QUESTIONS FROM READERS


READER:
How did family and friends respond to your change from "religion" to "grace and faith in the gospel"? Were there pleasant surprises? Deep hurts? If so, in what ways?

KENDRA:
You know, it’s a touchy thing. For so long, our pride had kept us from having mutually beneficial discourse with anyone who thought or believed differently than we did. I sensed, “I told you so!” with some, heard hurtful statements like, “You guys are always reinventing yourselves”, from others, but the gentle, kind, merciful response from still others poured grace out over our lives that allowed us to begin the healing process and made us feel safe to undertake the tearing down of the facade of perfection.


READER:
Can you talk to us about how God showed you he was with you during these times? How were you able to keep your faith and feel His presence guiding you towards grace?

 

 

KENDRA:
Henry Blackaby wrote a terrific book way back in the ’90’s called Experiencing God, and although I don’t remember so much about the whole study, I do remember this: God tends to speak to us in four ways – the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the Church. In our case, God showed Himself through the Bible as we kept looking there to hear His voice, through prayer as so many would tell us they were praying and our own prayer lives kept us listening even if we weren’t hearing, through the circumstances of each child’s particular trauma (from improved medical stats to spiritual changes we witnessed taking place) and the way in which our friends and family served us through each trial. It wasn’t easy to leave a church we felt so strongly about creating, but as each blow came in the form of backhanded criticism, lies about our family, and prescriptive behavior rather than pointing us to Christ and His finished work, we eventually knew we had no choice but to leave. The spiritual abuse was real and palpable and once we were able to put a finger on it, it was so alarming to us that we knew we had to get ourselves and our children out.


READER:
How did you reconcile your grace based view of salvation/the gospel with the previous way your family had lived out the Christian faith? I'm curious how the family dynamics shifted especially in the way your older children processed these changes that had to overflow in the way you and Fletch parented?

KENDRA:
Nothing had changed in the truth of grace of the gospel. That story is never altered by God! The lens by which we viewed it, however, had been swapped with one that passed through Christ first, with one that declares, “It is finished!” We feel very much responsible for the choices we made on behalf of our children when we were so bound up in our outward religious behavior. They were kept from a lot of activities and social settings that could have really been a delight and a benefit to them, but because we feared they would be sullied by the world, there were a lot of “no’s” in our home. Despite my husband’s fun-loving personality and the adventures we created for them, they missed out on a lot of opportunities to develop who God has created them to be because we were so focused on a mold that we thought was how they should behave.


Shortly after leaving our behavior-driven environment, we sat the two oldest sons (17 and 15 at the time) down and apologized. We repented and asked for their forgiveness. Stunningly, they have freely given it and although stories and memories of the past tend to crop up now and again in our conversations, those two young men tend to be merciful and light-hearted. This is undeserved grace, and we are so grateful. The one thing I hear repeatedly from adults who had been raised in a similar stifling religious community is, “If my parents would only take ownership for the ways they got it wrong and apologize, it would make all the difference in the world.” These young adults are living with fractured family relationships and a lot of real pain. Forgiveness and grace can change everything!


READER:
Do you struggle with reconciling being thankful that God let those things happen to change your faith and being hurt for the permanent changes to your family as a result?

KENDRA:
If I’m being perfectly truthful, yes. While God has graciously kept us from the crushing guilt that tends to plague us as parents when something bad happens to our children, there are permanent ramifications that forever affect our family and how we function. And while we are deeply grateful that God freed us from the many ways our self-righteousness led to bondage, we live every day with a brain-damaged little boy. Parenting him is by far and away the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do, and there are days when we look at each other in our exhaustion and declare, “I didn’t sign up for this.” That’s probably a whole other conversation.


READER:
Did you ever have feelings of blaming/feeling let down by God and if so how were you able to come to terms with that?

KENDRA:
I remember returning home after nearly three weeks in the ICU with our daughter Caroline, whose body simply would not heal. I had reached the end of my stamina through late nights on hospital beds and tag-team parenting the seven other kids at home, and as I stumbled into the shower, I sobbed/ prayed/shook my fist at God, “What’s the point? Why should I pray? You aren’t listening! She’s not getting better, she’s not getting worse. We’re stuck in an endless vortex to nowhere!” Recently we suffered through a similar trial, and in both circumstances, I learned that all I could do was stand on the truth I knew about God’s character through Scripture and through my personal experiences. I had to remind myself that Joe can see, despite the lack of brain matter in his occipital lobe, that God has always taken care of our needs, that He is who
He says He is, even if He makes choices that feel like abandonment in the moment.


girl in light.jpg

READER: 
What does your faith/life look like now compared to what it was before the life changing events?

KENDRA:
It’s the best thing in the world to see our kids develop their own walks of faith. One daughter dances – shoes off, hands raised – during the worship music at church, one serves and loves the Word, one is finding her identity in Jesus. One son passionately and loudly loves Christ, one quietly lives his faith in a godless work environment. This is miles away from the days shortly after we left our cult-like environment and our then-15-year-old confided, “Mom, I could never tell you this, but when we were at the other church, I used to look around and think, ‘If this is Christianity, I want nothing to do with it.’”