My husband and I began attending Mars Hill at a very vulnerable time in our lives. We were newly engaged and had both recently moved out of our parents homes to start life in a big city. My husband's best friend and his wife had begun attending Mars Hill and loved it. They invited us along and we decided to go with them. At this point in my life I was surrounded by people that attended Mars Hill. My roommate was involved in a community group and they would be in our apartment often and pressure me to join. I had several coworkers who attended Mars Hill who very subtly would question my faith because I wasn't attending Mars Hill. I was very skeptical, but I also really wanted to fit in. I ignored my feelings and gave in to what people expected of me hoping it would help me avoid conflict. I was young, and I realize now how naive that mindset was.
We were attending Mars Hill every Sunday but we weren't involved in any way. In fact I usually would subtly try and be late so we could avoid the, "Meet and greet" I felt so much subtle judgement every time I shook someones hand and told them that no, we hadn't joined a community group yet. I also saw fear in the eyes of others like me when they went to shake my hand and expected the same guilt trip for not joining a community group, for wanting to attend the church a few times and decide if it was the right fit. Every sermon was painful for me. It's really hard for me to explain honestly. I had been attending church since I was very young and with that church I had always felt a sense of peace. I didn't always see eye to eye with everyone there and sometimes I felt judged by other members, but it didn't change the fact that my heart felt like it was in the right place. With Mars Hill I just felt sick. The messages didn't move me like the messages at my previous church had. The final straw for me was the sermon Mark delivered after going to Haiti for Earthquake relief. It really bothered me that he only focused on other churches during his trip. So many people were affected by that earthquake and he preached as though only other Christians there were worth his time. Then at the end of the sermon he yelled for 5-10 minutes about how people were not giving enough money to Mars Hill and if I remember correctly, stormed off the stage. The church I had spent most of my life in so far had never asked anyone for money. They didn't even pass around an offering bucket. We had a love box in the back and I never heard my pastor ask for money once. He would speak about projects they were hoping to undertake and how they were praying that God would provide the means, and God always did. After that sermon I talked to my husband (Fiancé at the time) and we both decided that Mars Hill wasn't the place for us.
I wish that was the end of my story, but unfortunately it is not. At that time my husband's best friend and his wife were becoming more and more involved in the church. They were becoming members but we were still hanging out with them and everything seemed fine. Fast forward a month or so and this friend of my husband asks him out to coffee. My husband goes and comes back visibly upset. We go out for dinner where he tells me that his best friend had said that my husband loved me too much, was idolizing me, that I had gone off the deep end, and then started bad-mouthing everything Jeffrey had learned from a previous mentor in our old church. This was very hard for me to believe. I told my husband I thought his friend was just confused and even though his words were incorrect they were most likely spoken out of love. I told my husband he should listen to his own heart and tell his friend that he disagreed but not to let it ruin their friendship. They both loved and respected each other very much, I believed they could both move past this.
Unfortunately that wasn't what happened. Weeks and months went by where we saw less and less of this couple, which is rather extraordinary since we lived in the same building and frequented the same coffee shop a couple of blocks down the road. Before this event the couple had named us the Godparents of their first child. They had helped us find our apartment. My husband got the job he has now with the help of his friend, and they still work together. The wife had designed and made my wedding dress. This wasn't a shallow relationship. We would text them and ask them to hang out and receive no response. I would see either of them in the halls of our apartment building and wave and they would awkwardly wave back and walk away with no attempt at conversation. I remember the Fourth of July last year we all stood on our roof to watch the fireworks. They were up there with their community group and ignored us when we walked past. At some point the husband did come over and talk to Jeffrey a bit, but I felt he did his best to ignore my presence, even when I spoke directly to him. After about five minutes his wife walked over and pulled him away without saying a word to my husband or myself. It was that night I realized it was actually over. They had cut us out because we didn't want to be a part of their church. I went onto Facebook to write a message to his wife only to realize she had removed me from her Facebook friends. I went onto Twitter and saw they had both unfollowed me.
I don't want to act like I was a perfect saint during this time frame. I was at times a flakey friend, I would forget to call when I said I would or cancel plans last second. I completely forgot to ever write the wife a thank you card for my wedding dress, but had expressed my gratitude verbally numerous times. I looked at all of these things hoping to find something I had done wrong that would explain their actions, but it still never made sense. My value in myself was already dangerously low and I do believe these events helped the onset of my eating disorder. I am in no way blaming them, my eating disorder is my own personal responsibility, but when they looked at me and found me worthless it confirmed everything I had always believed about myself. I was worthless and I needed to find a way to become worthy. I shifted all of my focus in life to becoming thin. Thinking about anything else hurt too much.
I am currently in recovery and it is going really well. I am happy now and no longer believe I have to hide my true self and feelings from people. I still have some anger for Mars Hill, but I am working on it. I am working on forgiveness. I don't know if I should try and talk to those friends ever again. I don't know if that would be helpful or harmful since it seems they have just gotten deeper and deeper in the church. I hope that someday there will be resolution or closure, but right now I just can't imagine how that would even happen.