I sat in the one place I felt truth was of utmost importance, listening to yet another man of God tell me to hide my sin. It was all I could do to bite my tongue, pressing my lips together holding my voice inside, tight within my throat. A hollow ringing began in my ears, this seemed to happen when my mind battled to believe what it was hearing was in fact real and not a dream. Maybe this is what anxiety felt like. I had yet to experience a panic attack. Those were yet to come.
“Let me get this straight Pastor Wayne, If Tom sits on one side of the church and I sit all the way across on the other side of the church so people think we are not together, then we can keep attending your church? But, if we are open and honest before God and Man, sit next to each other as the couple we are, then we are not welcome in your church?” I turned to look the Pastor in the eye.
“Well, I mean, we can’t condone a married man coming to church with his girlfriend? So you can either sit apart until he is divorced or go find another church to attend.”
I don’t think he understood what he was in fact saying. Just that morning in worship we had all sung this song together, Come Just as You Are. Having grown up in church I had heard the verses, ‘Cast all your care upon Him, for he careth for you.’ And, ‘There is non righteous, no not one.’ I knew no matter what I said or did, I couldn’t hide it. God already knew. Pretending was only fooling man, not God.
Psalm 139:3-7 “You know where I go and where I lie down. You know everything I do. Lord, even before I say a word, you already know it.”
“I made a promise to God after I left my husband. One promise, to live my life honestly. No more lying. No more pretending I am something I am not. No more walking into the house of God in my Sunday best, painted on smile, prim and proper, eyes looking down upon others as though I had it all together when they did not. If I was going to walk into His house, it was going to be on one condition, I come as I am. My sins, my brokenness, my past, my present, my sadness, my flaws, my pain, my fear, all together, me.” He sat looking at me without comment.
I was done lying. I was done pretending. I was done being who I was not. I had spent over a decade living a facade of the perfect Christian life, all the while my marriage was anything but perfect. Lying, fighting, over our heads in debt, pornography, cheating people we owed money to, our employers, sin so great I was in depth of dispair and wanted nothing more than to die. I nearly got my wish. But God had spared my life. Sin and all.
And so, here I was, in His house facing the one thing I had promised to leave behind. Lying. To God and to man. The thing is, you can’t lie to God. He knows your heart, your thoughts, your actions and your deeds. You can hide, but even Adam and Eve, will tell you, He will find you, every time. What’s the point? If I lie to man, He still knows. And so, I had determined I would not lie. I would come to his house, in my sin and listen. Listen to His word. Listen to His spirit. Listen to my heart breaking, melting and re-shaping. In His time, in His way.
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that. I won’t lie. Not to you, and not for you.” I sat next to this Pastor, my hands gently folded in my lap, my eyes cast down at the carpet before me. My feet resting on the carpet. It led to the altar, where people could come and confess their sins to God. It also led up the aisle and out the door. Away from the House of God.
“I’ll have to ask you to leave then.” His face lacked emotion, he looked tired. I wondered the number of times he had asked people to lie or leave. To give up there stronghold or get out. To confess or walk away.
“You know, I can’t help but think, if you were to stand up there next Sunday, behind that pulpit and ask for every person here who has had pre marital sex, who has lived in sin not having been married to the person they were sleeping with at night, who had cheated or were cheating at that moment, any person who had feasted their eyes upon pornography and had yet to confess it, to stand up and leave. I wonder how many would remain?” Silence.
And these were just the sins based on sex, what about all the other sins? The ones nobody knows about, but so many are living in? It’s easy to live in sin and hide it. It’s much harder to come before God, honest, broken, sin and all, and not be changed.
I walked away from the church that day.
I had long talks with God while out for a walk or in the silence of my home over the years. Seven years to be exact. It took nearly six years for me to step through doors to a church again. My belief in my creator never changed. It may have waivered as I asked questions of God and myself. As answers trickled in, I found it wasn’t my faith in God that I was questioning. It was my faith and trust in man. In Christians.
I stuck to my commitment. I would live my life out in truth. Not perfectly, not without sin, not without mistakes, but in them. Messing up, trying again. Accepting responsibility and apologizing for my screw ups, time and again. Realizing some mistakes hold a longer reaping than others. Still walking in my truth, the good and the bad. Still believing in and talking to God. He listens.