I unfollowed God because I was hurt by the church.
“Hi, I am Laura Trentham, and this is a part of my story. It starts with me being raised in a super traditional church with a very devout family. I went to our church’s Private school, we attended services 3-4 times a week, fully invested in all the sacraments and it played a huge roll in my identity, in who 13-year-old me thought I was. My home life is like that of many of yours. I am the product of parents whose marriage ended in divorce. In my old church that is a hard NO-NO. One that is only rectified by an annulment, especially if you want to remarry. Some churches or church leadership hold that line much more strictly than others. At that age my mother had newly remarried and we had just moved to my Stepdad’s home in a new town. The leadership in the church we attended there made it known that while we, the children, were welcome to attend my mother was not. That was a hard hit because that caused my Mom to leave the church she was raised in and had raised me and my siblings in and started attending a Protestant Church with my new stepdad.
In the hopes of smashing 6 kids, four from one parent and 2 from another, into a modern-day Brady Bunch level of happy, part of my parent’s solution was we all had to attend church together. For a young angry teen….that was a very bitter pill to swallow.
1. I was mad because I had moved from all my friends
2. I was in a new town,
3. I was starting high school, and now the one thing I found solace in was being taken away from me because of one of their rules my mom didn’t follow.
So that was strike #1 in my young believers’ heart, but I put most of that anger more on my mom and new stepdad. I will give the youth pastor at their church credit though. When he found out I was finding my own way to services on Saturday evenings in the church I was raised in because I had to attend Sunday service with the family, he told them to back off and let me attend when and where I wanted. So, all through high school I decided that I wanted to continue to attend the church I was raised in and did faithfully until one critical Sunday when it all went really wrong for me. I got up during service at the end of a sermon feeling hurt and broken and in true shock at what I had just heard from the pulpit.
The sermon is a little fuzzy to me now with the passing of time; this was in the mid 1990’s, and I am sure I was listening to it with the ears of a younger me. The part that stood out and had me so angry was Father Brinker saying a church full of people — but it felt like he was speaking directly to me — “Young women who place children for adoption are no better than those who have abortions.”
I am one out of ten who has fallen victim to sexual assault. I was unfortunate enough to become pregnant from that encounter. I did not decide to terminate, I had that child and placed the baby for adoption.
In my cloud of hurt and rage and anger at what my church leader had said I stood up and walked out of that church and to this day I have never returned to that church. That was only the second but at that time final strike to that church not the type of religion as a whole. Through all of this I had never lost my faith or belief in God, but man did I have a burned bridge with that church. As I continued to grow and have a wider view of the world, I realized that the traditional church that I had a deep love of was becoming harder and harder for me to hold onto. I just came to a place where no matter how comfortable or easy service felt or how happy I was with it the bigger picture was just not right for me and I stepped away from all churches in the early 2000’s.
This is how things became broken for me with God and the church.
For several years I would attend church with my children, but I was just showing up to check the boxes. Then would use the time excuses or the busy life excuses and would come and go with churches. I felt a constant tug and nagging pull to return to church right after Eli was born in 2012, but it wasn’t something that was made a priority in our house. We did a little church shopping while we were in Florida but didn’t try very hard and would watch church online. God was stirring in my heart in a huge way and I was plugging into a women’s ministry, so when my husband went to Korea for an army deployment, I started church shopping. That is when I found Grace. Since then, I have renewed my faith and started growing deeper and deeper in relationship with God. It has been since I renewed my walk with God that it hit me out of the blue what Fr. Brinker was actually saying. He wasn’t saying that adoption and abortion were the same. I am ashamed to say it took me until my 40’s to realize that I had missed his message altogether. I was so wrapped up in my own hurt and youth and my own situation that I just felt attacked and that he was talking about me.
I felt that message that day was one of those we all get sometimes where the Pastor is up there delivering a message that has you convinced, he has been spying into your life and mind to get things so dead on. What he was actually saying that day wasn’t about me at all. What I think he was trying to say then, not well mind you, is that young girls who chose to have sex outside of marriage and place their child for adoption are no less sinful than those who have sex outside of marriage and terminate an unwanted pregnancy. I think what he was saying is their sexual sin was the same no matter what path they chose to take after the fact. While this might have been technically true, it was only partially true because it skipped God’s love and forgiveness of me (Psalm 103:12), and His patience with my weakness (Psalm 103:14). And it was certainly a confusing and harmful way to put it.
I spent 20 years carrying that hurt and anger and misunderstanding around. I can say today though that it was such a blessing. It forced me to seek the truth for myself in the Bible. It taught me that hearing a message is good but going into the word in the Bible on my own is so powerful. It taught me that just because a church is right for my loved ones, or because it was the church I was raised in, it doesn’t make it mine. It taught me that God sometimes has a really long game planned. That when in Jeremiah 29:11-12 and in Peter 3:8-9 God’s timing and plan and purpose for you are full of His love and patience for you.”