Sunday, September 4, 2016

Black Sand of Bitterness




Tom and I shared a leisure breakfast with friends at the outdoor café in Hawaii one Sunday morning.  We stayed in a resort on the beautiful ocean shore.   On the stroll back to our rooms after breakfast, my girlfriend, whom I nicknamed Sherona, mentioned she wanted to go to a church service.  The guys declined but I took her up on it and changed into my skirt.  We got into her rented convertible acting like Thelma and Louise, two liberated women on a mission.

But things turned sour.

Sherona and I talked too much on that highway and missed our turn off to the Catholic Church just down the road.

“Keep driving east about 25 miles, Sherona, and we’ll come to a park in the next town over with a bunch of churches on one block,” I said.

I knew it well since I took a tour of the island a day before.

We arrived and parked the car.  Sherona insisted that we choose a new experience and attend the Hawaiian service.  I tried to persuade her to consider the Baptist Church just three churches down with a big sign out front “Jesus Loves You and So Do We.”  Sherona held her own for a more native type of service and I followed her into the Hawaiian Church but I had a bad feeling about it.


They spoke a language foreign to us.  They refused to acknowledge us.  We spoke to congregants but they ignored us.  They did, however, allow us to toss our money in the basket when it passed.  We were ostracized.  Everyone received a blessing at the altar as the service closed except us.

We spent the afternoon in that little town going to lunch and cheering ourselves up eating ice cream and trying on clothes in the boutique.


When we got back to our hotel, we dressed for the party on the lawn at the resort.  We found our husbands and told them all about our experience at church that morning.

Sherona’s funny husband quipped:  “It’s a good thing they didn’t sacrifice you gals in the fire on that altar.”

I recognized the spirit in that little church and told my friends about my experience.

I toured the island just the day before.  My guide, a native to the Big Island, talked a lot telling stories of the missionary’s years ago who took away beloved customs of Hawaiians in the name of Christianity.  My guide confessed he’s a brother in Christ struggling with bitterness.  He explained his fears and prejudice of white people.  I spent eight hours with him, listening and gleaning insight.  Clearly, I felt the wall.  I didn’t imagine it.  Fear feels heavy and cumbersome.

Here’s your tip; goodbye.
When we said goodbye, I shoved a big bill in his hand and gave him a hug.  He deserved it not only for a five-star tour but for his honesty to be real and humble.

The disdain we experienced at church that Sunday morning demonstrated a lesson taught without a pulpit. 


Hawaii gave me many new experiences:  scooping up lava from erupted volcano ash, black sand beaches, wild orchids, Kona coffee at the coffee plantation, a picturesque waterfall that took my breath away.  I must admit I saw, too, the ugliness of prejudice and its effect.


It’s funny.  To this day, I’ve still never been to a Baptist Service!  Something tells me I would be loved.

33 comments:

  1. Ohh...that hurt to read. Imagine carrying that around with you. It's a heavy burden to drag around someone else's guilt. And in a church? Ouch.

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    1. If my experience is any indication, the Baptists would welcome you!

      Our homeschool co-op meets at a Baptist church. They let us use the space for free. Pretty cool. My class broke a window once (leaned a chair against it) and they wouldn't let us pay to fix it.

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    2. The experience in Hawaii taught me firsthand what the difference is between religion and relationship. I also learned how very heavy fear feels. Thanks for your comment, Sandi!

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  2. It is so sad that this happened, but what a lot of people forget is that christians, no matter what denomination, are human beings. It can take just one person to make a bad impression for an entire congregation or denomination. Warm hugs and love.

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    1. Good point, Linda, and I learned from the brother in Christ that generational sin does not easily go away. The man had a heavy heart. Good tour guide though!

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  3. It is sad, you would have thought they would have taken the teachings of Jesus and the authors of the New Testament epistles that we are one church in Jesus, no matter where we come from, color of our skin, etc. They didn't take advantage of a wonderful opportunity to invite "outsiders" into the family of God.

    betty

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    1. When we understand the wholeness that a relationship with Jesus brings inclusion it's hard to fathom the exclusion that religion characterizes.

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  4. I would not have expected that kind of reception myself so I'm quite enlightened. So sorry you had that experience in Hawaii but we learn in all experiences. Yes, you would be loved and accepted in a Baptist Church or a Pentecostal one. I guess even "in Christ" there is bitterness and prejudice. Thanks for the insight.

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    1. Melanie, you can imagine how surprised I was in church that morning, yet I felt prepared by a discerning going on inside me as well as understanding from the tour guide the previous day. Oh, my, bitterness and prejudice with such strong generational history are like barnacles on a ship that are so hard to free up!

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  5. I'm stunned that those congregants would exclude you in such a manner. Reminds me of a story my former minister once shared: I forget the details, but some 'higher up's' took exception with her coloring outside the lines (so-to-speak) and, in effect, drew a symbolic circle around themselves to exclude her. That's alright. She drew a much BIGGER circle around theirs, that included them AND herself.

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    1. A good word, Myra. She must have been an inspiration to listen to!

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  6. Oh, my! I am SO sorry you experienced this awful treatment. It is hard to imagine how anyone can treat a fellow believer this way, especially in the house of God, but my family and I have felt cruel wounds inflicted by those who profess to be brothers and sisters in Christ, and those kinds of wounds are so deep and hard to heal. I feel for you and the way you were made to feel that day, sweet friend. I trust they have gotten past their bitterness by now...just think of how many souls they have injured while operating under this kind of spirit. Jesus must weep as He watches the things that are done in His name. Thank you for sharing this...it makes me see the need to be more aware of how much I can wound another by prejudging. Sending you love and hugs, sweet friend!

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    1. You point out something very significant. Prejudice wounds. Had I not been subjected to feeling it like this, in that church and also on tour with that uncomfortable, unwelcome feeling at first I would never know the evil it inflicts on people. Now I know and make it my prayer to "think of others as better than myself" as the Scripture warns!

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  7. Hi Mary, so sad to hear about that unpleasant experience. I feel so sorry for them, they are bound by the deep rooted bitterness they are holding in their heart. We can only repent and ask for forgiveness on behalf of what the earlier people had wronged them.

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    1. Oh, friend, talk about chains so thick and long. And even when they recognize it, like the brother tour guide, it is still a struggle. May we truly see the hold sin patterns have on our lives.

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  8. Concerning your comment about the snow beer on my blog - It is any beer frozen to a certain temperature and when the beer is poured into the frozen glass, the beer turns curd-like or slurpee. Thank you and have a great day!

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  9. In many years I desired to NOT go to Hawaii, b/c I've known and seen so much re: connecting to other gods. I have a 1/2 sister who is about 7 years older than me and she was there for about 20 years, from 40 to 60, and has been back in our nation for my other family situations. But I've often thought of her and my 1/2 brother who is 2 years older than me. He went to see her and a sister of mine went with him to there. Anyhow, that was about 30+ years ago. I've seen the photos of them. Sorry if I'm saying too much, but it was dropped on me strongly! Hope all does well. AND if I didn't read well or understand, thank you for putting up with me!

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    1. You are easy to be with and a pure delight, Joanne. May God pour out His blessings on you today.

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  10. It's sad when a supposed "church" is not as welcoming as Christ would have been to everyone.

    I went through a stage of being lost so to speak that I was wanting to enter churches in random just to feel I belong. Imagine what an ugly thing it would have been if I entered a church like that that time. I would have turned my back from faith permanently maybe.

    Prejudice is really ugly.

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    1. Church goers or any clannish group who boast "us four and no more" are missing Christ's message. Prejudice is ugly and people need to think for themselves and not just accept every truth handed down from generations. I am so happy that you never experienced this especially at such a vulnerable time like that.

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  11. That is sad, but sorry to say in many churches here in USA the congregation stares at you as if you were an alien. It helps when people are assigned to be greeters and welcome new comers. Some pastors have everyone stand and turn around and greet those around you. Helps break up the chill. I wish you had visited the other church too. Oh well, there is perhaps another time and another season. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

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    1. Greeters are worth their weight in gold. I greeted for six years in our church and felt like I was given more in return that what I gave. People want to feel loved.

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  12. Ahh...The ugly wall of prejudice...the wall that only God can break! I think we are all prone to feeling that way. Human nature as we say. But when brought to God's light, it is simply "ignorance." For we are all the same human beings. All loved by God. The only difference is..."Does each of us loves and knows Him well?"

    Your post brought me to an experience I had when a "newbie in Christ", searching for churches. While my family and I were accepted warmly, I sensed there was something wrong right away when a lady came and greeted me with a hug. It would have been so awesome not until these words came out of her mouth: "Welcome to our church! I'm glad the family came since we are all the same (as she mentioned the ethnicity)." Something just stirred in my spirit and though a newcomer, I felt there was something awfully wrong. To make it short, we never went back despite their pastor leaving thousands of messages to re-appear.

    It is a sad state. It is everywhere when people tend to "click" and feel good knowing they are the same in culture, in habits, in beliefs...etc...May the Lord guide us all and continue to give us His gift of discernment. Thank you for sharing this story. That I pray will serve a lesson to each of us who comes here and reads this. To be reminded that it is only by knowing God's pure love are we able to break that barrier. For God doesn't look at man's appearance but into his heart. Blessings to you sister.

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    1. Again, your response brings the finishing grace to my story. The Scripture verses you weave in your powerful words says all the things I didn't say! May I never get so comfortable in the familiar settings that I lack loving those different from me. Thank you for your helpful thoughts! Big hugs to you, sister.

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  13. What a sad story about the church. Bitterness is a deadly weed.

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    1. Yes, a deadly weed amongst such tropical beauty all around.

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  14. Awe...that hurt my old heart to read this my dear friend. Oh how Pride was and is the fall of mankind! And speaking of Baptist...Not only would I love on you but I will feed you good too! LOL! Hugs and blessings, Cindy P.S. I am bog on hugging!

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    1. Just your very words are enough! Thank you for the cyber hug that feels alive!

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  15. Yeah… It's impossible to know the heart of others until they speak it. Good for you for listening and being understanding of others perspectives. That's the way of Christ; to be sympathetic and to genuinely care. Good for you and for your witness.

    I seem to get along better with the creatures under the water over there...

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    1. Ha, that's cute. Those creatures are always the same day in and day out...happy to see us.

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  16. I do believe you have hit on something we struggle with a loo, being religious or being real. It's the hardest thing we have had to deal with coming back to the states. Life is so easy here, everyone goes to church, well almost everyone but not everyone is a believer. OUr pastor use to say just because you are standing in a garage will not make you a car. Great post, really good.

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    1. Relationship vs. religion separates the believers. I agree with your pastor.

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  17. Hi Mary! I do respect the soul that struggles, especially when they will open up and share. You have such a loving heart Mary. People just seem to open like flowers before you. I'm so sorry you had such a negative experience in that church. It's funny what we humans do to distort the message of Christ. It's always about love...
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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