This House Is Not A Home

Yesterday I wrote about church being a place where broken people can meet. I stand by this. But broken people don’t always get it right.

Here’s the experience of a friend of mine – and maybe yours as well:

I feel too awful to leave my house to get to Church. Church seems to be a place for those who have there masks on tightly, or well enough, to function at an acceptable Christian level. I can’t. My mask has well and truly fallen off. And I’m left with supposedly the ‘real me’. And guess what, I hate her. I hate her mess, I cry all the time, emotionally I am completely unstable, fragile. I can’t function properly, or do normal everyday tasks. I can’t look after my kids. Make a sandwich, cook a meal. Be the wife I want to be to my husband. I am broken, and hurting, isolated, clinically depressed, have an anxiety and a panic disorder. I am so lonely, but equally terrified of people. they can hurt me more (and have hurt me more) Sometimes I can’t put the light on, I keep my curtains drawn so I can’t see the world outside going on without me.

Most days I spend everyday in bed, which is where I feel safest. Imagine that walking into a Church? Church doesn’t feel a safe place, when you are a Christian, but ‘sinful, messed up and miserable’ it feels like a place you will be judged, a place where they worship – put you can’t lift your head to songs that make you feel worse – you’re not living a victorious life. The sermon urges you to put your faith into action, to love your neighbours, get involved in your communities. And your whole being cries out. I CAN’T. I ‘m dying right here in your Church. I’m broken, injured, damaged. I can’t even stand up. I can’t do the things you want me to do, I can’t be the person you want me to be. Church is not where I belong. Church is a place where all my failures and fragilities are highlighted more. The shiny masks look so beautiful. But they scare me. I’m bruised all over, my soul aches, I’m in so much pain, my face is a picture of torment, my body shakes. I’m really ill.

Some days I just want to die.

How would you react to a Christian walking into your Church looking like that? One prayer (could- but probably won’t) heal the damage that has been done to her. The state she is in.

I know Jesus is the answer, though He doesn’t feel that close at the moment either. I know my Bible. I believe and am trying to trust God more, believe him, thank him etc etc. I know that Jesus cames for the weak, the broken, the hurting, the wounded.

But Church. Church is different. How can the Church help me?

What would you say?


13 thoughts on “This House Is Not A Home

  1. This is just horrible. I know people in this situation and have no idea what to do :(

    God help us…..

  2. I love this entry. It is so gut-wrenchingly true for so many of us, and so often the only people the church really considers need help are those deemed ‘vulnerable’ by society e.g. the homeless, drug addicts, those with learning disabilities etc, or young people. If you don’t fall into either of this brackets then you are expected to be the ones doing the serving – even if, as you say, you are dying on your feet.

    I’ve been in that situation too and it’s so hard to keep going. For me the way in which church helped was how certain individuals would listen tirelessly, or take me out for coffee, or cook me a meal. At the time this never felt enough (when will I ever feel I have enough of anything?), but it did stop church feeling such an alien and hostile environment.

  3. I think it’s the one or two IN the church who help. Those you let in to see what you’re really like and they love you anyway. They pray for you every day and text you to tell you that they’re doing it, they send you food even though you’re perfectly capable of cooking, they send you funny emails with ‘this happened to me today’ that you just have to laugh at because for that one moment they were definitely worse off than you! I haven’t told my ‘church’ what I think I’ve got or how it affects me, but I have told a few people and they’ve been great. I am afraid of being judged, labelled, pitied, but these people I’ve told have been amazing. Accepting, helpful, normal towards me! They’re all of the church I need at the moment – they’re how church IS helping me.

  4. Emma and friend, I recently came across this quote “Jesus before Pilate” by René Daumal

    “Jesus before Pilate said nothing. And the governor marveled greatly… Everyone here is the prisoner of his office, of his facade, and everyone looks through his mask at the only one who has no mask, the only one who is in fact one, who looks into the center of his being and sees living truth”.

    It is all too often that in churches is were we that struggle with psychological issues feel the least welcome. Quotes of “just cast your cares on Jesus”, “just give all your troubles to Jesus” are a very hard thing to grasp when it is for my questions of believing God’s love for me that is at the root of some of my issues.

    As I continue to try to grasp that concept of returning home to God and believing in the LOVE of God I am trying to see that it is only Jesus that wears no mask and “sees living truth” in me!

  5. Ah, my heart goes out to your friend. How, indeed, can we help her? Some gentle suggestions, not intended to cause further bruising:

    By certain trusted individuals in the church just going and sitting with her on the darkest days, when she calls them for help, or when they can see the tell-tale signs of pain in her eyes. They needn’t say anything, just sit with her and pray constantly – just not out loud!

    By teaching about the Saviour who knows what it feels like to be overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, so your friend doesn’t feel like it’s sinful to suffer in this way.

    By talking publicly, from the front, about mental illnesses and the very real struggles people face. And not making it sound like it’s the sufferers’ fault.

    By allowing people to sit quietly and slip away quickly if they need to because it’s all getting too overwhelming.

    By phoning or texting to check how she is, when people notice she’s slipped away early.

    By acknowledging that sometimes just being in church and hanging on to God by their fingertips is showing more trust and faith than all those not struggling at that point who are doing the ‘successful’ stuff.

    By the rest of us being prepared to take our masks off too; we all wear ‘church faces’ to some degree – and we shouldn’t.

    By reminding her that God is there in the mess with her, loving her.

    By learning to lament publicly, as well as to rejoice.

    By committing to all of the above for the long haul. Because some wounds go deep and may only finally, fully, be healed when she is face to face with Jesus. But also by talking gently about the hope of that full healing, on the day your friend looks into the eyes of the Saviour who loves her, saved her, and still fights for her, and knows herself to be home at last. Full healing may come sooner than that for your friend – I pray it does – but it will come on that day.

    Aslan to Digory in ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ – “My son … I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another.” Yes, let’s.

  6. I can relate to all this. But I can also say that I came into my current church broken hearted and ill, and they allowed me to weep, and came alongside me – not to solve all my problems – who can? but to be there WITH me. And that meant a lot.

  7. When churches will turn back to the Bible ( I don’t think this will happen) and christianity will means more a heart issue and not a duty, at that point the broken will feel home and more willing to go in without a mask. But this moment I think churches (there are still some few exceptions) are a good money making business. If you are successful, well positioned in the world then people in church will be interested in you. If you can give something important you are welcome. If you are broken and life wasn’t too kind to you they will try to fix you. They might try for 2 weeks. If it doesn’t work that means your issues are deeper and it doesn’t worth helping you. When we look to the Bible we can see a Jesus who always approached the broken, outcast, unwanted. But He did this with His heart and not as a duty. There is a huge difference and every human being feels when he/she is really loved or became a ‘ fixing project’. Getting back to the simplicity of the Bible would heal many wounds. This is my opinion.

  8. So so know what you mean and I think it’s incredibly hard for people to remove their masks fully. The stigma of mental health needs to be really reduced still as it remains high even in churches I’d be tempted to say and I think the “just trust Jesus and know He loves you and understands” is a very typical reply. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a true statement but in the midst of depression, struggles for many reasons hearing that doesn’t just magically make u you feel better..often worse that you haven’t been talking to or trusting Him as much as would have been ideal…maybe that’s just me though. I’d definitely suggest taking the brave step of choosing 1 or 2 people in a church that you get on well with to trust with letting them know where you’re at…it’s amazing how much and timely an encouraging text can be, invite around for a cup if tea, a hug, prayer. Being open is sometimes so har…well most of the time but really valuable if you can do it even if through letter, email etc. Thinking of your friend and you Emma. Xx

  9. Emma: My church has never done Evensong until a few weeks ago. At that service a young Mexican girl–quite a beauty, could easily have been a movie star–sat in front of me. I tried to greet her but she kept turning away. So I said to myself, God take care of her.
    After the service, a middle-aged dumpy lady–right out of Dickens–came up to her and took care of her.
    So I know God does come to our house as He did with Zaccheus.
    Near here is a church just for misfits. It welcomes people of strange opinions, homeless, those with no beliefs, and those wounded beyond belief. It is for those who would never fit in any other church.
    God is doing things, we just don’t always know how much He does.

  10. Thanks for all your comments on this post. Here’s what my friend has written in response:

    “Some very interesting & some very loving comments -thank you.

    Depression, anxiety disorders, mental illness etc are very often long term illnesses. And whereas people may be pleased to help for a short time, when it starts going from weeks to months to years,fewer people remain. And the ‘Church’ at large feels like a place that sees you as fallen & forgotten.

    I last had communion bought to me 18 months ago. I am part of the body, put I feel like I’ve fallen off.

    It would be lovely (& is lovely) to get a card occasionally – to know you’re not forgotten, you’re loved & you are missed. It would be great to have a text from more than the faithful few – encouraging you, loving you.

    It would be lovely for my husband to have someone bring us a meal round, but that stopped years ago. my husband goes through this illness with me everyday. He is amazing. he never complains, is understanding & encouraging. But he is also exhausted. He works full time, does everything round the house – washing, shopping, cooking, sorts the kids out, homework, getting them to bed etc. As well as supports & loves me. But the longer it goes on the more stress it puts him under too. Practical help would be wonderful for him. Be great too, if some people took our children out & gave them a treat & my husband a rest. Having a Mum/parent who is ill is horrible, & so tiring on the other parent.

    If you don’t know what to do to help then ask. And keep asking. Offer to help in whatever way you can.

    And lastly. Don’t let them think you have forgotten them, written them off, think their a lost cause, being punished, are waiting until they get better, bad, don’t want to get better, unlovable as you are, uncared for, unreachable, struck off, worthless, unchristian, don’t have enough faith, selfish, lazy, not helping yourself, unforgivable, not wanted, rejected or abandoned. No use, now you can’t do the things you used to do. Disposable.

    Because when the meals, visits, texts, cards, stop. When the phone never rings. When the meals stop coming. When the silence is unbearably loud, that’s what they will feel.

    The guilt & the toxic shame they struggle with everyday is hard enough. They beat themselves everyday that they can’t be better. It sinks them deeper into the depression. Because they think you can’t love them this way, as you are now – not as you were then. So they hide. Because those are the voices that shout loudest in the silence.

    Who is it you know that has a long term illness? Who is it that you could ask how you could help? Who is it that you could text, call, visit, make a meal for, send someone flowers, pop a surprise gift in to, take their kids out, send a card?

    You have the power to be Jesus to them. They’re part of your Church. ‘Love one another’. Don’t let them feel those awful feelings that I just described. Do something that will show them you remember them, you love them – even as they are now.

    Make a difference in the everyday misery of long term illness. You can do it. It’s often the simplest things that make the most difference. Let Jesus be your guide & you be his hands. And thank you to the few who are Jesus to me” x

  11. I’m someone who struggles. Sometimes I can help other people. But to my shame, sometimes I don’t. I’ve said stupid things to those in pain, let others down, not loved and not engaged. This reminds me of those times – and a heart that needs forgiveness and grace.

    But I’m grateful to the God of second chances. I’m grateful for people who bear with my mistakes. And I’m grateful for a church family who (like me) sometimes get it wrong – but have also saved my life.

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