The oversized rocking chair glides back and forth while it supports my six-month pregnant body. The windows are open and the late May night air passes through my living room with whiffs of lilacs lingering. With the older three kids sleeping, my home is still and quiet. Trying to stay relaxed and calm, I rock and pray while waiting for word on the reasoning for an emergency late-night elders meeting that abruptly called my husband, Brent away.
The phone rings and I hear the hesitation and sorrow in my husband’s voice as he reluctantly divulges what the meeting regarded. Together we have grieved the loss of a number of babies due to miscarriages over the course of seven years; he and the elders know that any amount of excess stress or trauma could deem detrimental to this baby. He cautiously proceeds to reveal that the elders of the church where he is an associate pastor have decided without cause to terminate his employment. My heart sank, my hands tremble, and contractions begin to increase. Deep sorrow and fear overwhelmed me.
In the matter of a moment and by the control of just three men, we lost our employment and our church family. The congregation did not get a vote and they would not be notified. Many within ministry understand exactly what transpired that night and what we would face in the coming months. Over the next few weeks, my husband would be in constant conversations and meetings trying to uncover the reasoning behind his dismissal. Those conversations were difficult and yielded little when it came to understanding. The elders stated that he hadn’t violated any biblical mandates and in a roundabout way acknowledged that there were no grounds for dismissal. We were asked to not discuss with anyone what was transpiring and it was heavily implied that our severance would be withheld if such discussions occurred. I did hope that the other elder’s wives would reach out to me, but instead I was met with silence.
More than the financial blow was the loss of our church family. We felt abandoned by our church family in a time that we needed them the most. Our voice was squelched by the elders and we were not in a position to compromise the small severance being offered. Only a few people came to us wanting to know why we were no longer at church and how they could help our family. We are very grateful for those who stood with us even though we abided by the agreement to not share about the dismissal. The remainder of the congregation went on with their busy lives and blindly believed anything the elders shared with them regarding our lack of attendance. To this day I do not understand why those who inquired about us did not contact us directly.
Journal Excerpt from June 2016: Baby Gigi will be showing us her beautiful face for the first time in just a few weeks [due date was August 1, 2016]. We have no church family to introduce her to. As of now, her daddy is working tirelessly to find adequate employment. We feel robbed of the last leg of this pregnancy. A time of joy and anticipation is marred by pain and anxiety. We try desperately not let this time be taken from us, but the darkness is hard to miss. The weight of these burdens is so heavy and we have lost the community we trusted to be with us during challenging times. I know God will carry us, that He is carrying us, but we feel a deep hurt none the less.
Complacency within the church runs deep and wide and it wasn’t avoiding us. I am a justice seeker and I struggle when there is a misuse of power, but I struggle more when people are silent in the midst of wrongdoing. Those who knew what was happening and sat silently are just as guilty as the elders of violating God’s mandates and the church bylaws.
It is disheartening to know how complacent we can become to hold onto the false calm we desire. To this day the deepest pain we felt from that situation came from those who turned a blind eye. Even in our silence, we are communicating. In the case of complacency, we communicate that we don’t really care what is happening as long as our personal bubble isn’t disturbed.
When we are faced with an injustice it is without a doubt more comfortable to stay silent, to be hidden, to not make a fuss; especially when the issue doesn’t affect us directly. It’s easier to say that it’s none of our business or that we are choosing to stay neutral. At one time or another, we all have chosen to be complacent rather than to speak up. I get it, I do understand that we can’t take on all of the burdens of our world. What I don’t understand is why we choose to disregard the issues with which we can take action. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. Instead, we make excuses as to why we keep our distance. We like our lives to stay as tidy as possible and we are often afraid to step inside of someone else’s mess. Sadly, we can also end up avoiding the issues within our own lives due to our complacency.
Why are we so afraid of other people’s hurt or struggles? Does it boil down to the emotional and practical effort we would need to produce? Are we really so disconnected that we can’t step into someone’s mess to help them walk through it and even engage in the battle? These are some of the ways we can end up showing our complacency towards others. To move beyond complacency, we need to take intentional steps to enter into the lives of others. We need to give gospel-centered care. ***A follow-up post with practical ways to come out of complacency: Step Out of the Silence***