I received a letter from an old friend, a pastor's wife. She used shaded and painstaking words, language intended to convey deep personal struggle without giving too much in the way of detail. To this day I don't know exactly what happened to her and who ultimately was at fault—if anyone. Nevertheless, the tone of her letter made miserably clear that she was wounded.
Not, apparently, wounded by any single person or event but—as she saw it—wounded by the church. After a lifetime of engagement, she has dropped out of active involvement. She indicated she needed to learn how to experience Jesus' love instead of guilt and duty.
This friend had sought help. Philip Yancey's writings have meant a great deal to her. A therapist has provided support and insight, helping her learn to care for herself. As if to allay any misunderstandings, she wrote that her husband had been supportive and understanding.
But when she would be back in circulation, she could not say.
I read the letter with a sinking feeling, not just from pity for my friend, but also because she reminded me of an epidemic I have been uneasily witnessing. Every time I turn around, I meet another person like her, who feels wounded by the church.
Of course, churches are human institutions, and they have been disappointing people since the time of Peter. I doubt, though, that this has ever translated so readily into individuals who carry around their pain, who suffer emotionally and spiritually so deeply that they are virtually disabled. I think we have more such people about than ever before—many more.
Wounded people are real, and their injuries are real. We may never authoritatively establish the real source of the problem—whether a failure of the church, or a failure of the ...1