SIDNEY — Martha Reineke, of Sidney, has forgiven God.
And she’s written about her journey of faith in a self-published book, “Forgiving God: When God Says He’s Sorry.” She’ll host a book-signing, July 7, from noon to 3 p.m., in the High Grounds Cafe, 705 Fair Road. Paperback copies will be available for $11.95 each. They are also available on Reineke’s website, marthareineke.com. She hopes to have an ebook edition soon.
“I grew up in a strict religion,” she said, recently. “God was a monster, always angry. We could never please him. Every time you’d go to church, you’d hear, ‘This is what you’re doing wrong.’”
A self-described rebellious teen, Reineke had a lot of trouble with authority figures because not only was God always angry, but her parents always seemed to be grumpy, too.
“It wasn’t any wonder, with seven kids and multiple jobs. They were always tired,” she said.
She became pregnant as a high school senior and married at 18. The marriage has lasted 20 years, but it has had its rocky moments. She thought about divorce. After years of avoiding church, she returned, looking for answers about what to do. She tried several denominations.
“The way I listened to things, it was the same strict views. (Attending) became more an obligation, not because I believed,” she said.
The marriage struggled. Both partners had affairs. She was using drugs and alcohol. And then, she developed health issues.
She asked the church for prayer, but the prayers weren’t healing. “Look for the purpose in your pain,” she was told. Or, “You’re in pain because of your sin.”
“I prayed more, I went to church more, I served more, but it was just getting worse,” she said. Afraid she had cancer and in the depths of depression, she got really mad at God. Reineke began to wrestle with life’s toughest questions.
“If God is a good father, why am I suffering? I would never let my child suffer,” she thought. The mental and emotional turmoil went on for three years. It affected her family. She and her husband fought constantly. At the end of one particularly bitter argument, Reineke screamed that she didn’t want to be a Christian anymore. She was giving up on God.
“I sat on the floor and cried, and God spoke to me,” she recalled. “He said, ‘It’s OK. That isn’t what I’m like. I want to show you what I’m like.’ He said Jesus isn’t that way and that I could follow him.”
Reineke spent the next two years figuring out what that meant. She read “Grace Revolution” by Joseph Prince and “Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God” by Brian Zahnd. She studied and prayed relentlessy. And she began to find a God who is loving and kind.
“You just went from one extreme to the other,” her husband, Scott, would say.
“I’d bounce stuff off him. (He’d think about it.) He’d come back and say, ‘You’re right.’ We’re in sync now,” Reineke said.
One night, as she lay crying in bed, she heard God say, “I’m sorry.” Now what did he mean?
She decided he was apologizing for giving people the right to choose what they felt about him.
“He said, ‘I had to allow evil to happen so you’re free to choose to love or hate me.’ If you’re not free to hate God, you’re not free to love God, either. Without choice, we’re just puppets,” Reineke said.
She had wanted to write a book since she was a child and now she had a story worth telling.
“Every chapter tells what the next step was. If we don’t change the way we look at God, nothing will change,” she said. “The first couple of chapters were the hardest (to write). I wanted to protect people who had purposely wounded me. Then it got easier because I felt really passionate about what I was writing.”
But sometimes, she would write whole chapters and then throw them all away. She didn’t want to sound preachy. And she feared that readers would say she was wrong.
“Part of being in that mindset of never being good enough is that you’re always second-guessing yourself,” Reineke said.
Scott then pointed out that if she were, indeed, wrong, then she’d learn something new. Her editor at lulu.com liked what she read.
“My editor said she was an atheist, but after she read my book, she said, ‘This is a God I can follow,’” Reineke said.
The author hopes this book will lead to another and to a speaking tour. Mom to Lexi, 20; Noah, 18; Elijah, 16; Abbott, 14; and Ephraim, 12, she is one of a group who have started a church in Sidney, Meaningful Life Ministries. She leads worship services there. A musician since childhood, Reineke also sings and plays violin, piano and guitar.
She would like to have book-signings in area bookstores and hopes for a career full of “traveling, speaking and changing lives,” she said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.