Sarah* hasn’t been to church in months. Sarah is my friend, Sarah is a Christian, and Sarah is hurting. For Sarah, the church has not been the great hospital St. Augustine described: a place for suffering sinners to heal and rest. Instead, church has been a battleground, the place where she was wounded.
Sarah is one of a number of people I know who, although they love the church, can’t be in church for a while. They remain at home, on ‘bed rest’, so to speak: feeling the tension of belonging to Christ’s universal church but finding it too painful to participate in its local congregation.
In the past twenty years, I have brewed many cups of tea for many Sarahs. In some situations, I fear I may have made it worse: saying too much too strongly, ignoring James’ words to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19) There are some Sarahs who no doubt count me among their aggressors; a fact that brings me great grief. From those Sarahs, I would ask forgiveness. Where my words were vinegar on an open wound, I am deeply sorry.
Over the years, though, I have had the privilege of brewing tea for some Sarahs for whom I was a better listener, and who have come a long way on their healing journeys. Just as athletes from a variety of sports can tell you how rest, ice, compression and elevation are key factors in recovering from any sports injury, my Sarahs from a variety of churches repeatedly tell me that these are some of the key ways they needed support as they recovered from their spiritual injuries:
*not her real name