So, I went to church today, but not *my* church, the old church, the one I used to spend more time at than my actual home. Yea. That one. To say I was apprehensive would be a ridiculous understatement. I was literally nauseated, although I have been under the weather all week-end. There was trepidation- and dare I say, fear- even as I made the longest short walk across the parking lot. I felt huge, like a neon sign in Vegas, at the same time, I felt small, insignificantly so.
This is the church that judged and shunned me at the lowest time in my life. I learned the depth of my own naivete, as well as the death thereof, replaced by a hard edge I haven't yet figured out how to smooth. I also learned how desperate I was for Jesus and that He was the only one who could love me through anything and everything.
It's just a church, after all. A monstrosity of a building that was meant to house a community of believers and bring people into the fold. We were known for putting broken people back together and welcoming them with open arms but nobody told me that once you were a member, you couldn't break. I spent almost a dozen years putting on a plastic face as I worshiped, learned, led and served. I couldn't bear to let people see what a shambles my life really was, so I hid that part of me, but loved the best I could with the rest of my heart. I loved deep and I loved wide and I loved long and hard and well while hiding the fact that I was dying inside.
And when my life finally fell apart and I fell to my knees, wretched beyond recognition, but free from the half-life I had survived, and admitted I couldn't do it anymore, their eyes shuttered, their arms crossed and their hearts hardened. So many minds and mouths raced with sordid details they didn't know and didn't bother to verify. And I stood there, begging for grace and mercy and love, while their stones of judgement shattered what was left of my heart. After all, what is truth? People see what they want to see. I just wish they thought more of me to see past appearances.
So, I went there today, and all those awful feelings came rushing back, but just when the oppression threatened to overwhelm me, I found Him. My Jesus was there, in that church, reminding me that it's just a church after all. A monstrosity of a building housing a community of believers who are as human and fallible as I am. The ugly memories were mine alone and where once, I wanted so badly for it to be my home again, I no longer bear that misguided self-flagellation. In more ways than one, I have been set free.
There is much I owe that church, much to be grateful for, and much to hold dear. My dearest, deepest, richest, truest, friendships were born there and I still cherish these today. Leading, singing, playing, teaching, speaking, acting, guiding, discipling, writing, encouraging, befriending- all gifts given freely and received gratefully. Churches full of people may fail people but my Jesus never does. I have learned that I carry Him with me just as I am, broken and beautiful, delightful and desperate, fallible and forgiven. I am His temple, one of His living stones, because greater is the one who is in me, than the one that is in the world. And I wouldn't trade learning that lesson- even the hard way- for anything...