let us choose to use them to unite.

Christ died for all. All. Period. End of sentence. (2 Corinthians 5:15)

We may not all agree on how we choose to live out our faith. But in the end, Jesus is what matters most of all. Let us try to agree on Him.

No matter what you have done, God wants you. You are forgiven by God. You are a child of God. You are loved by God.

If you want a church to attend, I’d love for you to attend mine. Attending church can be terrifying, but our church also has a way where you can attend online. You – all of you – any of you – are welcome here.