Don’t Be Robbed of the Good.
“And Nathanael said unto him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”
For former followers of the message, there are certain sentiments which are difficult to hear. One of those is the suggestion of anything “good” coming out of our experience in the message. For some of us, there was so much pain found in the ‘leaving’ that it brings into question if anything good could possibly be found. In the worst cases when abuse was the ‘norm’, this article will do nothing to spare you the distaste. Please know, this article is not intended to dismiss the tragedy and inappropriateness of any such abuses.
Still, for many, there actually was ‘good’ to be found. Many of us were raised in homes where love was abundant, and memories of ‘home’ were sweet and rich parts of who we are today. Many of us could reminisce together of places, times, events and people who evoke warm thoughts. Just take a moment to think on it, and see if they aren’t there. But do you feel the conflict? Is there a dull mourning, or an intense grief? Does your heart tear to think of what is now lost? Those things which were good now feel tainted with inexplicable hurt. Songs you once loved, now serve to remind of fractured trust in church. Faces you loved to see now represent distance, rejection and disapproval. Places you once loved being now incite profound sadness and loneliness.
A Juncture of Healing
A few years ago, I had the privilege to sit in observation of a man of God who was particularly gifted in Christian counselling. He helped restore countless suffering marriages over the course of his ministry. An important step in healing was found in the acts of clear “acknowledgement” and “ownership”. It is a natural protective mechanism to avoid things which evoke pain in our hearts. Consequently, we will either consciously or unconsciously attempt to disown or disregard them. Yet, they never actually ‘go away’, no matter how hard we attempt to distance ourselves from them. Eventually, something crosses our radar that reminds us of those things we desperately wish to avoid or forget. Without our consent, it comes flooding upon us all over again. Healing is precipitated when we walk straight towards the juncture of our hurt and face it. We take those raw, cutting, unbearable emotions and wrestle them into a place where they no longer subdue and control us. Pain eventually becomes substituted with grace and peace (easier said then done, I know).
The principle of confession and repentance are found at this same juncture; it is the place of honesty. So is the releasing power of forgiveness. So is the doorway to a sound mind and a healthier perspective. It’s this very place that we, in our human frailty, often endlessly work to avoid. Yet, it’s here where battles are won, and captives are sent free from their respective tormenter. To say “the truth sets you free” is very applicable to one who makes themselves hopelessly vulnerable and brutally honest.
You Cannot Own What You Do Not Acknowledge
I personally believe that one of the most healing steps a former message believer can have is to acknowledge and accept “the good”. It is so easy to be consumed in “the bad” that our frame of mind becomes skewed. So much so, that you simply don’t know what to do with any semblance of ‘good’ while wrapped in conflicting emotion. My encouragement is to not allow yourself to be robbed of the good memories.
How? Well here are some thoughts on it.
It Is Not Betrayal to Embrace Good Experienced
Acknowledge the ‘Good’
One part of you is saying “the message is foul”, and the other part of you is saying “but I love my upbringing”. One part of you is saying “they won’t even talk to me”, and the other part of you is saying “but we had such happy times together”. A part of you is saying “Everything I learned is wrong”, and another part of you is saying “but I loved God, church and worship”. Stop. It is not a betrayal of your spiritual position to embrace good experiences. Let the good be good. Let the memories be precious and the friendship you shared be real. You weren’t pretending to be friends. You were friends. You did have good and wonderful times. Your adventures and laughter should never be robbed of you. They were not wasted friendships and pointless events. It was a picture of you feeling, breathing, living your life with sincerity and absorbing into you the essence of life. You didn’t know any different, so don’t be robbed of it. Let the genuine efforts and love of your parents be good. They were doing in sincerity what they knew and believed to be true. And they surely were doing so without intention of harm, but with hopes of goodness and mercy to fall on you.
Let your desire for God be genuine. Let your worship be genuine and your desire to learn to be fruitful in the manner which you intended. Yes, you failed to know that there was much wrong with the way you approached God. But when you think of how you loved, and how you committed yourself, and how you strived to be found faithful – let it be a lesson for good. Acknowledge those precious people, and those wonderful times. Let it be good.
Put the Sickness where it Belongs
If you think back to your life in the message, who of your loved ones was guilty of the illusion? You were all sitting in the same boat of sincerity, paddling down the same river, following the same rules and hoping you didn’t fall out, sink or take a wrong turn at a juncture and end up cascading down a waterfall. It was your life – and you were all on the journey together. True some people didn’t appear to want to be in the boat, even as they reluctantly paddled; but there were factors that kept you all there. Your family and friends were bound by the same spell that you were. The fact that you broke free from it doesn’t make you better than them. And if they were upset by your decision to jump out of the boat and ‘swim for it’, well…you would have felt the same when someone else ‘swam for it ’ years ago. No one is supposed to get out of the boat! So where does the sickness lie? Where does the distaste come from? In people? In friends? In family? Or are they wrapped in the fear and deception that you were too for all those years.
Put the sickness where it belongs, and don’t let it infect what was good. The fact that you can no longer be “friends”, or sit across the table from each other and laugh with familiar ease, or hear ‘those songs’ you loved is the result of a message we believed was ‘good’.
Be Thankful for the good times.
In contrast to the conflict, it would be good to actually be thankful. Thankful to have been given good things to think upon. Good memories. My own father who left the message nearly 30 years ago, told me that the message helped keep him away from the alcoholism that affected his family. That’s a wonderful “good” to hold in your hand and be thankful for. That is not an evidence of the message being true; there’s no conflict necessary. That is something good that came of it. And my dad still acknowledges and owns that with thankfulness. He passed on a safe home to his family; and I am thankful for that also.
Can Anything Good Come?
Like Nazareth, the reputation of the message isn’t good. But that has nothing to do with the good that can come from it. You’ve had experience in “Nazareth”, and walked the streets. When there is good to speak of, don’t let the reputation of “Nazareth” define it. After all, didn’t you come from “Nazareth”?