"I've seen you starving."
The words woke me up. After twenty-one years of marriage, on the way to a romantic anniversary date when the conversation shouldn't have been so deep, the short phrase was an eye-opening proclamation from a man who has known me more than half of my life. I hadn't realized it in those terms. Hadn't understood the depth, or that the evidence was so apparent. Hadn't realized how severely a lengthy period of time involved in an unhealthy church situation can destroy a person. I don't remember any other conversations from the night, just those few short words about my spiritual state. Words which played round and round in my mind into the wee hours of the night, refusing to allow me any sleep until they were dealt with: starving.
Rather than continuing to shove several years' worth of excuses and pain deep, deep, deeper they were allowed to be called by their proper name. Given a label, a title that was fitting and acceptable. Allowing them to surface, listing them out, seeing the faces, feeling the hurts. Starved by those who were responsible to have fed me; those who were given the responsibility to feed me. Staying at a place of worship for the sake of submission, the sake of my family, the sake of control, the sake of fear.
I hadn't even noticed my anemic position until it was pointed out as such. Starved by pastors who are starved by bitterness. Starved by their own fears. Starved by their need to control. Starved by a proclaiming body of Christ with their own agenda.
What a stark contrast to sit this morning in a new congregation. To find a body that does love God, loves His glory, longs for Him to reign both now in their sinful state but more-so in a physical realm. To feel it, to realize it does exist in a way that I had almost quit hoping it could. To let the proof be before my eyes, to see it, feel it, quietly allowing my soul to whisper, "I knew it was so." The lies left behind with the years - years of pain, years of domination, years that were somehow ordained for this moment.
Freedom to feel. Freedom to let the tears fall. Freedom for my soul to cry out, "Victory!" Hands raised, daring to hope, daring to drink it all in. Words of truth, hymns of worship, a people in love with Jesus.
The immediate result? A happy family. A deeper connection. Unity. No wedges, no division, no tears. Anticipating Sundays again. But the best part: Peace. An overwhelming peace descending on our still-hurting hearts. A reminder of peace for the future, and beyond, for an eternity. A new resolve to fight the good fight, instead of fighting with each other.