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What to Do When You’re Angry at the Church

I’m not sure how deep this wound goes or how infected it has become. Since I don’t know quite what I’ll find, I’m hesitant to rip off the bandages and expose it for others to see.

But I have a hunch that things are pretty serious now. The pain is growing—you can see the sickness spreading through my veins.

Sometimes I wish light was not the only solution for darkness. I wish I could hide and heal at the same time. But I can’t.

Two Sundays ago I found myself painfully aware of how no matter the church, no matter the speaker, when I am sitting in a church congregation there is a deep, deep anger in my soul. Each word and prayer spoken leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. The places everyone else seems to find God, I’ve only found pain.

Heartbroken, I’ve repeatedly asked the Lord to heal me.

For months, even years now, I’ve felt this conflict between wanting to back away from church but also aching for my Savior. Aching to feel His presence again. To be reminded of the only thing that has ever fully satisfied my heart. The one who does not call my anxiety or my sensitivity flaws, but uses them to draw me closer.

If you wonder why millennials are walking away from the faith, you ought to know that it’s because we miss Him. We miss the Jesus who walked with the disciples, who treated women as equals and whose greatest command was to love one another.

All that Evangelical Christianity seems to offer us is a list of theological checklists for a meaningful (and correct) relationship with God—and a Jesus who sounds a lot like Paul. Our denominations are built on views and decisions made by human beings and we cling to those decisions claiming we’re clinging to Scripture. As if God in all His infinite wisdom and wonder could be purely explained and rationalized out by a group of old men.

While I certainly don’t think we should throw it all away, my soul can’t find rest in the evangelical world anymore. I’m caught in the in-between.

Here in the in-between things get pretty lonely.

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Here in the in-between are the church wanderers. Drifting from place to place, we find one dry well after another—no living water in sight. Even in the places we find that have depth and life, there are always the moments when words are spoken and jokes are made that leave us squirming in our seats.

Here in the in-between are the tightrope walkers. Those who understand the careful balance of knowing when to keep quiet about their opinions—knowing when to preface them with, “I’m not saying I really believe this …” and knowing when their opinions are welcome.

Here in the in-between are the broken hearts. Broken and bleeding hearts hungry for reconciliation. The hearts aching for a place to call home. Here are the hearts searching for others who see that perhaps God is doing a new thing and the categories we used to have need to be set aside.

This deep wound of mine is far too common. But there’s hope on the horizon. The version of Christianity millennials have always known isn’t all that there is. God is far greater than theological arguments and lines in the sand.

Even as I continue to distance myself from the title of “evangelical,” I still want to practice what Sarah Bessey calls, “the radical, spiritual act of staying put.” I want to remain right in the middle of the mess, speaking up for reconciliation and trusting that God will show up again. There is healing and wholeness just ahead. The Lord is holding onto us even when we don’t have the strength to hold onto Him.

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