Monday, 27 September 2010

Dear church, an open letter

Dear church,

This is just a letter to try to explain how I'm feeling and why. How I am feeling is shorter to explain: deeply sad with occasional tinges of angry and a side of lonely would just about sum it up.

I'm not blaming you for this, I know I'm rubbish at explaining things and at vocalising my needs and how can you know what I need if I don't say? It's so hard being the only Christian in your family. Then add in being sick, to the point where dealing with everyday things like getting dressed and brushing your hair and remembering to take your pills were all challenging and tiring and a struggle, and maybe you can begin to see the problem? I struggle with daily existence, tired is a wholly inadequate word for describing just how exhausted I am, even on a supposedly "good" day (and there aren't a lot of those about, they're nearly as rare as dodos). This is physical exhaustion so profound that it feels like you are being dragged down by gravity and total mental exhaustion that means that thinking is incredibly hard work, it is like having a scrambled brain with only occasional patches where the mist clears. Add in physical pain and having joints as stiff as the average great-granny and a host of minor ailments, as well as a daily battle to keep my mood stable and maybe my absence from church seems more understandable?

I used to love church on a Sunday, at uni before I got so sick I'd go to the morning and the evening service and it was the highlight of my week. I'm not a slacker and it's not that I can't be bothered - I miss church, I miss coming together with other Christians and sharing that precious fellowship and worship. But I find church services too much and too difficult, the noise, lots of people, the journey there and back, the pain from sitting in the pews, the crippling cold - when I did used to make it to church it was wearing all my warmest clothes and with a hot water bottle - the length of the service, not being able to stand for any length of time, not being able to sing for more than about half a song, not being able to follow the sermon and the frustration of not being able to do the things I once loved are all too much. When I realised that by midweek Life group I still hadn't recovered from the previous Sunday and that my whole week was dominated by crashing from church, if I made it, I realised that I needed to put church on hold until I got a bit better. Unfortunately conversely despite my best efforts my health has declined further since then so returning is not yet possible. I put church on hold because I was spending most of the weekend worrying and feeling guilty about whether or not I should go to church, whether or not I was well enough or just being lazy. The self doubt, guilt and questioning was driving me to madness. Taking that decision was so freeing, though very sad.

I do try to keep up with the sermons from home, but there I can pause and restart and rewind the sermon as often as I need to in order to follow the message. I also try to get to Life group as much as I can, after all without it I would get no church whatsoever, but even that has become periodic, particularly lately during the latest crash. In order to get to Life group I have to rest up all of Wednesday during the day, avoid scheduling medical appointments that day and avoid doing too much on Thursday so I can recover afterwards (going out in the evenings tends to mean I can't sleep until very late that night). Even making these efforts I don't make it much... and once I'm there staying awake, staying physically comfortable (not in pain etc.) concentrating and at times just the noise of being in a room full of people can make it really hard.

I know that this is long and laying the situation on with a trowel, but I spend so much time trying to downplay how I feel and trying to appear "normal" that I tend not to talk about how I feel or say what's on my mind. I hate to feel I'm trying to make anyone else who says they're tired or not feeling well feel like I'm trying to "compete" or "trump them" by going on about how awful I feel - I get enough health related competition at home. Therefore maybe you don't know what I need? Or that I'm feeling sad and lonely and sometimes angry because I'm by myself and feel neglected. Seeing Marion has helped, but not enough I'm afraid. Her coming does mean that I see another Christian at least every six weeks or so, but how would you cope in the intervening weeks not seeing another Christian or hearing from any? Having no one to pray with, no one to encourage and being encouraged by, no one to discuss Christian matters with, no fellowship.

I do understand that everyone is busy, everyone has so much on, there's all these committees and rotas that need filling and I wish I could help. If I could help I would. And I hate having to ask for help, not just because of pride, but because I know that I'm a burden on you all and so useless and unable to help you. But it's such hard work trying to keep faith alive and lively on your own and I'm feeling so worn down, unrefreshed and dry. I suppose what I'm asking is if there is any chance anyone has some time to come and spend with me, reading the Bible, praying, talking about Jesus, telling me about all the things our new vicar is doing, chatting, telling me about yourself, what you're up to, what's happening in your life, what you love, what makes you laugh. My life is so boring, I love hearing about you. Even replying to my emails would be a start. I know there are lots of opportunities for fellowship organised by the church, but as I've said, I'm just not well enough to take them up. You wouldn't have to visit (or go out for coffee) for long (in fact it's far better if you don't because being with other people is tiring, but very worthwhile), or even very often. But surely someone or some people could spare a bit of time every month or fortnight? Even just for the odd email?

Sorry to go on for so long, I find it so much easier to talk in written words than in spoken words. And sorry if this sounds accusatory or attacking, it's not meant to be, but I've got to say this somehow or I'll never have any peace or stop feeling so sad.

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus,

love Stephanie

P.S. some prayer for healing wouldn't come amiss either.


  1. beautifully written. I hope someone answers your call for help and encouragement. You can contact/email me if you'd like. I'm not close, but I'm willing to be an email friend, and I'd be more than willing to pray for you if you'd like. :)

  2. I empathize with this post. I am in the same situation. No other Christians in the family (but a father who lives a long ways away), and struggling with health issues (mental and physical). I also have to watch my involvement in outside activities period. And I have to be prepared to pull back from church activities if I need to.

    I hope you've received help by now. There is always something a person can do with/for the church. Even if it's just running a birthday card ministry for the Sunday School children. I used to do that and it was easy... I ordered cards on-line, got a list of birthdates from the church, wrote up the cards a week ahead of time, and mailed them once a week.

    I do hope you've gathered the gumption to talk to your minister or someone on the ministerial team about your situation. Churches often have options for people who are basically shut-in. But you do have to start the ball in motion by picking up the phone. {{{Hugs}}}

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  4. (((Stephanie)))

    This was well written. I think sometimes that the "be-ers" in the church don't get celebrated like "do-ers" do. I hope this helps change things for you.

    And ofcourse, I'm here, although not near, (yes that was meant to rhyme) and love talking with you even though it's only via computer.

  5. Thank you to everyone who replied, I really do appreciate your messages and prayers x