Imagine a church that you've grown up in. You've known the families since you were all of eight years old, you were all homeschooled, you saw each other several times a week. You all played together, did field trips together, swam together, got baptized together, there were like family.
Imagine you turn 14 and suddenly you find out about underlying tensions and fights that go on between the families at this church. Suddenly, the children are old enough to understand bits and pieces and their parents share their anger and judgmental opinions on the others because they aren't doing what they are doing or aren't as godly, who aren't "like them".
Imagine suddenly hearing all of these things about people you considered your siblings, your best friends, people who you looked up to. You've been taught to never question, to never think for yourself, only to follow, and so you pick up your parents prejudices and carry them like a yoke.
Imagine you suddenly can't play with, talk to or see your best friends. Imagine suddenly you lose two thirds of a trio of best friends. Imagine families ganging up against families.
Imagine church meetings that go round and round in circles, parents accuse other parents children of gossiping or being sinful. Imagine being pulled into sudden meetings at potlucks where you are confronted with something you apparently did but didn't know you did. Everyone's pointing fingers and you've never felt more alone or more hated.
Imagine endless tears, depression, emotional/physical disorders, family abuse, things that you didn't think you would experience at 15, 16, 17 years old.
Imagine trying to be the perfect little Christian model of virtue and purity your parents needed you to be to make them look good in front of everyone else. If you step one foot out of line you're yelled at for hours afterwards. You nearly break trying to be what they want but it's never good enough. All they care about is how they look and being the warped Christian family they were told they had to be.
Imagine every family save one in the church icing out your best friends family so much that they leave.
Years of love and supposed "friendship" all for naught.
Imagine questioning Christianity, God, the warped view of religion and Jesus that you were raised in, Imagine becoming disillusioned with it all and breaking away from it completely.
Imagine many of these children rebelling, because if this is what God is and what love in Christ is then they want no part of it. So they rebel, leave their homes, experience too much of the world too quickly, harden their hearts and want nothing to do with God, commit acts of sin they would regret forever.
Imagine some children who instead of rebelling become enslaved to their parents control and prejudices, they never learn to really know God, just to judge and condemn and live in emotional bondage. They become copies of their parents.
Imagine a church in ruins. A church that had once been a home.
Imagine leaving and going to college with a hardened heart and holes that you thought would never heal.
Imagine God touching the hearts of the children. Not all maybe but many of the children, they slowly break free from the old ways and search God out for themselves...they don't have it all figured out yet, but they're trying. They're happier, they don't condemn only love. Imagine them slowly reaching out to their old friends, rebuilding friendships, getting dinner occasionally, seeing a movie, inviting them to their grad parties, and weddings.
Imagine many of them forgiving one another even if their parents cannot forgive each other, and being able to meet in a random place like Buffalo Wild Wings and eat dinner and laugh and recount the happy days before the rift. Remembering our innocent childhood and days in the pool or at the farm. Laughing, being happy, and smiling because we know we have forgiven each other.
Imagine my heart slowly beginning to heal.
That is what I experienced today and it was beautiful. To God be the glory for it. It may have only been 6 of us, and there may only be a few others who have also forgiven and moved on, but it is better than none and I honestly never thought I'd see the day.
So thank you God, for being a God of healing.
At this moment I can truly say, It is well with my soul.