When I first separated from my son’s father, I was so full of shame. I was humiliated. I had to walk around and admit to myself and others that my marriage had failed. I felt the need to hide.
I had been attending church at Lebanon United Methodist since my son was a newborn. It was my home. It was my refuge. It was everything to me. The members were my second family.
I thought that my sin was so great that I couldn’t possibly be welcome there anymore. I assumed that people were talking and judging and that I no longer fit in. I stopped attending my perfect-for-me church and started going to a larger one. It was fancy. All the lights and loud music were remarkable. But I wasn’t connecting. I was getting lost.
On a very hard, rainy day I was pushing my son in a shopping cart outside of Walmart to begin packing groceries into my Jeep. I was on the verge of tears when I heard someone call from a car behind me.
It was one of the most precious people I had met at my old church. She had been battling cancer for years and had grown too ill to attend regularly. She stood in the rain and smiled and waved at me. I waved back, still embarrassed by my latest failure.
She was so warm and didn’t budge. She let the rain hit her and looked at me for a moment. “We miss you and I hope to see you soon,” she said. She was completely sincere.
She didn’t know it at the time and I never had the chance to tell her later, but she was the reason I came back home to Lebanon. She made me feel safe. I knew how loved she was by our congregation and I knew if this lady could forgive me and miss me, maybe the rest of the members would feel the same way.
That Sunday I was back in church, toddler in tow, ringless finger, and all. No one said anything ugly to me. No one judged me. They all just crowded around my son and I. I was home again. I was safe. We were loved.
Tonight I went to my friend’s visitation. She finally lost that battle she had been fighting for years. Her family was surrounded by the people of Lebanon. It breaks my heart that she is no longer with us. It saddens me that she will no longer be in a Lebanon church pew on any Sunday.
Of course I know she is in a better place. I know that she isn’t hurting or fighting anymore. I also feel reassured. Should my family have to suffer through anything in this life, I know my church family will support them and love them through it. They will not be abandoned in their time of need.
Sometimes we are showing God to people without even knowing it. To her, she might have just been trying to be friendly in the parking lot that day. To Lebanon members, they may have just been trying to be present for a friend this evening. We never really know how God is using us or how we are impacting others through His love.
I look at myself and how imperfect I am as a Christian. We all are pretty tattered at the edges in that regard. Church attendance doesn’t make anyone a better Christian than anyone else. It’s what we do with those bible lessons and sermons. It’s what we learn from fellowship and prayer.
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
Preaching and showing are sometimes the same thing to other people. I may look like a total heathen covered in tattoos and with a past as long as the Nile, but maybe God can use me in a parking lot or at a visitation or ANYWHERE. I watched my church family gather around with so much love. I looked at the sweet lady who brought me back to my church and, really to my faith, and I was reminded that no act of God’s love and kindness is too small.
What a legacy and a life lesson to leave behind…