My Heart Is Heavy

It all hit in a surreal effect just now.

I am alone.

All my life I did what I was told, I watched and learned what I should do based on what people around me said to do, and even so based on the consequences others reaped after doing bad things and having to pay the cost.

As a little girl I saw my parents, namely my dad, point out the bad things in myself and my siblings. I behaved primarily as to escape punishment, but also I tried to do what was right for the sake of doing what was right and good, because, well that was what one should strive to do. It was black and white back then, “you reap what you sow.” Thus sow good things and you will reap good things. I wasn’t so much into reaping the good, as to not gaining the bad. I don’t prescribe to like pain in any way shape or form. I don’t like to get hurt, to hurt others, to see others get hurt emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually. I’m just wired to see the benefits of doing good and gaining good. it just makes sense to me.

Growing up in the church I know has had a huge impression on me and that worldview/behavior.

I was promised that community and love was found in the church, that only true fulfillment was God-centered and everything that was “God-centered” was only found in the church. I was promised that Friends, the best of which one can have, will be found in the church, a sense of belonging will be found in the church, a safe community would be found in the church, happiness is in the church, peace and joy and love, all in the church. In order to gain those things, all of which a soul needs (love, companionship, acceptance, friendship, belonging (by no means a complete list)) will be found in the church and how one becomes “in the church” was by service performed in the church.

And so i served.

I served in children’s ministry, I served in “corporate worship” I served in youth ministry, I served in college ministry, I served in women’s ministry, in the elderly ministry and dare I say, even in the men’s ministry. I served in the missions ministries, I served in food banks and homeless shelters, at high school and in college. I served so much I was offered several jobs “in the church” I even got a job helping in a Pastor’s house because I was so involved with the church.

I don’t regret any of the service. I just wish I hadn’t had the expectation of gaining anything from it.

Again, my heart wasn’t in it to gain per se, I just always had the worldview that this was the process, you served and then God will bless you for that service with what you need. I would serve even if I didn’t need anything at the moment. I loved serving. I loved giving. I still do, just not “in the church” like I used to.

Low and behold, I reflect on my times growing up “in the church” and I see what was “reaped” in a measurable aspect. Friends, I don’t know where they are. Community, I never felt as part of community, but more just a servant to the community. When I voiced my needs, they were quickly hushed and swept under the rug “that’s not how church is ran” “that’s not how we do church” “what you’re looking for isn’t in the model of church that we are forming” “you know, God doesn’t explain the structure of the church in detail in the Bible, so we’re doing the best that we know how.” Never once did they truly consider that maybe, as a servant to the church, I might have some more valuable input on what is lacking, and more so what is needed to reach my demographic. I was told to go to the women’s ministry which to this day is segregated by “forever tables” I was told to serve in other capacities, I was told to join a “community group” which, if you weren’t already part of a clique, then you were shuffled off to an “open” community group where a bunch of odd balls were trying to fit into the mold that the church was forming… but let’s face it… that didn’t work either.

At 22, I was burnt out. I gave and gave, I served, I loved God’s people, and then there wasn’t much love left for me. I reached out and was denied or redirected. And I was just over it.

By 23, I was all but gone out the door, barely hanging on to the places of service that I was committed to, just waiting to shake off the last bit of my ties, and then something happened. I suddenly found myself “in the world” and in this worldly setting, I met friends who actually cared about me, not for what I could do for them, but just cared about me because we were together. I met women who were strong and independent and voiced what they needed and got what they needed. I had friends who called in just to check in and see what I was doing. I found a place to fit in. It was easy, not forced. And the best part was I didn’t have to do anything, I didn’t have to serve. It wasn’t so much as I was greeted with opened arms, I was never outrightly rejected by the church, I just never fit. And here with these girls, I just fit. Then, even curiousor, I met a man. This guy saw me, and when I came around he gave me attention. Not like all the other guys I had been warned about, he was sweet and respectful. But I was scared. He wasn’t “in the church” he was “of the world”, but all the other guys who were “in” they never saw me nor did they treat me with any respect. This guy, he saw me, he respected me, and he opened my eyes to a whole new world. A world of freedom and expression, where i could be me without having to give and sow and serve. I didn’t have to do anything but just be.

Then I was gone.

Everything I knew and expected had left me empty. I was doing all the “good” that I was raised to do, but the friends were fake and false, one dated my crush behind my back and blatantly lied to my face when I asked about it, and only when they broke up did she and him, separately, come to me for condolence. One friend yelled at me through the phone “if you’re really my friend, if you really love me you’ll do this for me” in regards to lying to her parents and helping her cover her tracks of deceit and sinfulness. The guys who claimed to be “in the church” showered with me flattery, some sang me songs and whispered sweet things and then said “if you love God, you’ll go on a date with me” “if you love God, you’ll stay with me” “if you love God, you’ll make out with me” “I told you that you were beautiful, why won’t you just come over, a little kissing won’t hurt, if we make out it won’t be bad”. My mind was overwhelmed. Here are these “church guys” acting the part but in secret doing terrible things to me, and there was this guy “of the world” who did nothing but respect me and esteem me.

I chose him.

I left them.

I cut them off. I was done. I was tired. I was broken down and sad. I loved them. They were all I knew. But I saw then that I wasn’t ever one of them, I was just there, serving.

I grew with my worldly friends, I fell in love with my worldly man. I married that man, and I remain good friends with those girls. I admire that one woman.

I heart hurts and is heavy when I think of my past in the church. I’m sad. I felt used. I wanted to be used, but I expected to be replenished. I sowed and sowed, I served and served. And then I found a better place.

I still have guilt and remorse for times past.

I still feel like maybe I should have tried harder, that maybe I didn’t do something good enough. That maybe the fault was in me.

Then I recall to look ahead, to move forward, to live in my world, not in theirs.

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About janelleelizabeth

I'm a graphic designer. Just trying to get a hold of the blogging world and setting up templates for clients.

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