When He Begins to Open Your Eyes…

I got an email today from someone who is struggling to sort out what’s going on in the fellowship she’s been a part of for some time. Suddenly she’s finding that she doesn’t want to sit through all the meetings and finding them an “ugly weight†rather than a joy. But she feels guilty if she thinks about not going. She is realizing that although she goes in hopes of encountering God, it rarely happens there and yet she still has wonderful friends there.

It’s not an easy thing when God begins to open your eyes to the manipulation of religious systems. Suddenly participating seems like a chore, and you begin to see how the classes and designations designed to provide protection are actually manipulating people’s desires to belong and to be approved by others. Now it feels like a game and participating in it a bit “creepyâ€. What does she do?

Here are some excerpts from her emails: “That’s not to say that the pastor or others are horrible people – far from it. I love them and respect them. It’s just that I’m not comfortable spending from 10:30 to 12:45 there when all I really want to do is leave. It’s like my heart is changing as is my way of thinking. But adding to that is this sense of ‘well what would I do on Sunday anyway?’ I almost feel like I’m distancing myself from church as an institution and don’t know if that’s right or how to handle it….

“I’m frustrated and restless and honestly don’t know how to deal with much of what’s going on in my spiritual life lately. It’s like I can’t rest and that troubles me. I really hope you don’t mind me sort of tossing this your way. It’s just that you seem to be at a place where you actually do know rest and you’re not striving to be right or make a point.â€

Knowing her concerns reflect what so many others go through at this stage of the journey, I thought others with similar concerns would appreciate reading what I wrote back to her:

I can appreciate your story. Once you start seeing through the illusion of religion, it can be a scary road. All the things you’ve found comfort in before, suddenly seem destructive.

I love what you’re seeing, though I know it can be disorienting. It is the result of God answering your prayers to know him as he really is. As we get to know him, our perception of the things around us change, especially those things we’ve thought are his. I have no idea where this will lead you. Going to gather with other believers because they are your friends is never a bad reason to go. To see it as your place to meet Father is problematic, since he wants to be with you all the time. And seeing how you and others get manipulated by well-intentioned policies and programs will cause some grief.

Will God give you the grace to live through it and love folks anyway? Will God give you the grace to walk away and see what else he has for you? I don’t know. Only he does.

What you can do now is to stop responding to guilt. That’s the real power of religious thinking. It manipulates us with shame and with wanting others to approve of us, so that we’ll jump through its hoops. You don’t have to jump through those hoops to love God and love the folks there. But when you stop doing so, it may make you a bit more dangerous for the powers that be. The system cannot love what it cannot control and that may result in problems over time.

For now, just listen to Jesus. Do what he puts on your heart. Stop giving place to guilt so it can whither and die away and be gentle with those who cannot possibly grasp what you’re seeing now any more than you could a year ago. In that he will make the way clear ahead and you, too, will get to learn to live in his rest, and enjoy the incredible fellowship that the body can have together when it is less concerned about the success of the institution and more focused on who this Jesus really is…

I know that’s not very concrete, but he did not promise us concrete. He promised us life!

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10 Comments
  1. Heather March 23, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this. I came here through a link from a friend. I am on the journey, and it has just really begun. I am at peace, but it is a bit unsettling not knowing what is around the corner, but peaceful nonetheless. Thanks for sharing!

    Blessings!

    ~Heather

  2. Heather March 23, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this. I came here through a link from a friend. I am on the journey, and it has just really begun. I am at peace, but it is a bit unsettling not knowing what is around the corner, but peaceful nonetheless. Thanks for sharing!

    Blessings!

    ~Heather

  3. Johnny Brooks March 26, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Thanks Wayne for sharing this. I am in a similar place as this person, except that I am in the leadership of the system. I have a close relationship with the bishop of the church we are working with and totally respect and love him as a friend. It is the system that turns my stomach, the guilt and shame that is used to manipulate people into “good†behavior.

    I try hard to not use those tactics to get people to do what I want them to do. It is not easy, but I feel it is what God wants of me. Consequently we are one of the more unsuccessful churches in the denomination in terms of numbers. I have discovered, the hard way, that the veil that separated us from God, you know the one Jesus tore in half, well people liked that veil. The veil was quickly sewn back together in the form of Christianity and hung back up in the temple.

    I liked your advice to not give place to guilt. I am not going to allow guilt to rule my life, and I am not going to use guilt to get people to do what I or the system wants them to do.

  4. Johnny Brooks March 27, 2007 at 2:50 am

    Thanks Wayne for sharing this. I am in a similar place as this person, except that I am in the leadership of the system. I have a close relationship with the bishop of the church we are working with and totally respect and love him as a friend. It is the system that turns my stomach, the guilt and shame that is used to manipulate people into “good†behavior.

    I try hard to not use those tactics to get people to do what I want them to do. It is not easy, but I feel it is what God wants of me. Consequently we are one of the more unsuccessful churches in the denomination in terms of numbers. I have discovered, the hard way, that the veil that separated us from God, you know the one Jesus tore in half, well people liked that veil. The veil was quickly sewn back together in the form of Christianity and hung back up in the temple.

    I liked your advice to not give place to guilt. I am not going to allow guilt to rule my life, and I am not going to use guilt to get people to do what I or the system wants them to do.

  5. Carol April 1, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    This is a tough place to be; I have been there four times in my life — once following a rape by an authority as a ten-year-old child. However, it took me six more years to leave because I was such a young child at the time, and I had a rough time overcoming the brainwashing from the institutional church. By the fourth experience, I was an old hand.

    Fortunately, you are not dealing with the results of trauma. However, if our activities within the Body of Christ do not leave us with the genuine sense of having derived a closer relationship with the Father, then what’s the point? Sometimes, we incorrectly come to the place where we begin to falsely process church groups like social clubs. Staying in that type of situation will only rob you of the genuine spiritual family that the Father is preparing for you.

    It is a bit frightening to let go of something we know before we can possess the real thing, but sometimes He requires that of us. Trust Him; let Him know “though none go with you,†still you will follow. You will be amazed at what you will find awaits you! Just be prepared to wait for his direction knowing that He loves and cares for you as the Great Loving Sheherd; He will never lead you astray.

  6. Carol April 1, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    This is a tough place to be; I have been there four times in my life — once following a rape by an authority as a ten-year-old child. However, it took me six more years to leave because I was such a young child at the time, and I had a rough time overcoming the brainwashing from the institutional church. By the fourth experience, I was an old hand.

    Fortunately, you are not dealing with the results of trauma. However, if our activities within the Body of Christ do not leave us with the genuine sense of having derived a closer relationship with the Father, then what’s the point? Sometimes, we incorrectly come to the place where we begin to falsely process church groups like social clubs. Staying in that type of situation will only rob you of the genuine spiritual family that the Father is preparing for you.

    It is a bit frightening to let go of something we know before we can possess the real thing, but sometimes He requires that of us. Trust Him; let Him know “though none go with you,†still you will follow. You will be amazed at what you will find awaits you! Just be prepared to wait for his direction knowing that He loves and cares for you as the Great Loving Sheherd; He will never lead you astray.

  7. SILAS April 25, 2007 at 9:50 am

    I did a similar thing myself for a long time. I thought I was walking in the Spirit when I was really looking to be understood and accepted by my Christian friends. The problem was, I had not learned to relationship with His Son first so I would come away from church feeling empty and really didn’t want to acknowlege “problems” I saw at the church. To do so would have left me feeling guilty like I wasn’t being a good Christian and being supportive of the church.

  8. SILAS April 25, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    I did a similar thing myself for a long time. I thought I was walking in the Spirit when I was really looking to be understood and accepted by my Christian friends. The problem was, I had not learned to relationship with His Son first so I would come away from church feeling empty and really didn’t want to acknowlege “problems” I saw at the church. To do so would have left me feeling guilty like I wasn’t being a good Christian and being supportive of the church.

  9. Mike May 4, 2007 at 4:40 am

    My wife and I have been freed from the institution for about 2 1/2 years and it’s been great. We’ve been chided and misunderstood by some and a beacon to others who have also found the freedom of “being” the church. Once you start to fellowship Biblically you will really start to understand those “other” verses in God’s Word. Where 2 or three are gathered….I like the small numbers, any more and there seems to being positioning and politicing. Remember the apostiles did everything unanimously, that way you know the Holy Spirit is involved and not just someone taking control. Love in Christ Mike from Philly

  10. Mike May 4, 2007 at 7:40 am

    My wife and I have been freed from the institution for about 2 1/2 years and it’s been great. We’ve been chided and misunderstood by some and a beacon to others who have also found the freedom of “being” the church. Once you start to fellowship Biblically you will really start to understand those “other” verses in God’s Word. Where 2 or three are gathered….I like the small numbers, any more and there seems to being positioning and politicing. Remember the apostiles did everything unanimously, that way you know the Holy Spirit is involved and not just someone taking control. Love in Christ Mike from Philly

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