Am I the only one who feels like I would benefit from a church lady recovery group? Somewhere I can admit my missteps and mistakes, however well-meaning, and find understanding and camaraderie from other recovering church ladies. And no, I’m not talking about a ladies’ group Bible study. That’s not the same thing.
I grew up in an evangelical bubble. Words like ‘transgressions’ and ‘sanctification’ and ‘washed in the blood’ were my jam. We were encouraged to be ‘born again’ and follow in ‘believers baptism’.
These are all good Biblical principles, and I benefitted from my Fundamental Baptist upbringing. I will poke fun at it from time to time, but I am grateful for that foundation of faith. I was completely unprepared, however, to relate to the unchurched world, once I stepped out of that evangelical bubble as a fully formed adult.
I had been taught ‘we’ were right and ‘they’ were wrong, and it was my job to convert and disciple them. But no one was interested in hearing about how they should ask Jesus to come into their heart, and how they should follow a bunch of church rules. I was failing at my spiritual mandate.
I felt personal responsibility for getting them washed in the blood, dunked in the baptism tank, and teaching them all the church lingo. I was to encourage them to memorize the right version of the Bible, go to the right kind of church three times a week, get the right kind of haircut (boys), or don’t wear pants to church (girls), unless it was a cleaning day, of course.
I meant well – really I did.
I was so very earnest in my love and pursuit of ‘the lost’. I kept religious tracts in my purse, to leave for the waitress at the coffee shop. I NEVER left a tract without a tip – that’s just rude. But I might as well have been speaking a foreign language, and following foreign culture rules. In fact, I was.
I finally decided one day that I was missing a key element – I needed to connect with people in an authentic way. I wanted to know who they were and what mattered to them, instead of always proving that I was a good Christian. I took off the church lady mask and started being the real me. It was scary, but it was a necessary education. I learned that perception is reality.
If the person I am trying to share God’s love and salvation with sees me as a pompous, self-righteous narcissist who always has to prove that I’m right, that’s exactly who I am to them. And once that perception takes root, that’s who I will stay, no matter how pure my intentions. I admit it – I straight up scared a young woman once with all my churchy ‘let’s do a BIble study together and I will show you how to be better’, and I never heard from her again. I made an impression, just not one that drew her closer to a relationship with God.
I recently had the opportunity to act in a video sketch for my church. It was so much fun to be together for drama again – in spite of the restrictions and masks and social distancing. We made it work by taking it outside and were able to properly distance with the help of clever camera angles and a skilled video director.
I found it easy to relate to my character. She loves Jesus and loves seekers. She was so happy for the opportunity to mentor a young woman in the faith. And she was completely oblivious to the damage she was doing to that poor young girl, who she may have scared off for good. Check it out and see if you agree. The sketch starts at 25:30, but you could watch the whole thing – enjoy some great worship and solid Biblical teaching.
I’m giving it some more thought, but I kind of love the idea of a church lady recovery group. Maybe I will call it CLA – Church Ladies Anonymous. And there should probably be a separate group for those who have been scarred by church lady interactions, like the poor unsuspecting soul in the video. Maybe there could be an online quiz to see if the group is right for you – the ACLE quiz (Adverse Church Lady Experience).
I think I should go to both groups…
We could do a weekly Zoom – who’s in?