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"relationships" In The Church


jblueep
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2Honest and I haven't been back to our church in about six weeks. So far, only three people have checked on us to see if we are OK. One of the couples are close friends more like a second set of parents. One is a troubled single girl who has sought out my wife's help for her issues more than once. The final one is an elder's wife whose job it is to check on people when they go missing.

 

Here's my point: We gave our lives, time, and fortunes to the church for three years and were one of the more popular couples in the church. We led the two most popular groups in the church by far. I spent an entire year building adding an 11,000 sq ft addition to the church, at a personal cost of over $100,000 to us, not to mention the extreme schedule and the negative effects on our family.

 

The leaders of the church constantly talk about how the church is "all about relationships". But considering the lack of concern for us displayed, how real were those relationships? I'm not sure that relationships built around a church can be that real. They are built around something other than friendship. I guess that when you "abandon" the group, you are out as a friend.

 

I have no idea what people are thinking, and I guess I care a little but not that much. It's just baffling to me that we could be so involved and no one cares enough to see what's up. The reasons we gave to the few that called were that

 

1. My schedule for work has been insane (which is true)

 

and

 

2. My wife is having major health issues (which is true).

 

Still, there is no follow up, asking if anything can be done for us. After we gave so much to so many there...emotionally, financially, time, etc. It's just confirming how false the situation was, in spite of the fact that these are really good, well meaning people.

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My parents attended the same church for several years, they recently switched churches to a local Calvary Chapel (kind of a mix between evangelical/non-denom with a California twist) anyways, when they switched from the church they had attended, no one and I mean no one ever contacted them about no longer attending. And they had been involved but not as much as my second example, who also attended this same church. This family, who are still close friends with mine, did not like the direction of the church, so they wrote a pretty heartfelt letter and submitted it to the elder board. They received absolutely ZERO response, and this family had been with this church for fifteen years and was extremely involved in the church activities.

 

So my point is, your experience isn't rare. I'm not invalidating it, just saying that in many cases, these churches are nothing more than a Private Yacht Club, minus the yachts. You either attend and give money (then you are lavished with Christian love) or you stop attending and become a non-member of The Club. Your importance to them is only measured by how much you can give.

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Yes, it stinks. It seems to me that once people find out why you've left, they just abandon you. I had a few of them ask where I'd been, then once they found out, it was over. One guy wanted to argue with me about it, but finally was able to piss him off enough to leave me alone. Seriously, it's like dying, but there wasn't a ceremony about your departure, and life just goes on without you.

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Here's my point: We gave our lives, time, and fortunes to the church for three years and were one of the more popular couples in the church. We led the two most popular groups in the church by far. I spent an entire year building adding an 11,000 sq ft addition to the church, at a personal cost of over $100,000 to us, not to mention the extreme schedule and the negative effects on our family.

 

Wow! I don't mean to be nosey, but are you "well off" or did this money come from savings? It makes me sick to think that the two of you put in that much of your own money into that church and the church members don't even have the decency to be grateful or follow up since you've been gone.

 

You and your wife are good people to have sacrificed so much time, energy, and money. In fact, the two of you are much better people than me - I would be bitter and angry at having been treated so badly.

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Geez, that really sucks. In fact, more than that, it's hurtful and disrespectful.

 

I don't know why this is happening to you like this. I've seen this happen before (and it's also happened to me and friends of mine who have left the church). Here are my theories:

  1. The relationships were built solely on the foundation of the Christian faith (so that without that, they perceive that nothing of value remains); or
  2. The church people just think that you have taken a break and don't want to be bothered; or
  3. The church people think you two are the strong ones and are insecure/intimidated that it's their turn to help you; or
  4. The church people are keeping their eyes on God/the church, so they don't really see anything else; or
  5. The church people fear apostasy (and people who follow the evidence).

I know that doesn't really help. It's just my musings, having myself been indoctrinated for too long.

 

Peace!

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Wow! I don't mean to be nosey, but are you "well off" or did this money come from savings? It makes me sick to think that the two of you put in that much of your own money into that church and the church members don't even have the decency to be grateful or follow up since you've been gone.

 

You and your wife are good people to have sacrificed so much time, energy, and money. In fact, the two of you are much better people than me - I would be bitter and angry at having been treated so badly.

 

That's the part that makes it hurt a little more I think. We are not well off. I have been self employed for 25 years, so I had the ability to put my business on hold. It doesn't take long to add up to 100K when you remove income and use savings to live on :( We do live in a low middle class area though so I think many people in the church thought we were well off (that plus the misconception that self employed people are "rolling in it")

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I don't know why this is happening to you like this. I've seen this happen before (and it's also happened to me and friends of mine who have left the church). Here are my theories:

  1. The relationships were built solely on the foundation of the Christian faith (so that without that, they perceive that nothing of value remains); or
  2. The church people just think that you have taken a break and don't want to be bothered; or
  3. The church people think you two are the strong ones and are insecure/intimidated that it's their turn to help you; or
  4. The church people are keeping their eyes on God/the church, so they don't really see anything else; or
  5. The church people fear apostasy (and people who follow the evidence).

 

Positivist, I think that's a great summary of reasons. #5 is probably the only one that doesn't apply (yet) because people don't know that we have become heathens! ;)

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"these are really good, well meaning people" ---

 

Good is a qualitative judgement. Most of the Church goers I've known equate Church attendance, membership and participation as "good" and nonattendance and non-participation as (at best) not good.

 

On any of the social organizing I did in my gothic southern city, no good well meaning church folk showed up, called, sent messages or did anything to help. None. Zero. Zip. Nada.

The good church going folk wanted nothing to do with:

-Organizing Food Not Bombs to feed the homeless and poor families with kids.

-Organizing citizen's oversight of police when black men were being killed by police brutality every 4-6 months like clockwork.

-Protesting 2 Wars in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan.

-Supporting institutional reform like regulating predatory pay-day loans or economic justice of any kind.

-Supporting striking poultry and slaughterhouse workers.

-Organizing awareness and community reaction to national and local legislation (especially regarding free trade and banking regulation) that directly affected the economic well-being of members of the community.

 

And on and on it went for years....Every time I tried to help the least of these it was only me, a couple of college kids, one communist and a handful of African-Americans. The good church-going folk were no where to be found. They avoided this kind of work like we were all seriously a bunch of lepers. My own mother included who is a licensed minister and carries on like she's god's gift to planet earth. She and all her church people were absolutely 100% aware of what we were doing on and wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole.

 

So I feel for your situation, and your case may be much different from mine, but I would quickly qualify any contention that Church folk should automatically be considered "good" as the traditional stereotype goes. I can think of more than a few different qualitative adjectives.

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Sorry but I'm a little jealous. I attend a Bible study where they aggressively pursue members who leave. I want to leave but I'm not looking forward to all the phone calls, cards and visits plus all the gossip and perplexed questions. I've seen them do it to dozens of people. The grass is greener on the other side.

 

Good for you that you can now go out and find real friends.

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Sorry but I'm a little jealous. I attend a Bible study where they aggressively pursue members who leave. I want to leave but I'm not looking forward to all the phone calls, cards and visits plus all the gossip and perplexed questions. I've seen them do it to dozens of people. The grass is greener on the other side.

 

Good for you that you can now go out and find real friends.

 

Yeah, it's more of a curiosity than a desire. When it comes right down to it, we wouldn't actually want these people to chase us down, but it's enlightening as to the nature of our relationships that they are not.

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You know, J, I kind of found the same thing myself when I left. I ran into the pastor's wife a while ago, and mentioned I'd had a couple of minor operations, and she was kind of like, "Aww..." and I never saw or heard from her, or anyone else, again. I actually have deeper relationships and find a stronger sense of community at my local markets every Sunday among the other stall holders, and the regulars who come down for a chat even if they don't buy anything. I don't feel like I have to be fake there, like I did at church.

 

So many churches these days seem to be all about sucking the life-blood out of you and when you are of no use to them anymore, or you need a hand, you're out on your own. The whole "love" and "relationships" stuff is just a con, and it can be a hard pill to swallow when you finally realise just how little you actually meant to these people, like I did.

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And on and on it went for years....Every time I tried to help the least of these it was only me, a couple of college kids, one communist and a handful of African-Americans. The good church-going folk were no where to be found. They avoided this kind of work like we were all seriously a bunch of lepers. My own mother included who is a licensed minister and carries on like she's god's gift to planet earth. She and all her church people were absolutely 100% aware of what we were doing on and wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole.

 

It's true in my experience that church people are generally uninspired when it comes to helping out. They will help if you corner them and ask them directly, and then follow up. A good example happens every thanksgiving. We have on guy in our church that gathers all the left over food in addition to cooking a few dozen turkeys and feeds 300 to 500 homeless people on thanksgiving night. Every year, only a few of us show up to help prepare and deliver the food.

 

But what is the cause of the lack of inspiration? I don't think it's because they are "bad" human beings. I think that religion jacks up everything, including the unadulterated ability to care and have compassion.

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What we did was definitely a sacrifice, but we did it b/c we genuinely believed in this church and where they were going, and we loved the people. I should also mention here that the first 2 years we were there I did most of the church publications (bulletins, flyers, etc) and the event planning (including decorating for events, arranging for the food, etc)...all for free. It is sad to look back on what a waste of time and money it actually was.

 

We were close friends of the pastor and his wife. We spent countless hours with the wife helping her through a difficult time she was going through. And yet now, even though we've been struggling w/our faith for several months (that's as much as we've told them), they haven't truly reached out. The pastor did ask J out for coffee once and while they were together J told him basically we weren't struggling with our core belief in God (at the time we weren't), but with the fact that our experience wasn't lining up with what we believed (and what the bible said) to be true.

 

The pastor was kind and understanding, but didn't offer any help other than advising J to "pray in tongues more". He also mentioned maybe we should go spend a week or 2 in California at a church where supernatural stuff is supposedly taking place (Bethel in Redding). And he quoted the pastor of that church as saying when we are frustrated in our faith we should "diversify our prayers", meaning we should pray for things we know would happen anyway in order to "build our faith" for the bigger things. I kid you not! Wendytwitch.gif

 

Oh and the pastor's wife sent us some "prophetic" emails. We mainly just responded with "We love you, but we are just really thinking about what we believe right now." She didn't even try to spend time with either one of us.

 

I guess what keeps us from being bitter about it is that we know their reactions are coming from their belief system. It isn't a personal rejection. I think in their minds, WE are the ones who have walked away. I think subconsciously people feel you have rejected them and their "cause" when you leave. And yeah, Positivist, I think they don't want to bother you if you're just taking a break or need time to yourself.

 

But the truth is that if these were REAL relationships, none of that shit would matter. When you are really friends with someone and they express that they're going through a tough time, you just talk to them...you offer your help...you love them. You still include them in your life. But religion keeps any of that from being possible. Which is ironic b/c in church (at least in this one) you are taught that relationships aren't real without Jesus...that we are not even capable of loving one another without the Holy Spirit. What a crock! 49.gif

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With my experience and my look now after having cut ties with church, I can say that relationships are not true because as soon as you disagree the beliefs people reject you even if they will not say they dont want you anymore, you feel that a tie breaks. Ex christians are considered like treacherous, toward christians but toward God. That may explain why relationship can be challenging with christians.

 

I think it is only possible to keep in touch with chrisitans which do not know the bible like in some traditional churches like catholic or protestant. But among "born again" when all turn around the bible you can't. Biblical brainwashing is the point that really separate us from them. Or you will feel that they will try to convert you again and rebuke you. I also cut ties without giving an explanation because I know that debating with christians just bring nothing. I prefer being alone and seek for new friends outside christianity, even if it takes time.

 

What is really bizarre in christianity, is these "instant friends" you have when it usually take time to know someone and develop a friendship. I remember the last church I fellowed, one member was working in the same building than myself and I didnt know this woman. When she saw me in the church then one day she came to my office and had a bizarre behaviour, she put her hands on my shoulders like if we would have been friends for many years and kissed me when I only met her once. Then when I stopped going to this church, I didnt see her anymore. I think she just gave me the "love bombing attitude" that is a characteristics in cults or some churches.

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The pastor did ask J out for coffee once and while they were together J told him basically we weren't struggling with our core belief in God (at the time we weren't), but with the fact that our experience wasn't lining up with what we believed (and what the bible said) to be true.

 

The pastor was kind and understanding, but didn't offer any help other than advising J to "pray in tongues more". He also mentioned maybe we should go spend a week or 2 in California at a church where supernatural stuff is supposedly taking place (Bethel in Redding). And he quoted the pastor of that church as saying when we are frustrated in our faith we should "diversify our prayers", meaning we should pray for things we know would happen anyway in order to "build our faith" for the bigger things. I kid you not! Wendytwitch.gif

 

I'm going off topic now...

 

This coffee with the pastor was a telling moment. I told him that I have never, ever seen a supernatural intervention (one that was objectively measured, e.g. not including things like "my back was sore and now it's healed") in spite of praying for hundreds of people, witnessing thousands of prayers, and being prayed for hundreds of times. I asked him if he has ever seen a genuine healing. He's been a full time pastor for well over 20 years. It took him a minute and then came up with an example that was well over a decade old. This example was a guy in the church that was "healed" of brain cancer. Never mind the fact that years later the brain cancer came back again and he had to have surgery to cure it that time. And never mind that this guy's little boy had died of brain cancer 20 years before that.

 

I said "doesn't that bother you that you have to search that hard for an example". That's when he gave me the "diversify you prayers" advice, i.e. "pray for a crap load of shit, and if any of that shit changes in the slightest, then claim that as an answer to prayer, and let it build your faith".

 

Needless to say, this session with the pastor did not slow down our journey to de-conversion 10.gif

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Thanks for your story guys, it was very interesting to read. I understand that it bugs you. Like you said, you don't want to be pestered, but it still feels like a let down when relationships that you assumed were real are basically invalidated. It brings back memories when I left church years ago. I quit at about the same time as my roommate and even though I was about as involved in the church as he, I never heard a word from anyone in the church. The pastor, however, drove to our house to personally talk to my roommate, who just happened to have earned a good income and had been a faithful tither. The pastor's motivation was pretty blatant.

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The pastor did ask J out for coffee once and while they were together J told him basically we weren't struggling with our core belief in God (at the time we weren't), but with the fact that our experience wasn't lining up with what we believed (and what the bible said) to be true.

 

The pastor was kind and understanding, but didn't offer any help other than advising J to "pray in tongues more". He also mentioned maybe we should go spend a week or 2 in California at a church where supernatural stuff is supposedly taking place (Bethel in Redding). And he quoted the pastor of that church as saying when we are frustrated in our faith we should "diversify our prayers", meaning we should pray for things we know would happen anyway in order to "build our faith" for the bigger things. I kid you not! Wendytwitch.gif

 

I'm going off topic now...

 

This coffee with the pastor was a telling moment. I told him that I have never, ever seen a supernatural intervention (one that was objectively measured, e.g. not including things like "my back was sore and now it's healed") in spite of praying for hundreds of people, witnessing thousands of prayers, and being prayed for hundreds of times. I asked him if he has ever seen a genuine healing. He's been a full time pastor for well over 20 years. It took him a minute and then came up with an example that was well over a decade old. This example was a guy in the church that was "healed" of brain cancer. Never mind the fact that years later the brain cancer came back again and he had to have surgery to cure it that time. And never mind that this guy's little boy had died of brain cancer 20 years before that.

 

I said "doesn't that bother you that you have to search that hard for an example". That's when he gave me the "diversify you prayers" advice, i.e. "pray for a crap load of shit, and if any of that shit changes in the slightest, then claim that as an answer to prayer, and let it build your faith".

 

Needless to say, this session with the pastor did not slow down our journey to de-conversion 10.gif

 

That follows a lot of what I read during my de-con which said the biggest thing pushing ex-christians from the faith is ... wait for it ... other christians. It was the same for me as well. When I started questioning I didn't come to here first, I went to christian sources and found them resoundingly unsatisfying, so much so they pushed me away that much further.

 

Back on topic: I'll echo mymistake in that I lot of people wish they could leave easily as you did.

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On any of the social organizing I did in my gothic southern city, no good well meaning church folk showed up, called, sent messages or did anything to help. None. Zero. Zip. Nada.

The good church going folk wanted nothing to do with:

    It's true in my experience that church people are generally uninspired when it comes to helping out.

    But what is the cause of the lack of inspiration? I don't think it's because they are "bad" human beings. I think that religion jacks up everything, including the unadulterated ability to care and have compassion.

     

    This is one issue that led to my deconversion. I was sitting on numerous boards in the community that dealt with animal welfare. social justice, and environmental causes. I was the only believer on any of these boards. I thought there was something wrong with me. Meanwhile the church people were going from Bible study to Bible study, worship conference to worship conference, getting (as I call it) "holier and holier".

     

    My apostacy grew like an aneurysm.

     

    The church people honestly believe that faith and spirituality (a walk with the Lord) is the best gift you can give someone (not food, not peace, not shelter). Lucky for them, prayer is free, takes no time, no money and no effort. it also does nothing except relieves their own guilt.

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the church is "all about relationships".

Yes, of course it is. Everything is about relationships.

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...we are frustrated in our faith we should "diversify our prayers", meaning we should pray for things we know would happen anyway in order to "build our faith" for the bigger things.

Oh and the pastor's wife sent us some "prophetic" emails. We mainly just responded with "We love you, but we are just really thinking about what we believe right now." She didn't even try to spend time with either one of us.

I asked him if he has ever seen a genuine healing. He's been a full time pastor for well over 20 years. It took him a minute and then came up with an example that was well over a decade old. This example [EDIT: was poor].

I said "doesn't that bother you that you have to search that hard for an example". That's when he gave me the "diversify you prayers" advice, i.e. "pray for a crap load of shit, and if any of that shit changes in the slightest, then claim that as an answer to prayer, and let it build your faith".

When I was a believer I was terrified of apostates and any non-fundy thinking. I didn't want to topple the house of cards that my faith was.

 

I think your pastor and his wife are either (1) concerned exclusively with their own walks with God, or (2) terrified that all they have lived for is a crock. No one wants to admit that the emperor is wearing no clothes, least of all those who have degrees in this stuff and who have no marketable skills.

 

But, I bet you anything the pastor is haunted by the question you put to him....

 

I'm so glad you two are going through this together!

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...we are frustrated in our faith we should "diversify our prayers", meaning we should pray for things we know would happen anyway in order to "build our faith" for the bigger things.

Oh and the pastor's wife sent us some "prophetic" emails. We mainly just responded with "We love you, but we are just really thinking about what we believe right now." She didn't even try to spend time with either one of us.

I asked him if he has ever seen a genuine healing. He's been a full time pastor for well over 20 years. It took him a minute and then came up with an example that was well over a decade old. This example [EDIT: was poor].

I said "doesn't that bother you that you have to search that hard for an example". That's when he gave me the "diversify you prayers" advice, i.e. "pray for a crap load of shit, and if any of that shit changes in the slightest, then claim that as an answer to prayer, and let it build your faith".

When I was a believer I was terrified of apostates and any non-fundy thinking. I didn't want to topple the house of cards that my faith was.

 

I think your pastor and his wife are either (1) concerned exclusively with their own walks with God, or (2) terrified that all they have lived for is a crock. No one wants to admit that the emperor is wearing no clothes, least of all those who have degrees in this stuff and who have no marketable skills.

 

But, I bet you anything the pastor is haunted by the question you put to him....

 

I'm so glad you two are going through this together!

 

Me, too! :)

 

The crazy thing about our former pastors is that each of them are highly intelligent people who were pursuing "secular" careers before entering the ministry. The pastor was going to be a doctor and the wife has a genius IQ and was studying microbiology and physics. Ironically, part of what J and I were helping her through was how hurt and rejected she'd been by the church. She doesn't fit the "pastor's wife" mold, she loves classic rock and quantum physics and uses them a lot in her teaching. She had some pretty bad experiences with church leaders and members who just didn't understand her. And the pastor always felt like he wasn't good enough at pastoring and blamed himself for any problems in the church, lack of growth, etc.

 

It's sad b/c this couple would be amazing if they de-converted. They are completely stressed out b/c of trying to fit their identities, talents and goals into the religious box...all the while saying they are "called" to build an out-of-the-box church where people can be free to be themselves! It's so crazy.

 

So yeah, I think you're right about #2, even if it's something going on in them subconsciously. And I HOPE you are right about J's question making the pastor think. It's my secret wish that one day they'll call us up and say they've had it with church/religion and engage us in a real conversation about this stuff. But I think they are too far-gone for that. It would mean admitting that most of their lives have been wasted.

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It's sad b/c this couple would be amazing if they de-converted. They are completely stressed out b/c of trying to fit their identities, talents and goals into the religious box...all the while saying they are "called" to build an out-of-the-box church where people can be free to be themselves!

 

It would mean admitting that most of their lives have been wasted.

A calling is an awful thing. In my years as a believer I have heard about so called "callings" so many times:

- A dyslexic with a grade 10 education who thinks he's called to be a screenwriter, so he pours 8 years of his life trying to write a decent script (fail)

- A tone deaf and non-musical woman who thinks she's called to be a Christian music artist (2 poorly played chords will only get you so far, honey...yes, she performed at small Christian "coffeehouses"....) Wendytwitch.gif

- An unemployed nutbar who thinks he's called to be a prophet

- An educated person who feels called to teach but after numerous appointments and every student hating him he still doesn't get the message

...And the list could go on.

 

I have come to believe that a "calling" merely means a person experiences a neurologically based buzz in the brain when s/he thinks of something in particular. S/he attributes this buzz to Godly origin. Even though your pastors are misfits, that damn delusion of "calling" keeps yanking their chain. It is very sad and like you said, they have given up a lot.

 

I bet they will deconvert as soon as the "calling" buzz dries up... silverpenny013Hmmm.gif

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Yeah, all that calling stuff is what nearly drove me over the edge! For awhile it was actually a big motivator and made me feel hopeful and excited about my future. But then it just started to wear me out. I just wanted to live my life, enjoy my family and take things as they come. I got tired of the roller coaster of thinking that every little thing had this deep meaning. And I realized that nearly every church service was made up of those in leadership (including us) trying to prop people up, encourage them and confirm to them that they were going to do and be all these great things (even though there was no actual evidence of that). It was exhausting! So glad to be off the hamster wheel!

 

It's amazing how a person can believe they are called to do just about any idiotic thing, and if they want to they can easily find "confirmation" for it. Several years ago I knew a woman who was convinced she was "called" to marry a member of the band "Poison" (and convert him to Christianity, of course!). She'd go to the concerts and even got backstage once and made out with him (which she was convinced god set up for her!). I was in meetings with her where people would give her prophetic words and she managed to twist them all into "confirmation" that she was supposed to marry this guy. I was amazed that no one around her was trying to talk any sense into her. Oh and btw, she was a single mom with a young son!

 

Last I heard she'd married some other guy...guess god changed his mind! Wendyshrug.gif

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This thread is so pertinent to my church experience. The religious box takes such a toll on people's ability to be empathetic, to reach out.

 

2Honest, maybe you can volunteer and find people who value relationships, if you don't already do that.

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