Ok y’all it is story time, and be ready because this may get uncomfortable. This is the story of why I left the church, and why I came back. I believe in being authentic and true to my convictions as a millennial Christian. I know that not everyone will agree with my views and that is ok, but this is myself and my husbands experience as Millennial Christians leaving the church and making the choice to return and how that came about. What influenced us into returning and continuing to attend church? All the nitty gritty will be below, in its uncomfortable truth.
I grew up with an abusive adoptive father, physically and emotionally. Most of the staff at the Assemblies of God church I grew up in knew. We were at that church nearly daily for a decade. Not once did they ever take steps to protect me and my siblings as children. They turned a blind eye, and continued living their lives preaching the gospel while letting our family suffer. I will never forget calling the children’s pastor begging for help, and him turning around and calling my father. I will never forget the physical beating I suffered for daring to speak out about our suffering to anyone. It was around then that I really started to question the motives of most churches.
Despite that, I loved Jesus though, and kept attending church. I knew that I needed God to get me through my life, and I would just have to figure out how to be ok with fake people at church because let’s be real, fake people are everywhere.
However, it wasn’t until I was married with kids that I experienced the most hurtful betrayals of my life through the church. It suddenly made sense why so many in my generation have left the church.
Three years ago, me and my husband were attending a nondenominational church in a little town in south Florida. We thought we had found our little community despite the chaos in our lives. I had taken up a role at our local MOPs group, and loved every moment of it. Between the church services and weekly MOPs meetings, the moms night out, and cookouts we felt accepted and loved for who we were. We were convinced we had found our tribe, our community, our family.
However, with the stress of everything we were going through, my postpartum depression became harder and harder to cope with. Our lives felt like they were spinning out of control, and we started to struggle pretty badly. Our youngest son was 2 had many health challenges and developmental delays, and our older son was struggling with sensory processing disorder. It got so hard and we weren’t able to take our children to events as much, as it overwhelmed them both and caused meltdowns to occur.
Me and the hubs started to struggle deeply as we felt more and more isolated. Date nights never happened, and our marriage started to crumble. Instead of having the community surrounding us, we could feel our friends pulling further and further away. My postpartum depression became so intense that I started to become suicidal. I felt so alone, and worthless, I just knew my kids would be better off without me.
I couldn’t handle the exhausting days with the demands of occupational therapy, speech therapy, developmental therapy, specialists appointments, all while listening to my youngest scream 12-15 hours a day. I was doing this alone, and it was too much. It felt like he hated his life, and there was nothing I could do to help him. I was falling deeper and deeper into a depression that I couldn’t seem to climb out of. I remember calling who was supposed to be one of my best friends during my darkest hour, and her telling me that I just needed to admit myself to the hospital.
Instead of being told to go to the hospital all I really needed was a friend to sit with me and pray with me. Eventually she stopped inviting me to anything, and told me that I was “too much, I don’t want you in our lives anymore.” I have never felt more hurt by someone outside of my family in my entire life. Every insecurity and doubt I had in who I was, came flooding in and I realized I would never be good enough for anyone at church. Because she was the leader of MOPs and we were the core part of our little friends group, they sided with her and left us in our darkest time of need.
When we needed to feel God’s love the most, the core community of our church literally turned their back on us.
All because of my depression and anxiety. It was me, it was because I was broken that we weren’t worthy of their love and their friendship.
Because I wasn’t perfect, and because I struggled with my boys they looked down on us.
It was right around the time when Trump was voted into office, and as someone who has strong convictions about politics I struggled reconciling the church endorsing a man who reminded me so much of my abusive narcissistic adoptive father.
We both felt angrier than ever not only at who was supposed to be our friends, but the church as a whole. Our convictions of loving others through all the hard stuff in life pushed us onto a path of leaving the church for 2+ years. I had a really hard time accepting the fact that seemingly we and the church did not carry the same values, and the hypocrisy felt like it wafted through the church as a whole.
“Love your neighbor” the church preaches, yet we saw first hand that isn’t something most churches actually follow through with. Most people just want to live in the fluff of happy unicorns with their heads in the sand. If it doesn’t directly effect them, then it doesn’t matter to them. When you are asked how are you, all people want to hear is “good and you?” Me and my husband craved authenticity through the church. It felt too hard and too vulnerable to try and find a new church, especially with our youngest and how much he struggled out in public.
We ultimately made the decision to move back to the bible belt, where I grew up. The decision was made out of desperation to save our little family. Our marriage was in shambles, our children had no friends. Heck we had no friends. We were lonely and isolated. We came back to my home town in central Arkansas and because this was home and because it felt familiar, we started attending a church. Not the church I grew up in, but a different church in the area. We chose this church mostly because they had a special needs classroom for our youngest to go to.
I was a nervous wreck to let him go in there. I had no idea how he would do, or how they would do with him. Within a couple of weeks he started to ask for church, and we made it a point to go weekly. It was really hard for me at first, I felt completely betrayed by the church, and God. I felt alone, and I was struggling emotionally. It was hard for me as I couldn’t even stand worship, even though worship has always been one of my favorite things about church. I love getting lost in the music and feeling the presence of God. At this point, it had been a long time since I had been able to listen to a worship song. We kept going though, even though I still struggled deeply being there. Our kids started to thrive on the consistency, and got so excited about attending church. It felt easier to go.
Easter Sunday was the turning point for me, when our church created an area just for the special needs classroom kiddos. Our son started to feel incredibly overwhelmed with the mass crowds at this popular egg hunt. I walked him around the church to the quieter area that was set up and I watched his body physically relax. He started to smile more, and that month for the first time in his nearly 4 years of life he let me hug him without tensing up. There is no pain greater than feeling like your child, your baby hates you and his little life.
The love and passion this church has for families is something I have never witnessed before in the church, despite the fact that I have been in church for 29 out of 31 of those years. They are authentic and love you despite your struggles. They strive to be a source of relief for families who are in the trenches.
Slowly over the last 8 months I have become softer and softer towards the church we attend now. I do still feel like the church as whole needs to change if they will ever want to make a difference in the lives of today’s adults, and today’s children. There needs to be grace, truth, and authenticity and a heck a lot more of it.
Y’all Jesus doesn’t care if I drink wine, or if I curse when I get frustrated. He doesn’t care about what clothes I wear, or if I enjoy being home with my kids 100% of the time. You know what He cares about? How I treat others, about how I love others. He cares about my compassion and empathy.
So many Christians act as if they are so much better than those around them, but the fact of the matter is we are all sinners. We all struggle with something. Just be honest about what you go through, own your struggles! There is a difference between being a private person, and being a fake person. You have no idea the power of saying to someone who is struggling, that you too have been there and they aren’t alone.
Our society is so isolating, women reference finding their tribe. Its the coined phrase of the millennial woman. We joke about sister wives, and leaving society with a bunch of friends and starting communes. It is because so many of our generation feel isolated to the point of killing ourselves. Depression and anxiety is rampant through our generation, and its effecting our kids more now than ever. This is not what God intended for us as people, or us as the church. We weren’t meant to live this way.
Until the church starts to truly love others, being kind, being accepting, serving those who are struggling. I don’t believe that they will reach others for Christ, which is exactly what we are called to do. Reach out and be the extensions of Christ on earth. Be His love. Be His acceptance.
59% of Millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
There needs to be a radical change.
I haven’t spoken to others about Christ publicly in years. Creating a blog post about this has felt daunting and beyond something that I felt like I could speak on, afterall I am not a pastor and I have struggled in the last few years. I still have walls up, but what I do know is that I can feel the authentic friendships building. I don’t feel the judgement, I feel loved and accepted for who I am.
Despite my depression and anxiety.
Including our special needs children.
A crumbling marriage and all.
I feel people surrounding our family and loving us despite how uncomfortable it can be.
We have felt Christ’s love through this church, and it is healing our family one day at a time.