Forgiveness and Love

We’re used to hearing of churches under attack in foreign countries, but I expect that we’ll begin hearing about it more here at home as well, such as this recent incident in Ohio.

What struck me in this article is the reason given for the attack – the woman was angry with God for how her life turned out.  Angry that she doesn’t have family close by.  This woman is a member of that congregation – she desecrated her own church in the midst of her anger and pain.

It’s a horrific event, to be sure, a blow to that entire community. But mostly I hurt for this woman.  I hurt for this woman who couldn’t figure out how to give voice to her pain, how to open up with her anger to God in any other way.  Her hurt and isolation and anger broke her in a very visceral way, leading her to do things that shock and offend us.

I’m grateful for the messages of forgiveness that the priest and bishop are speaking.  Those are very important.  But I hope that there will be a story at some point in the future that talks about how this congregation comes around this woman to support her and encourage her.  To not simply forgive her and grudgingly allow her to worship with them, but to make tangible the love of Christ.  To be ears she can vent her pain to, hands and arms to hold and support her, lips that speak words of encouragement and comfort as well as forgiveness.

I try to imagine how I would feel if someone did this to my church.  It would be a difficult thing to deal with, to be sure.  I think there would also be guilt to be dealt with on my part and the part of some parishioners.  Why didn’t we know?  Why didn’t this person reach out for help before the breaking point?  What could we have done differently to be of help?

Maybe nothing.  I don’t know the private lives of most of my parishioners.  I don’t know all of their struggles.  And in many places there is a stigma against expressing anger towards God.  But God can handle our anger.  He wants our honesty, an integral and foundational element in any healthy relationship.  If we can’t express our anger to God, and if we don’t feel like we can express it around brothers and sisters in Christ, that anger will find an outlet somehow.

If you’re hurt and angry with God, reach out.  Talk with your pastor or church leaders.  Talk with trusted friends and family.  Find a place where you are safe in venting your emotions and getting them out there.  God can handle it, and I’d like to think that his people can handle it as well.  With forgiveness, with love, and with encouragement and support so that the anger isn’t twisted into an expression that is damaging to others as well as to the person.

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