As Christians we keep things in, don't we? We hide our emotions as we raise our hands in praise. As we sing hymns of old, our hearts are burdened with hurts that isn't all well with our soul. We learn to put on a plastic smile as we shake hands during meet and greet. We attend church each Sunday hoping for more and settling for less.
We walk through the church doors broken in search of healing. We are lonely and looking for something to fill the emptiness we feel. We see the altar and only want to leave it all there. The anger and bitterness. The brokenness and chains that bind us to our sins we keep hidden. All we want is to find what the Lord promises. Hope, faith and love.
I found all of those almost twenty-one years ago as I entered the church I would soon call home. I found the family and friends that would encourage me straight to Jesus and a life with Him. This church grew me. I entered broken and bruised. Lost and searching. I am the woman I am today in part because of the loving people I called family who taught me and lead me to know the Jesus that would change my life for forevermore.
I haven't been to my home church in ten months. Ten long months I have been absent from the pew I have sat in for the last seven years. For the first thirteen years our family sat two rows from the front. I had to leave the church to find me. My body was present in the pew, but somewhere along the way my heart was missing. It wasn't active anymore. Ever find yourself just going through the motions? We have been MIA and it seems those years being present we must have been invisible.
You may be wondering why we left a church so dear to us. I can tell you that it was a clear leading of the Lord. During my prayer time I would be sharing with the Lord the wounds of my heart and the emptiness it was feeling. I heard the Lord say, "Move, my child". This is one of those life lessons of patience and obedience. I waited for months until I knew I heard the Lord clearly. At first I didn't know what He meant. Was I too move churches? Move in church? Was He talking direction or motion? A few months back I received my answer.
It was hard to move. How do you find a new church? Do you even want a new church? I can tell you after the hurt my family has endured I wasn't so eager to find a new church. Trusting a new church is difficult. It broke my heart not to return, but the Lord opened a door for visiting other churches. This has been a journey that has brought great insight. Every church has different ways of doing things. I found myself comparing every church to our home church. That isn't what I was to do. I was to focus and seek Jesus. That is exactly what I have been doing.
The Lord has been doing a wonder in my heart. See, I became too comfortable in my pew. I was allowing hurts to build up and each Sunday it was draining just to get ready for church. Once there, my heart was so hardened, I could no longer worship. My anger had gotten in the way. I became dependent on my church. I was depending on the church to feed me, to meet my spiritual needs. They weren't being met and I wasn't being fed.
Since then my prayer life has grown deeper. I am making my way through studying the Bible. I have been reading great studies on the Word and life of Christ. Each day I am seeking Him as I never have before. See, I was seeking for the church to fill me up each week. When that wasn't happening I was giving up. My attitude on church was not a good one and as we visited other churches I found the truth. No church is perfect. How could it be when the church is filled with imperfect people? We are an imperfect people trying to find our way to Jesus.
I think, like a lot of others, I was expecting too much from my church. When they no longer were meeting those expectations I grew hesitant and weary. The truth..I allowed all the junk to enter in to my mind and heart and I wasn't allowing the Lord to be my filter. I am to go to church to worship. Simple as that. I am to worship and if I am led I am to serve in my church. In that service I am still to keep my eyes upon the mission and purpose of Christ. But I no longer had room in my heart for worship after I had heard all the gossip and backbiting. Church is over and what is happening? Really, what takes place after church on the ride home? For our family the ride home was as if we had never even attended church. Tears would easily come. It didn't feel like home any longer. Changes were happening that didn't settle within my heart.
Do you think God allows things to bring us closer to Him? Friends, I know He does. I believe it is the Lord Jesus who has placed me in this new journey. I have grown in ways that was not possible where I was. He needed me away from the junk so that I could regain my focus and see what was really important. Him and nothing else. If He is my total focus, He will take care of the rest. I can't expect from others what they cannot give and friends, no one gives love like Jesus. I turned to my Bible like never before. I found grace and forgiveness. I found a new way of life that I hadn't yet reached while sitting in my pew. I had to get out of my box, my comfort zone and step out in faith.
Visiting other churches has been a challenge. I know it has been the calling of the Lord. It has truly been eye opening to see how others worship together. How people interact with members and visitors. How they lead in music and how they pray asking for the leading of the Lord. I can honestly tell you some churches have been so warm and refreshing, while others have been rude and lacking in making one feel invited to share in worship. I think most of all, I am learning about myself. I am more in tune with the uttering of the Holy Spirit. I feel driven to read my Bible. I find myself saturating myself in the word only to raise my hand in praise as I have an 'aha' moment. Don't you love uncovering all He has for you?
The Lord isn't calling me back to my home church yet. So, I continue to go where He leads. Like never before I am in prayer of His will for my life. I am realizing more and more that if Jesus isn't the focus than I need to walk away. I am in constant check of my motives. I am learning to speak up when the Holy Spirit is nudging. Most of all, I'm not afraid to simply be me. The girl He created me to be. I want to use my gifts and talents for the Lord. I want my life to be used by Him. I want to live without excuse and without regret.
Am I hurt by my church? Yes, that is a deep seated hurt that the Lord is healing. By His grace I realize more and more that we are just people trying to figure it all out. Sometimes we get it right and others we fail. But where we fail, the Lord is there to bring beauty to the ashes. He is there cheering us on along the way. We are all on a different path and our journeys are different. Our callings are unique. We grow in different ways and the timing is all Jesus. We are a work in progress. I think that is one of the things we forget. We expect perfection out of imperfect people.
We have to be willing to forgive. We must be willing to extend the same grace we are offered daily. We are not always going to agree and lets be real, we aren't always going to like one another, but we aren't called to like one another. We are called to love. Love without exception. Boundless love. You know, it's the only kind of love, true Jesus love.
Church is Satan's favorite place to be. I really believe that. As we sit in our pews he is there to trip us up with all kinds of things. We forget we are a church filled with sinners. There isn't one person in the entire church who is doing the walk better than another. We are so quick to judge and correct others as we drive home with our hidden sins. See, we are simply to love people where they are at. Sinners in need of grace.
We get puffed up with our jobs and positions. Oh, if we would just allow the Lord to humble us. What we need is revival. What we need is just pure worship. Just imagine what would happen if we got out of His way and just allowed Him our lives to touch a world not in need of seeing us, but of seeing Him.
I just want to be the girl God created me to be. I need encouragement just like the next girl. People want to feel needed and we want to be accepted. Why can't we just serve Jesus with everything we have and put all the egos to rest. It's not about who does more or less. Who is involved and who isn't serving. It's not about lifting up a certain few and ignoring those who minister in secret. It's about serving our Savior and allowing Jesus to live through us to bring His message to a world in need of His love.
Jesus, bring us to look more like You. Humble our prideful hearts and give us opportunities to serve you. Place in our path people in need and place in our hearts a willingness to move outside the box and reach a world who isn't so different from us. Might we remember we too were once lost. Help us to share in Your mercies. Give us hearts that look past denomination, color, creed, money, and may we value each and every person with a Christ-like love.
I'm still figuring it all out. I'm just a girl who loves Jesus and wants to serve Him. Where are you today? Have you been hurt by your church? Friends, don't give up on church. Don't give up on Jesus. Open your hearts to Him and give Him your deepest wounds. Only He can bring true healing and forgiveness.
When it all comes down to it we should be living each day with the attitude of grace and with actions that whisper mercy and words that spring forth inspiration. At the end of the day, it isn't about how others lived their day. It's about how you lived. How I lived. It's about our walk with Jesus. At the end of the day we should be able to ask Jesus, "So, Jesus, how did I do today? How did I do with all You gave me?" It's not the cheers of others we desire or need. It's the voice of our Savior saying, "Well done, My daughter. You used up everything I gave you and you took every opportunity to bring glory to Me. I am delighted in you, My child."
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6