She sits there surrounded by the ones who stood at her baby dedication. The ones who promised to love her and instruct her and lead her by example. And while she believes they mean well she wonders about their glances that travel from head to toe across her frame.
And then she remembers, there is a different set of rules for her. She is not like the others, she is the pastors kid. She slips her hand to the side of her face, sits a little taller and pretends to engage in whatever is being said from the pulpit. She doesn't like the unsolicited attention and wonders what it would be like to slip in unnoticed like her peers seem to do. And yet this is life for her, always has been, but she promises herself that when she leaves, she will never marry a preacher.
But after years of God stirring and shaking and molding her heart she lays that promise right there on an alter one night at Bible College. And the man who won her heart did indeed feel God's hand move him to set his heart on ministry through the Word.
And now, once again she found herself some 20 years later sitting there that Sunday Morning with her arms tightly wrapped around her children begging God to keep them soft as the pain from church people threatened to once again make her wish she wouldn't be in the building.That she could slip out and never return. That she would have never agreed to God's plan.
But the answer is never found in running from the pain.
And she knows it. So she stays, and in the middle of that gut wrenching pain she is surrounded by the good side of church. The arms of those who wish to make the journey less burdensome but feel helpless to fix the damage done.
This is my story. And I know you have one too. Because the truth is, if you have gone to church long enough...somewhere along the way there is a wound that happened. And the expectation is always that the church should be the last place we feel unsafe but the fact is it is where some of our deepest hurts come from.
My prayer has always been that no root of bitterness grows in my heart toward the one who knows the ultimate bad church experience.
That's right. It's amazing how we forget the one we go to worship in church buildings, has the most amazingly painful church story, that could rival any of ours.
He grew up in a community that never really embraced him because he was illegitimate. He made the church leaders mad with all his questioning of their hearts and traditions. Not because he was stirring up trouble just to be quarrelsome, but because he was their creator, and he knew their hearts.
He challenged the religious community and ate with sinners. He did not fit into their neat little community. In short he didn't behave according to their standards. And yet, he spoke with such authority and truth he scared them.
When their hatred grew to a fever pitch, the leaders said... "We need to make him go away." He was now threatening to take their people, they decided he must be put away.
And then they, the church people put him, the Messiah, on trial.
They mocked him and called him names. They undressed him and spit on his face. They lied about him and betrayed him.They had him whipped until he wasn't even recognizable. They meant to bring shame on him. But he did not open his mouth. He never retaliated but instead looked on them with love.
He knew his purpose on earth was almost complete. And this is why he had come.
Ultimately they killed him. They put him on that cross and sighed some deep heavy breaths blaming him. I'm sure they figured it was his own fault, chiding his actions of disrespecting them had finally caused his death.
But we know that this was his design for us all to be saved.
Through his death.
It is just ironic to me that his religious community, the one he was raised in, were the very ones that put the nails in his hands.
I worship that Man.
And the communities of faith and the churches we go to are just humans, flawed and sometimes sinful. They are not the ones we worship.They will hurt us. And if we give them so much power that we can never again fully worship the one who laid down his life for us, we don't punish the church, We just miss Jesus. And ultimately that would be our greatest loss.
And while we long to be part of communities where there is no longer striving for position and hurtful speech, abuse of power, or judgement of others in our midst, we must remember that they aren't our gods, they are flesh like we are.
May our hearts forever be set on the one who knows our struggles. He carries those burdens. And he asks us to drink from his cup of suffering with him.
He has great things in store for the Church, his bride.
I sure don't want to miss it and I don't want you to either.
Today, I invite you to look at your past and then give it to the one who can redeem the most awful, raw and ugly stories and make something beautiful of the broken mess. He will restore you to people. He will restore you to himself if you let him be the turning point of your story.
I think he is some kind of Wonderful.
He turned my story into a song!