A year after we left our church, I attended the wedding of the child of one of my few remaining friends from the CLB.
By this time the subtle and not-so-subtle nuances of shunning were familiar to me - the silence of my phone; the showers, weddings, birthdays, and graduations I wasn't invited to; the friends who were suddenly too busy for our regular shopping and coffee dates; the quick glances to the side when people pretended not to see me.
This friend was willing to still include me even though it was unpopular to be seen with me. She didn't understand what was going on with us, and we didn't talk about it.
Attending that wedding was extremely difficult. To stay isolated would have been much easier than enduring the pitying looks. We were the only people out of the CLB at the time, the only supposedly backslidden outcasts.
The pastor of our CLB performed the ceremony. It was the only time I had seen him since we left. I spent most of the evening making sure that I wasn't wherever he was.
I wanted to be more mature than that, but it was all I could muster just to be there. Every moment of the entire evening was like a knife twisting in my heart.
I had recently started blogging. Not surprising, my post the next day was titled Oceans of Emptiness.
Last weekend, I attended another wedding. My friends no longer attend the CLB. In fact, most of my friends and acquaintances are out now. There are now more former members than there are remaining members.
As people leave, our relationships are being restored. People see, they understand, and some apologize.
At the last wedding, I was like a shadow person; at this wedding, I enjoyed open friendship and fellowship, no longer cloaked in humiliation. Many times during the weekend I looked around truly in awe at the miracle of reconciliation that I have experienced. It is more than I ever expected.
As much as I have shared with you about the abuse and the pain, I wanted to share with you the blessing of experiencing this restoration of relationships.
Sadly, the CLB is in a downward spiral with dark and twisty things continuing to unfold behind the scenes. Although it still functions, the vision it formerly represented is dead. The life of the community continues outside of the organization, freed from the control of those who attempted to confine and define community according to their rules.
Some who have recently left are still focused on the death of what was. Out of this death however, there will be a resurrection. In time, we will discover what God has for us on the other side of this experience.