Have you ever been hurt in church? I know I am not the only one. This morning God spoke to me that I need to share some things that have hurt me that have happened in church. Now I am not doing this to bad mouth people. There are good and well meaning people that go to church every week. There are good Shepherds. And then, there are others who are not helpful at all. I know, we are all people, and hurting people – hurt people.
I have a new category on my page, “Hurt in Church”. This is a place where I share what happened and how I am seeking healing and forgiveness. I know I have hurt people, and people have hurt me. We are all human. But I pray that I can use these hurts as ministry opportunities – and healing opportunities. Not only to bring attention to what we are doing to each other, but to release God’s healing in all of our hearts.
In many of my stories I may use the 3rd person. And I will not reveal names or places – just situations. Names will be changed as well. God knows who they really are – and God will take care of it. But I know for my own healing I need to let these things out – and release them, instead of hanging onto old hurts.
I know I have been deceived – by Abusers in many arenas in my life. Maybe that is why I always gravitated towards the Charismatic leaders. Many are good. But others like to abuse their power.
THE $50,000 CUP OF COFFEE
She was living in the shelter with her two kids. Lynn had recently left the 1969 broken down trailer she had called home after years of abuse. She was trying to protect her children and start a new life. She went to the church every Sunday morning looking for hope – and healing. She walked away from all of her things – left with the clothes on her back and no money. Seemed wrong – he was the abuser and he got the house – but she was grateful she was alive and her kids were safe.
At night Lynn worked as a part-time waitress at a local diner. Mostly senior citizens and families were her customers. She would make on average $30-$40 a night in tips. Well, except for the Friday Fish Fry. Then she might make more. A great Friday was worth $75 or so. That’s where she met him. His name was Tom .
Tom was a widower. He would come to the restaurant 3-4 nights a week. He had his favorite chair at the counter. Being that Lynn was the newest waitress, she usually worked the counter. She liked it there. She could talk and get to know whosoever sat down. Most nights Tom would come in for the special. He really liked the Swiss Steak on Thursdays.
Tom was a Christian too. Even though he went to a different church, he and Lynn would talk about what last Sunday’s sermon was on. His eyes lit up every time Lynn asked him what God was doing in his life. She knew he was sad and lonely and the restaurant was his only place to have a regular conversation. Tom would sit at that counter for a good 2 hours every time he came in.
And Lynn would pull out her little index cards. One of the ways she kept her wits about her was to write a verse from the Bible on an index card. She would keep them in her apron and pull them out every time she started to worry about how she would make it – being on her own with the kids, and living in the shelter. “What’s the verse of the day?” Tom would ask when he sat down at the counter. And Lynn would pull out the index card she had written on that morning. She was desperately looking for hope in a hopeless situation.
Then one night Tom asked her, “Hey, what church do you go to?” Lynn told him, and asked, “Why do you want to know?” Tom said, “You have such a freedom when you talk about God. I want to come visit.” Lynn poured him another cup of coffee.
It was a few weeks later that Tom finally showed up. He looked ragged and beat down. But he came. The next Thursday he came back to the restaurant. Lynn poured him his usual coffee and ordered his Swiss Steak. Then he told her. “Hey Lynn, did your Pastor tell you what I did last week?” Lynn looked at him sort of puzzled. “No, He didn’t say anything.”
Tom hesitated, and then took a breath. “Well you see, I recently lost my business and I had to sell a building I owned. I don’t want to pay the capital gains tax so I chose four churches to split the money with. I just gave your Pastor a check for $50,000.”
Lynn was speechless. She stood there a moment with the coffeepot frozen in her hand. Her mind was spinning. Finally she spoke, “Really Tom, that is absolutely amazing! What a generous gift. I can’t believe you did that. You see our church has been renting space for the last um-teen years, maybe now they can build. Thank you so much Tom. Here, have some more coffee – on me!” Lynn bought his dinner that night – just to say thank you. It was a small gesture, but Tom appreciated it. Who knows the last time someone bought him dinner?
That Sunday Lynn went back to church. She expected the Pastor to make an announcement and thank her for bringing Tom to church. She thought the $50,000 check would finally bring her some acceptance into the ‘inner circle’. Being that it was an independent church only the Pastor and his chosen men knew the finances. There were no open books there. Yet the Pastor didn’t say a word. So she waited, and waited. And Lynn kept working, making $30-$40 a night. And bringing Tom coffee when he came to the restaurant.
After about a month Tom came back to Lynn’s church. It was then the Pastor took him up front and thanked him for his generous contribution. The applause rang out and we were all grateful. Such a generous gift. There were promises of getting a new building, promises of supporting missionaries, promises of how they could now help so many people.
Lynn sat in the congregation fuming. She couldn’t believe it. She was the one who had poured the coffee – for months. She was the one who fed this man night after night. And the Pastor was acting like she didn’t even exist. He never even told her thank you. He never acknowledged her. He never told her that her pouring coffee and listening to Tom had helped him and his church. The Pastor took all the credit for bringing Tom to church. He said he knew him, and there was no mention of Lynn. The Pastor and the men had their private meetings and Lynn has no idea what they did with all that cash.
Lynn was disappointed. I mean really. A$50,000 cup of coffee. The Pastor wouldn’t even acknowledge her or say good job. Lynn wasn’t looking for a hand out. She was working hard to make her own way – without help from anyone. She didn’t ask for help her with rent, or gas, or food. Oh occasionally one or two people would give her a $20 bill on Sunday. Maybe they thought that would do it.
Lynn got a second job, and then a third. All while she went through the divorce. And lost everything. She got help from the Salvation Army and they helped her get into Section 8 housing. She moved into an apartment with her kids and a blanket and a pillow. Her and the kids didn’t even have beds. After a while she had to quit the restaurant. Her second job started at 6 am and she had to have the kids at daycare at 5 am. Working until 11 pm just wasn’t feasible anymore.
She told Tom on her last night, “Thanks again Tom. You have sure been a blessing to XYZ Church. I pray that God restores to you everything you have given 30, 60, 100 times over. God bless you my friend.” She turned in her apron and walked out of the restaurant – and out of XYZ church.
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Diana Rasmussen is a Faith Builder, Worship Leader, Veteran's wife, and Customer Service Rep. At her blog Prayers and Promises she shares from her heart on how to find hope in this crazy world!