church

They’ve Thrown Us Out of the Church Like Lepers

church

There are really no words to adequately express what I feel when I read Lydia Childress. Pretty much All The Feels. She’s only a senior in high school and there is so much power and beauty in how she writes. Her voice is like a shot of pure light to the soul. A light that has seen so much darkness and yet refuses to give up hope. Lydia blogs at a study of the soul where she fearlessly tackles those topics which we often shy away from: mental illness, self-injury, and suicide. I am so glad I have met Lydia, and am honored to share her thoughts with you here. ~ Ryan

 *****

it’s not that i don’t believe god is able to heal me, it’s that the church has taught me to think that he’s not willing to.

that there is no god who kisses scarred arms and sits beside hospital beds to whisper comforting words and teach me to hope again. but on sunday mornings at church god sits beside me in the pew and passes me notes and i realize that the hearts of the people there are all empty and they want nothing to do with him.

the hard-hearted body of christ told me that there’s no god who would really fight against the demons in my head for me, a god who would really understand why i would want to bleed my veins dry, a god who could sympathize with my suicidal desires when he’s so full of life. they say nothing’s impossible for god but then there’s always a catch so i wish they’d stop throwing around religious bullshit and accepting without questioning it.

the brutal bride said, that jesus never meant what he said when he said he loved the world since he left me broken and bleeding and it wasn’t him who wiped away my tears those nights i spent alone. they said, that he wasn’t the one who kept me from killing myself, who held my hand as i threw my blades away, who stayed up to talk to me so i could make sense of all the chaos in my mind. they said, that he wasn’t there to protect me from those who abused me so badly that i was willing to end my life just to escape the pain. they said, it wasn’t him who helped me deal with my hurt and this broken hearted soul.

they said, that the son of god may have died upon a cross but he sure as hell didn’t keep me from wanting to die.

they said, that he may have bled out water and blood but he didn’t keep me from splitting my wrists open to spill my own life. they said, that he may have given joy and hope to his children but maybe he forgot about this little girl hiding in the corner, consumed by depression and shame, who never got a precious gift of his.

and all while they tell me these things the paint falls from their faces and i’m staring into serpent eyes and listening to the forked tongues spill out lies that pervaded my reality and taught me to hate myself. almost as if the church has become the very thing it sought to destroy.

i guess most christians would stare shocked and horrified that i would speak these things but i don’t give a fuck what they think because they can criticize all they want but what i really needed was for them to care.

i’m so fucking sick of half-hearted christianity and its depiction of an apathetic jesus christ. i’m sick of hearing that “god’s a personal god who cares about me” when i’m sure as hell that the depraved people letting that shit slide off their tongues don’t even believe it.

i don’t care if my thoughts are repulsive to the church because this is something that the “people of god” have never bothered to address.

the pastors and teachers and the oh so holy congregation have never stopped to consider how the broken souls really feel and how much help we need to be healed. there are no open arms to the drug addicts and the pregnant teenage girls and the suicidal minds. instead it’s shoved under the pretty polished pews and a murmur runs through the crowd because they’re afraid their secrets will get out. they’re so afraid to confront something that’s unknown but isn’t god supposed to help them face fear and to love.

it’s as if they’ve written us off as no longer people to help because they can take care of orphans and widows but lord ! don’t send me to help the potheads ! holy father, not the schizophrenics ! oh please sweet jesus just not the cutters !

they’ve thrown us out of the church like lepers left to sit on the street corner and beg for help and healing, left to slowly sink into unbelief as we see the chosen people of god want nothing to do with the sick and needy whom jesus came to save. and so we begin to doubt that their god wants anything to do with us either because isn’t the church the hands and feet of christ.

i may be sick in the mind but at least i’m not sick in the heart, claiming to serve a god who loves the world but simultaneously selecting the best and brightest of the world to love and leaving the rest to suffer and die. they shout at us to read the fine print of john 3:16 but what god would damn a heart to live that kind of life and is it really fair to blame me for the church’s complacency.

god, your precious people are turning more away from you than they are turning people to you.

they think you’ll do nothing about it. they think, that you’re too busy teaching the angels to sing or chatting with saint paul to really pay attention to how much of a mess they’ve made. they sit around and smoke cigars and spout expressions that god is loving and good but they say that some people just deserve to live in pain. they say there’s freedom in christ but they’re afraid to admit to suffering, as if the existence of pain is not to be kept on the tip of the tongue but swallowed whole. they play a game of pin the tail on the the deity and they say that god’s in control but they act as if god has set the world spinning then left to go work on an art project in another galaxy, because their idea of god is a delusion.

they say love can’t exist apart from loving god but i believe there is love and beauty in living free from the struggle to please the community they call church and being shackled into submission by the words that are spoken in condemnation from the pulpit as if print on a page should damn us to silence.

they roll their eyes and give me harsh glares and beg me to be silent and they say i’m just not trusting god enough and it’s my heart that’s in the wrong place.

but they don’t understand just how long i’ve waited and how many chances i’ve given them to repent, how many times i’ve called out for help and laid prostrate before the alter when i was in utter agony and yet all faith faded. they said that their unwillingness to help was just “god testing me” but in reality it was they who had given up on me and made me believe that god was tired of my misery and groaning, failing to strike at my heart to heal it.

they said, that god was a father who could never be pleased and that all my prayers were like unreturned messages on his answering machine. those lessons are all that i remember from the church because they were beat into me and left me black and blue with abuse.

so forgive me if i don’t listen because it seems to me that we’re speaking of two different gods.

the god i know is not a genie in a bottle granting unlimited wishes and he’s not a reproachful father standing over us watching for mistakes. the god i know is real and he bled and he loved and he died in pain. but christians make it so hard to believe that he really wants to hold my heart and heal my mind because that almost seems close to lunacy if i’m looking through their cracked rose-colored lenses.

i know that i can find healing and help because i know that this hope exists  — but the church was never the one who wrote love on my wrists.

they were too holy to touch the blood and the blade that consumed me.

they were too busy praying to stop me from contemplating death. they were too busy discussing the scars left on god’s nail-pierced hands that they didn’t even try to stop me from leaving scars on my own arms. and no matter how much god suffered for me as he hung from that tree the church always had an excuse that left me in grief and shame.

they were so eager to partake of the bread and wine once a month to remember the death of god but they were never willing to keep me from partaking of those pills that would help me forget all they didn’t do to help me.

they said, that god himself is trapped behind the stigma that i’m fighting so hard to destroy.

they said, that god himself is afraid to touch brokenness because it’s so shameful even though it shouldn’t be.

they said, that god is able to sympathize with weakness but that i’m on my own because jesus never ODed on pills or cut his wrists or hated himself.

they said, god didn’t have depression and he wasn’t suicidal and he wasn’t a victim of child abuse.

they said, jesus wept for the world but he didn’t weep for me.

let the church tell me why my friend’s father killed himself and no one did anything to keep him from it. let the church tell me why a pastor i knew slit his wrists and bled to death in a hotel bathroom. let the church tell me why they allowed the devil to sit with a girl and whisper lies into her ear until her mind was so full that she thought death was really the answer. let the church tell me if they’re really willing to look a crying mother in the eye and say that her child is going to hell for committing suicide, if it was them that left the child to die. let the church tell me how they could allow one of god’s precious children to feel so hopeless that he sought death out to feel alive again.

and i wonder what his thoughts were in his last moments and if god appeared to him before he killed himself just to tell him the truth and to apologize for the falsifiers who live under the label of christianity. if god took him in his sweet embrace and knew that there was nothing the church could say to make that beautiful boy feel better again because the church had taught him the concept of divine abandonment and tried to make him believe that it was true — and as they did, god watched them and cried.

i guess all i ever asked for from the church was a place where i could feel safe even with all my problems and where i could fall apart and know that there would be someone to hold me together.

i just wanted hope.

i just needed someone to believe in me. but the love of god is something that feels so foreign to me because i guess i’ve never had any experience with knowing love that didn’t have strings attached.

i want to know that it’s okay for me to be broken and that i can still be loved because i’m human enough to hurt. so maybe god will pass this message along to his people that i am not to blame for my mental illness. i’m not sick because i sinned. i’m sick because the church abandoned me. because the church remained a sanctuary that became more like a morgue than a hospital.

the bride of christ has forgotten her lines in the play.

so let’s leave out that part and stop believing that love isn’t worth the risk. they made me believe that i’m someone meant to be hurt and hated all life long.

they said, that god deals out kisses to some and curses to others and that i was too bruised to be loved. i wonder if i would have turned out differently if i hadn’t been beaten by the church’s rod of dogmatic doctrine. and i wonder if they could ever be sorry for this because it seems so hopeless for them to try and change.

they live their lives so separately as if no one else mattered at all and as if they didn’t make the world grow heavier under the weight of their arrogant facade. so i can’t help but hate when i remember how much they’ve hurt me and how they sought to justify it and abuse for the sake of purification. they laugh as if they had the right to watercolor my skin with messages of power and pain because they’re dying to keep me in fear and trembling.

and i wonder if love will ever find a way to me again because i think i keep pushing it away since all i’ve ever known is loneliness. i’m sick of people who play around with words of love and forgiveness while they’re in that hallowed holy hall but then walk out those doors and spit in my face just because i’ve made mistakes different than theirs. i know that they’re hiding some skeletons in their closets too so maybe they should take the time to do some spring cleaning and think twice before judging me. i can’t ever be perfect but then again there’s no one who can be although there are some that think they’re pretty close. the irony is that those who think they’re the closest are probably the farthest away.

i don’t know how holiness works.

but i know that jesus wouldn’t let me die crying with an empty bottle of pills next to me on a tiled bathroom floor.

if you opened up my mind and looked inside all the crevices where i’ve hidden away shadows of memories i’d rather forget but could never quite eradicate, you’d find some shards of stained glass sunlight.

so i wonder if this is mercy.

and if i keep climbing will i reach heaven or will it just begin to seem a little less like hell down here. i can’t wipe my past clean of the blood stains i left when it made me feel so alive to see crimson teardrops match the rhythm of my heavy breathing.

i have so many questions that i’d like to ask god but i don’t know if he’d answer.

i wonder if it would be wrong to scream them to his face and if he’d try to comfort this angry child.

i want to know what he was thinking when his hands formed my mind as i grew in my mother’s womb, why he made me suicidal, why oh why did he make me suicidal.

and sometimes i wonder if the church really hears the cries of pain just outside its walls or if they have their contemporary worship music turned up too loud to hear my lungs bleeding now that i have trouble breathing.

dear god, i want to know if you’ll ever forgive me for this kind of hate, for this kind of anger at you who formed me forever ago.

i want to know if you still love me when you look at the scars i’ve left upon the innocent arms you used to hold and i wonder if you cry when you see how i’ve torn the body and mind of your beautiful child apart. i want to know if you still want me to come home or if you’ve decided that i’m just too far gone and so far lost that i’m a hopeless cause now. i want to know if you’d damn my soul to hell after all that i’ve been through.

i want to know if you ever tried to talk the devil out of hurting me whenever he picked up the razor each night to cut my wrists. i’ve heard that you heal the broken so i want to know when you’re putting my pieces back together. i want to know if you were listening that night when i cried as i talked on the phone because i was so intent to say goodbye to the world that i swallowed all of those pills while trying to find a reason to live on.

i want to know if you’ll help me stay alive and if you’ll hold me in your holy arms and tell me that you love me and show me your scars too so i don’t feel so ugly.

i want to know if i’ll have to live under the shame of hiding under sweater sleeves and pretending not to feel the scorching heat of pain and imprisonment.

i want to know if you smile when you see me happy again and if a tear runs down your face when you realize that your people are the reason i’ve never quite healed, that chemistry and not christianity has been my cure.

i know life is so much more than the church has made it out to be.

because the essence of being alive is not self destruction, but to love and to be loved.

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9 thoughts on “They’ve Thrown Us Out of the Church Like Lepers”

  1. “i guess most christians would stare shocked and horrified that i would speak these things but i don’t give a fuck what they think because they can criticize all they want but what i really needed was for them to care.”

    OMG. THIS! Brave, brave words of truth. I wish at your age I had been able to articulate this as well as you have. I’m 51 and just in the last few years have been able to shake the fear of questioning the ‘church’ and ask these same questions. I know that He is not afraid or offended by our anger and our questions. Keep asking them.

    And oh, that we as Christians would really care…

    Carol

    1. thank you. growing up in a christian family, it was always treated as almost blasphemous-like to criticize the church. it’s taken me a while to realize that christianity and christ are two distinct things. i promise, i will keep asking the hard questions. thank you for your support.

      Lydia

  2. “claiming to serve a god who loves the world but simultaneously selecting the best and brightest of the world to love and leaving the rest to suffer and die. ”

    YES THIS.

    As to why God doesn’t wave a magic wand, our scars are so deep, and we wouldn’t heal properly unless our scars are healed one by one. The church doesn’t want to admit that they are screwed up too. So everyone hides and bleeds alone. Screw it.

    1. i loved that word picture of scars … “so everyone hides and bleeds alone”. it deeply saddens me but also makes me angry that the church has come to this. that people who claim to love god simultaneously fail to love others; not just that they fail, but that they refuse to try. i can’t stand it. the truth is, everyone’s screwed up and no one has the right to judge someone else just because the mistakes they make are different than ours. thank you for the encouragement. : )

      Lydia

  3. Dear Lydia,
    Thank you for sharing your story. My heart breaks to hear how the churches you’ve gone to/Christians you’ve encountered have ignored & compounded your suffering. When I hear about Christian communities that turn a blind eye to the hurting of those in their midst—or worse, blame and condemn those who are suffering—I can’t help but wonder if this is who Jesus was talking about when he warned that to some he will say, “I never knew you.”
    When I was a teenager, I struggled with depression, and you know what? It wasn’t because I needed to “get right with God”–it was because my body could no longer figure out what it was supposed to do with serotonin. Today I don’t feel depressed because I take medicine every day. Don’t let anyone convince you that if you seek medical treatment, that you’re “not trusting God.” I thank God for blessing me with modern medicine and the ability to afford it! That is what God’s healing my sickness looks like in my life.
    Lydia, I don’t know the answers. I don’t know why depression happens to you or to anyone. I do know that God loves you—so much that it’s hard to articulate with mere human words. I believe that he is there with you, even if people who toss about his name have left you with the impression that he doesn’t care about you or that he can’t be bothered. You are not too broken for him. Jesus said that he came for the sick. I’m praying for you, dear sister, for peace & healing & for you to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are beloved. I don’t know what being held in the holy arms of our Savior will feel like or look like in your life. But I want to be the hands and feet (and loving arms) of Jesus. So if there is anything that I can do for you, please let me know. My e-mail address is messyandbeautifulthings (at) gmail (dot) com. (This comment was actually a lot longer, but I cut it down because it was getting to be a veritable letter. I would like to send that letter to you, if you want.)
    Peace to you,
    Olivia

    1. thank you for your kind words, Olivia. i agree with you, that mental illness is not an issue of spiritual sickness. i don’t have depression because i’m a “bad christian”. i want to believe that god wants to heal me, but my mind is a battle of questions and chaos. i really do want to believe that he loves me. thank you for reminding me of that. : ) and i would love to read the whole letter. my email address is childress.lydia@gmail.com, if you’ll send it to me.

      Lydia

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