I was reading a blog the other day and came across a story, which rang true with me because I had a very similar experience.
My husband and I frequent a local chain restaurant. We have eaten there for years with great satisfaction. We go there because it is close by, its clean, the people are welcoming, friendly, they provide good service, we like the food and the prices are reasonable.
About a month ago we had three encounters in a row in which the food and service were less than expected. On the first occasion it was something minor and I can’t even remember what it was. On the second occasion, the waitress forgot to put in an appetizer order. We didn’t notice until the meal came. I mentioned it to the waitress. She apologized and she asked if we wanted it then. We said, “No,” and that was that. The manager came by and offered us the appetizer at no cost. “to go” when we were done. I didn’t think we needed the rich appetizer at that point, so we declined the offer. We were not charged for the item, of course, and it was waiting “to go” at the conclusion of our meal anyway.
On the third occasion the entrée I ordered arrived and was so far too salty for me to enjoy. I ate a small amount and simply set the plate aside. I was not upset by this. In fairness, I thought perhaps some of the problem was my sensitivity to salt since I use almost none. I had other things to eat that I liked, so I continued eating other items. The waitress came along, and noticed that the plate was largely untouched. I explained that it was too salty for me. She offered to replace it with another item, but we were well into the meal and I really was OK with simply forgoing that item. The next thing I knew, the manger was at my side apologizing and offering to deduct the cost of that dish from our bill. I told her it was absolutely not necessary, that the dish was simply not to my taste and those things happen. The manager insisted that the cost of the meal be deducted from the bill. She then returned with a gift card for a free appetizer in the future.
Now I know there are people who make a habit of having “problems” in restaurants just so they can have their bills reduced or receive free extras; but I am not one of those people. I didn’t like creating a scene and began to fear that the folks in this restaurant would see me as one of those difficult people. I imagined that I’d be arriving and they would be thinking, “Oh my God, here’s the lady who always has issues with her food. What will it be today?”
On the way home, my husband quietly suggested that we seemed to be having a bad run and perhaps we should not go back to that restaurant for a while. God bless him; for I had been secretly thinking the same thing.
The point I would like to make is that similar things happen within the church. People have successful histories within the church. They are involved and busy, sometimes for generations. … and then a bad experience causes them to leave or stay away. .. to break relationship. They perceive one thing or one incident to be so hurtful or egregious that it trumps years of good and positive experiences. We know the reasons: Someone said something that seemed insensitive. A change occurred or something happened that someone didn’t like. Someone had an idea or said something that no one agreed with. Someone felt excluded from something. Someone didn’t follow through on something. The reasons people stay away are many and varied. I have done that very thing myself.
Looking back, I now realize that when I broke away from the church for a while, my focus was on myself and not on God. I was not surrendering myself to God and trusting Him to show me the way. My own belief that I had great faith, my ego, prevented me from actually living in faith. At the time, I was only acting for myself. I spoke about my anger to people not involved in the church. I was not looking for resolution. I was trying to justify my position. I foolishly acted as if it was just about me. I had separated myself from God, and in doing so, my actions negatively impacted my whole family, including my church family.
Living in faith means letting God lead. It means being open to a God who promises to never leave us, who is closer than our very breath. It also means trusting and being confident, in faith, that God know what He’s doing! It really means letting go and letting God. That is the challenge!
So many times in church, we let little things take our eyes off the goals God places before us. Calling ourselves a church family suggests we’re all loving and nice to one another all the time. I don’t know too many families where that always happens. Like our own families, people in churches say and do things that hurt one another’s feelings. The important thing is that with God’s help, we forgive, and hopefully, forget. We move on. We grow. We understand that we are a unique unit. We need one another. We are related. God has brought us together for a reason. We cannot give up on that.
Last Thursday my husband and I were taking two of our grandkids out to dinner. Everyone had additional plans that evening so we wanted something with good food, close by that wouldn’t take too long. We ended up in our local favorite that we had agreed to avoid for a while. The food, the service, everything was good and the company was outstanding. The laughter and good time we shared together were a blessing, one that we might have missed had we gone somewhere else.