My name is Tracy Gautreau and I was a member of the Stanton, Chino and San Antonio Church of Christ for nearly 30 years before I left in November of 2005. Where to begin?
I was baptized in December of 1977 into the Stanton Church of Christ. I was 17 years old, believed in God, but was totally ignorant of the Bible and had never heard of the Church of Christ before. I was dating my boyfriend John Gautreau at the time. John was baptized 6 months after me and we were married in December of 1978.
In 1983 we had 2 sons and moved to Chino CA to help start the church there. 1996-now with 9 children, we left our home and moved to San Antonio, TX to help the congregation there. Here we would have our 10th and last child.
John and I would be teacher and preacher to this congregation and in 2005 we would be withdrawn from for murmuring and ultimately leave after being forbidden to make our confession to return to fellowship. In the nearly 30 years that I was a part of this group, I was withdrawn from twice. The first in 1985 for causing division. I disagreed with the teaching that in order for a man to stand before the congregation on Sunday that he must wear a suit jacket and tie, as well as the teaching that women must have their feet covered (re: no sandals without stockings under them).
Again in March of 2005 for murmuring. John and I had attended the March week (May week in March) in Alabama. There were things being taught that I did not feel that I could teach in San Antonio (re: that Christians could not buy sparkling grape juice (appearance of evil), that Christians could not go to tanning booths (youthful lust, but tanning creams were ok), that women and girls could not wear thong underwear (as was said by one of the evangelists: one would have to have the mind of a stripper to wear such a thing).
I spoke with Kim Smith at that meeting and told her that I could not teach these things in San Antonio, as I felt they were opinions and not law. Also at the meeting it was discussed publicly concerning activities we could or could not allow our children to participate in (paintball was one). I went up to the microphone and said that lists are endless, and that as parents, we should be able to discern these issues for ourselves and make up our own minds for our own children).
Needless to say this did not go over well, and combined with my disagreements on the other issues, both John and I were sat down. I suppose John was sat down because he agreed with me. Gary Preman came to TX and discovered that we had NOT spoken of our disagreements to anyone in the congregation and therefore we were not withdrawn from. However, we were, what I can only describe as “shunned.” For about 3 months or so we were not really spoken to or even said hello to, which I had never experienced before.
Some brethren felt quite free to speak of us behind our backs, which was very hurtful. Deeply confused and hurt, I called Kim Smith and was told that I should not need encouragement. I was (I am not proud to say) quite emotional and complained to my son and my daughter in law. My daughter in law felt what was being done and said about us was wrong, went to Kim and was reproved herself. Shortly thereafter both John and I were withdrawn from for murmuring.
During this 8 months of sitting down and being withdrawn from, I decided that I needed to go back to the basics and read the gospel as if I had never read it before; to read it with a mind void of the influence and understandings of others. I saw a gospel that I had quoted for years, but my eyes had been blinded to.
I decided to start with the life of Christ…God coming to this earth and preaching for a mere 3 years….what is the main message to mankind? I found love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, humility, goodness, kindness, reproof to those religious zealots that looked down on others in their own self righteousness, those who bound man, made rules on others, and taught them as if they were the law of God. I was reproved to my very core.
For nearly 30 years I had been teaching, reproving, gossiping, despising, judging…because this is what I had been taught by example to do. I was deeply ashamed of myself, because I alone am responsible for what I had done and allowed myself to become. I thought that maybe when I came back, after I had been quiet for awhile (because there is a political correctness to all of this), that I could begin to share what I had learned about love and what Christianity is really all about.
I learned that for years, I had set man on a throne that belongs only to God; that I had feared and lived for man, and lost sight of God. I was ashamed of all of the people I had hurt over the years, all of those I despised in my heart because they were not doing well according to mans standards. Ashamed that I did not know so many of my brethren, because I had spent so much time judging them and teaching them, that I was no longer a student.
I learned that the only reason I had been so hurt by what others did and said, was because I had given them power over me. If God had truly been my King, and the only one I looked to, it would not matter what others said of me, or thought of me. I would have had the spiritual maturity to confront them about what they had said and leave it there. I would know that whatever others said and thought of me does not define me.
I was ready to make my confession. I went and spoke with the new teacher and preacher and shared with them what I had learned. They said it sounded good, and they would get back with me. After counseling with Kim and Gary, they asked me where I was with the issues that I did not agree on. I told them that I was not withdrawn from for disagreeing on judgments, but for murmuring in regard to what had transpired while I was sitting down. They told me that I needed more time to think about the issues I disagreed with.
By this time, I knew that God is my King, and if He says to repent and confess, then that is what I need to do. My not seeing eye to eye with them on judgments was not a part of my withdrawal and therefore it was not scriptural to keep me on withdrawal for something I was not withdrawn from for.
I told them I would stand to make my confession and let the congregation decide. Of course, they would not allow me to make my confession and I left. I did send out my confession to the members, and of course they were instructed not to read it. I left that night not knowing where I would go, but God in his goodness and love guided me and continues to do so each and every day.
It has taken me a long time to share my story, most notably because I prefer to look forward and move on with my life than to look back and relive it over and over again. I have learned that what others say about me does not affect my life and that I can live before God and be thankful He alone is my judge. If others get off on speaking ill of me, than by all means go at it…because it does not affect my eternity nor change my happiness.
This life is so much bigger than the small little bubble I was in for so many years. This life is a journey and what has transpired has changed me for the better. I do not want this to be a story about me, because in reality my life story is about HIM…my God, my Savior, my Deliverer, my hope, my Anchor, my Redeemer…my Everything. It is my prayer, that each one of us will look to Him and to Him alone.
Grace–a word so frequently mentioned in the Bible that we cannot deny it–but I had no idea what it meant, how powerful it is, and how deeply I must rely on it each and every day! I have learned, by God’s loving hand, that I cannot work my way into heaven or somehow earn my salvation. Christ is enough! What I do, I do because of thankfulness! Grace does not exclude works…it merely excludes the merits of works.
My confidence is not in myself…how could it be?? I am never good enough! My confidence is in Him and Him alone…in his goodness, his mercy, his forgiveness…his love for me. There is peace and comfort that overwhelms my soul in this understanding. I have learned that man can only oppress me when I give them that power. There are no words, no schemes, no devices or weapons formed by the mind of man that can hurt our soul as long as our eyes are fixed upon Him alone.
When I left, I knew no one. God led us to the Bulverde Church of Christ and we were nurtured in the love of God. For the last few years we have been attending Oak Hills Church. My worship is truly worship. It is all about HIM and giving HIM my praise and glory. Never will I give that to a man again.
My story is not finished, and like you, I am a continual work in progress. I ask that you have patience with me, just as I will with you…because we are all just a snapshot in time, and what you see today, will not be what you see in 5 years. Hopefully in 5 years I will be more beautiful within, more like my Maker.
My past has been an important part of my future. It is a vital part of who I am becoming. I do not like to look back and dwell on all that was done wrong to me, just as I hope others will not dwell on all I have done wrong to them. Forgiveness goes a long way and we all are in need of it, so lets practice the art of giving it, especially to those who never ask us for it. <3