I recently attended a meeting in Hilliard, Ohio (suburb of Columbus), to represent the “faith community” for a drug awareness program. The meeting was made up of people representing Hilliard police, teachers, community sports leagues, even moms who have lost kids to heroin overdoses. A Hilliard graduate who is 22 and has been in recovery for a year and a half was also present.
During the meeting, I learned staggering facts about addiction and how our communities are getting hit hard with heroin and other drugs. I learned how people are looking for resources for help and hope. A mom who lost her son nine months ago said to me, “I went to the local church and they didn’t want to talk about it; I just don’t think they knew what to do or where to send me. It’s embarrassing to tell people, ask for help, and to have your child in and out of recovery programs month after month, year after year. People wonder what’s wrong with that family, what’s wrong with you as a parent–at least you feel that way and you become so full of shame and embarrassment.”
I wanted to apologize on behalf of the Church and say I am so sorry she feels shameful, that it’s not her fault, and that I think sometimes the Church isn’t “there” and ready to help. We do need to do a better job.
This has really made me think about the message we are sending as a Church. People secretly tell me that their marriages are falling apart, but they don’t think people will understand because others have the “perfect” marriage and “perfect” children.
People are struggling with many things: addiction, kids who are gay, depression, kids drinking, and so on. But some of them think they can’t come to church with that kind of life. One of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis is, “True connection is birthed when one person says to another, ‘you, too? I thought I was the only one.'”
I wish I could put signs up and down the road by our two Cypress Wesleyan Church campuses (Alton Darby and Dublin) that say, “We are not the church for perfect people.” And we, by no means, are the perfect church. In fact, we are so imperfect. We are parents of heroin addicts. We are people who have had affairs, divorced, and lied. We struggle with shame, doubt, depression, and anxiety. Our kids aren’t perfect and neither are our marriages. We lose our jobs and we lose loved ones.
Sometimes we may act like we are perfect and have it all together and for that we are very sorry. We don’t want you to think you have to clean up your life before you enter our doors or talk to one of us in the community. We want to accept you as you are because we know what it felt like when we were accepted as we were. We want to lead you to help and hope.
We want to tell you there are some of us like you here and we are on the same road as you. Some of us may be further along and some of us may not be. All of us have fallen down at some point but we all want help getting back up and taking another step. Most of us have found our only true hope is in Christ and we’ve learned through it all that he is our only source of hope and healing. Some of us are still searching. What most of us have realized is we can’t do life on our own. We have to have people beside us who understand.
And that’s what we want you to know.
Serena Murphy is the wife of Ken Murphy, lead pastor of Cypress Church in Columbus, Ohio, and has three sons, Jackson (19), Mac (16), and Peyton (12).