Returning to Church
It was a downpour when I awoke. We had a busy schedule that Saturday afternoon. Our family was serving at the local farmers market, followed by a rush to get home and shower for a college graduation. Our daughter’s fiancé was graduating, and I would be meeting his mother for the first time.
The rush of the day sent me flying about the house at record pace. Arriving at the graduation, I admit I was out of breath and a little on edge. Tired and exhausted, I didn’t have my normal composure and sense of awareness.
The ceremony was splendid and brought a sense of gravity to the day. Afterwards, I bumped into a gal who also had a graduate at the ceremonies. She and I had just recently met at my daughter’s bridal shower. We began conversing, and the strangest statement came out of my mouth.
Now, I don’t know if it was my exhaustion, coupled with relief that I could go straight home and get some rest, or if it was the Holy Spirit in both of us that meant for this moment to happen. As Luke 6 says, “…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
In the midst of a conversation about the busyness of spring, graduations, and recipes for cheese fondue, we began discussing church and community. I shared that I traveled a great deal, and I was thankful that my time away prevented me from getting too involved in the messiness of church. (Where did that come from?!)
A Heart of Truth
I know this woman and I will become good friends, because her response was warm, direct, and full of truth. She gently reminded me that being part of any community, church, or relationship would always have the “mess,” but that is exactly what Christ uses for our good.
We exchanged phone numbers, and I went home to crash. In the morning, I couldn’t get the conversation out of my head. During prayer and reading, my mind continued to drift back to the conversation.
I wasn’t annoyed with her gentle rebuke; I was upset that I would utter such words of disapproval for church. Where did these words came from?
The Power of Past Hurt
Many years ago, our family had invested a great deal of time and commitment to the local church. We loved the people, learning, and serving. Then it happened. We were hurt. This hurt went far beyond the trifles of choosing the color of the church carpet.
In the midst of this hurt, I remember reading an article stating that more than 90 percent of people who are hurt by the church never return. I was a mother of young children, and I certainly didn’t want to set the example that the church equaled Christ. The church was full of people just like me, sinners. The church is full of people just like me who have and will continue to disappoint and hurt others.
Our family struggled with hurt for years, slowly healing through the gospel of grace and the amazing people God surrounded us with who poured truth into our lives. However, that was years ago. The statement I uttered that spring day surprised me because this hurt I thought I was over was now revealing its continued effect on me.
The Power of Fresh Renewal
New disappointments have come, and more recently I have not allowed those hurts to be filtered through the truth of who God is and his desire to make me more like him in every situation. As a result, old wounds have opened up. Instead of seeing them correctly, I now have a clouded view of the past and present.
By grace, this short exchange with a woman I barely knew brought to my attention my need to spend time on my knees in repentance and gratitude for all that Christ has done in my life. It started as conversion and continues in discipleship that requires daily interaction with him to keep the mess out of my own life.
I’m thankful the Lord has every minute of my life in his hands. He knows my heart, and when certain areas of it have become darkened, he sets about a plan. He puts me in front of people and in conversations that will challenge me and bring about a renewal of faith in who he is and what he is doing.
To God be the glory, great things He hath done. I’m off to Sunday church….
I love how you expressed this. I completely related! It is hard not to filter every experience through past hurts, yet that is what God calls us to – filter everything through CHRIST’s lens. Getting involved in the “mess”, which I am sure I have contributed to!