the family that left

>> July 25, 2011

It's happened at every church in America. A once active family leaves. Some leave on good terms, others leave on not so good terms, some disappear, a multitude of reason could fit here; you get the picture. There are so many scenarios surrounding stances on when and why a family leaves.

Last year we had a family leave that was very near and dear to our hearts. The husband came to church but did not serve the Lord. We loved on him, he volunteered here and there, but wasn't ready to commit to Christ. He came to church to appease his wife and it lasted almost two years. The woman had children close in age to my kiddos and they were so precious. As they weaved into the church body we began seeing them at least two to three times a week. Our children played together on a weekly basis, we shopped, laughed, had garage sales, lots of fun times. She served as a lead volunteer for one our ministries and one day she disappeared. She stopped coming suddenly, didn't return phone calls, didn't reply to text messages, stayed facebook friends but quite commenting and interaction. In the beginning, I really made effort because of how close we had gotten to reach out. I knew I couldn't have offended her, surly not we were friends on a certain level, our kids were friends, I was confused. After being ignored so many times, the only thing left to do is pray and move on.

I say all of that to say for the first time in little over a year, I ran into her at the gym. She saw me first and kept walking, avoiding eye contact. But the eye contact had been made, I only had a few seconds to react. Part of me wanted to stay quiet and ignore, but that would only have left me in wonder and possibly an opportunity for a root to set in that wasn't there. The other part of me was so happy to see her face and it appeared she was doing well. Then once again I was quickly taken back as I recalled the rejection when I reached out; after she fell off the planet. Nevertheless, I spoke up and said "Hi Roxanne" (not her real name obviously) she said "Oh hi" in her passing by. I wanted to approach and hug (I'm from the south) and ask how are you doing? What happened to you? Is everything going okay now? How are the kids? How is Aaron? (not husbands real name either) but it was obvious she wasn't open to conversation as she kept walking like I was more of a stranger.

I have lots on my plate, so there isn't much time to dwell on the situation but it did bring me to ask the question "how do you react should you face this situation again?" Even under different circumstances; there are people I have begged God to not let me run into for both their good and my good at the local grocery store, mall or local eateries. (I'm being real ladies) I have purposed in my heart to walk love and release things. Might not be the greatest method, but it's how my heart functions. I believe releasing people, events, emotions, situations into the hands of God really brings freedom, less we harbor hurt, resentment, bitterness and lots of other emotions. I don't want to live a life depressed, in fear or anger. What do you do when you run into a family that left the church?

Ignore them
Walk the opposite directions
Nod and smile
Stop and say hello
Be a jerk, making snark comments

I hope that we can learn to let things go and walk in love. Post your best practices here, I'd love to hear them and believe you me it happens all across America so we could all use cleaver methods on how to handle awkward moments when you run into them.

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ThePreacher'sHelpmeet July 25, 2011 at 1:20 PM  

The lady who cleaned our church did this (but continued to clean the church). When we meet, I will greet her, ask how her son and mother are doing. When she first left the church, it was hard because we knew she was one who was easily offended - and also a gossip. For weeks I watched out our window to see when she was at the church cleaning so I could greet her and make sure we had not inadvertantly offended her. When I was finaly able to catch her (in a gentle, hopefully it wasn't overbearing, manner), I told her that we missed her, and were praying for her. Then I carefully asked her if we had said or done something that offended her. However, the situation was a sin issue in her own life that she did not want to resolve. Because it was clear she did not want help, we have simply continued to quietly pray for her family and reach out when opportunities arise. We have chosen not to seek her out, but to allow God to arrange our meetings.

Angela July 27, 2011 at 2:01 PM  

I had to face this on a few occasions. All I did was go up to them with a hug and a greeting like old friends! It was awkward but I didn't know what else to do.

Krista August 5, 2011 at 10:04 PM  

i've come to a point in life where, although it bothers me when someone leaves our church, i don't let it hang around and bother me forever. if i run into them in a store i smile and greet them if i'm physically that close, and that's all. if they growl or are clearly uncomfortable, i just let it roll off my back. honestly - i've got bigger fish to fry than worrying about it. and i think Satan loves it when we get sidetracked by stuff like that.

TinaBambina August 6, 2011 at 5:27 PM  

I am new to being a Pastors wife and our church is in the inner city. It is a common thing for people to come and go, it is the nature of their lifestyles. Recently however I faced this kind of situation. A lady who had been a member of our church from almost the start, a founding member, on the board, and a good friend seemingly fell off the map, stopped showing up, avoided me, started making excuses for not coming to all the things she used to. At first I was angry, I admit I could have handled that better. If I could have stepped back and not reacted in anger maybe she wouldn't still be doing what she's doing, I feel like I may have messed up. I spoke to her on Facebook the other day, told her how much I miss her, and said the things I should have said months ago. I pray that it's not to late to get her back into the fold and out of the mess she's gotten herself in. Thanks for this blog. So nice to see I'm not alone in the real life issues I face as a Pastors wife.

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