This past year has been an amazing one for me, but not in a positive way. I am impressed by the sheer number of trials and tests I have endured and continue to experience, and most of the testing began when I became more involved at a church.
When I got the opportunity to work full-time at a place of worship, I remember feeling elated. I had moved to Texas for a change, to get closer to God and find a community that shared my faith, and this community sort of fell into my lap. After three rounds of interviews, I was selected, and I felt God had qualified me to work there.
During the interview process, I was honest about my background, where I was on my journey towards Christ, and how I came from a background that was less conservative than the community I’d be serving. The hiring team assured me that these qualities were my strengths and so I felt the job was a gift from God. After a meandering start in Texas, I felt everything was about to settle.
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.1 Peter 4:12 (NLT)
However, within a week of working at the church, I experienced conflict. I learned that many of the female elders did not like me much, they assumed since I was younger and single, that I was a threat to their marriages. They also took it upon themselves to tell others not to trust me, and often, I could overhear them whispering about me while in a huddle. They never made me feel welcomed, only shut out.
Then the rumors began to spread about me, which was surprising. Not only because I was new to town, new to the church, and also not at all like the girl they were describing, but also because these rumors were being spread in a place that was supposed to be holy and originated from a church leader. I remember feeling like I had no one to speak to about it. I was warned not to involve the senior pastor in anything, I didn’t have friends in Texas, my friends from home weren’t strong in faith, my mother had warned me not to work at a church and my boss was a thorn in my side.
I made the assumption that a church was a home, a happy home, full of not-so-perfect people, but at least nice ones. How naive of me.
My direct supervisor was the most difficult person I had ever worked with in my life. He would yell at me often, for things outside of my control or because he had dropped the ball on something. He would get into my personal space and belittle me. He often forgot to assign me tasks, so when I inquired about them, he’d become even angrier. Whenever I would try to step up and take on more assignments, offer a new idea or try to serve the church in a new capacity, he would reject it. Every day I felt small. Every day I felt encaged.
I remember arriving to work with a knot in my stomach on a daily basis. I would enter the church hoping to hear that my supervisor was sick or out of town, only then, when I was informed he wouldn’t be around, would I relax.
He wasn’t the only man who made me feel small though. I come from a culture that still treats women as inferior to men. We’re often told to keep our mouths shut as women. We’re often reminded that our worth is only in our looks, the kitchen or in bearing children, nothing else. Many women from my background make themselves shine less by exiting the workforce or not continuing their studies in order to appease their partners. Sacrificing our success is seen as the ultimate virtue, unfortunately.
Several of the men at my church, some married, others in relationships, few single, would stand around in the area I was stationed, talking ruthlessly about the women who came in-and-out of the establishment. They would rate their looks harshly, discuss what they imagined they could get away with doing to them, and actually attempt said things, all within earshot of me. Sometimes I was the subject of their conversations, and even though I felt incredibly uncomfortable, I was forced to smile through it. I had complained about the groups of men who spoke about women as if they were objects before, and was quickly told that men would be men.
Eventually, things began to intensify. My boss became more emboldened to denigrate me, to the point I felt like I was in a verbally abusive work relationship. More rumors about me and unsuspecting women continued to spread around the church, and more men felt empowered to misbehave. I felt myself moving further and further away from the confident person I once was and this realization saddened me. I also felt tired of having to pretend that the church I served was perfect and confused about why God had wanted me there.
I was over plastering a smile on my face so no one would suspect I was miserable. I was tired of pretending to respect people who would live their lives as if they never knew God. And I was tired of trying so hard to be meek, unseen, and silent against maltreatment and injustices. And so, after a morning of my boss verbally lashing me, I walked out of the church. But things quickly changed for the worse and I found myself questioning God and my faith.
Have you ever found yourself questioning God? I’ll tell you more about my experience in the next post and how it led me to my purpose and creating this blog.