NOTE: This post was written by a guest blogger, Kelsey Rene Kinstle.
I consider myself a bit of a religious outsider. I haven’t attended a church for more than a month at a time since everything happened. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to shake the sick feeling I get in the pit of my stomach the moment I enter a place of worship.
To say the Church wounded me would be a vast understatement.It crippled me. It sucked the marrow from my bones and along with it, every morsel of joy I had. I won’t go into details, because here, the details don’t matter. I was wounded. And in my darkest hour, one by one, everyone I cared about and loved turned their back to me.
The pain of betrayal.
Loss and grief .
Everything I had known and loved was ripped from my hands.
I was forsaken, alone.
I spiraled once again into the abyss of depression. My mom still recalls hearing me through the walls late at night — uncontrollable sobbing. I would scream to God, Father let this cup pass from me. Take this pain away and if you cannot, take my life. Spare me from this suffering.
I relapsed and quickly lost 25 pounds. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t function. I was a hollow ghost of my former self.
I promised that I would never let a church hurt me again. I would never again let man destroy my happiness and self worth in that way. So for the most part, I have stayed outside the walls of Church, an outsider lingering by the gates, singing softly along to the music that comes from inside. But every so often, when my heart craves a brush with the divine and corporate worship, I will slide into the back of a church somewhere and pretend like it doesn’t give me anxiety.
A year ago, on Easter Sunday, and I found myself sitting in a hard wooden pew. I had slipped in late through the bright red doors at the back of this Episcopal church. I closed my eyes and breathed the incense deeply – it helped calm my nerves. I opened them and set my gaze, past the table set for the Eucharist, onto the wooden Jesus hanging on the cross.
Through the singing of the hymns and the homily, I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the wooden man hanging in the center of the church. I would glance away for a moment, but something would draw me back.
It came time for the Eucharist and I walked to the front. My knees touched the altar, waiting for my turn with the bread and wine, and my eyes locked with Christ’s.
As much as I want to leave the Church completely and my faith behind with it, in that moment, I realized I cannot. I gaze into the eyes of my savior, and I know I am not alone.
I am forever bound to Christ. It’s because of the cross that my life is intertwined with his through suffering.
He shares in my affliction,
in my humiliation,
in my doubts and loneliness.
I look into the eyes of Christ and I know that I was not alone in the midst of the night, my darkest hours, when I screamed at God asking why he had left me.
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?
I find comfort in knowing those words had been uttered thousands of years before they left my own lips.
I was abandoned and ostracized by those I loved most. I was forced to carry the weight of my cross, alone, while the religious elite spit on me. Jesus too walked the dark road of isolation, abandonment, and deep suffering. He was betrayed by those closest to him. He was spit on and mocked. He died alone on a cross, in total darkness while the whole world turned their eyes from him. He intimately knows this kind of trauma.
Christ doesn’t help us avoid suffering, nor does he rescue us from it.
Rather, he meets us in the midst of it. It’s in these moments, when the open wound of life is overwhelmingly painful, that Christ moves into suffering with us.
It’s because of the cross that I still have hope enough to carry on.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
-Kelsey Rene Kinstle