Visiting An Old Friend

Today was the first time I had darkened the doors of a church, as a visitor, in a long time.

I was raised in church and the “churchy” culture of, at first, a nondenominational variety and then the A/G persuasion.

I warily went with some friends who invited me. It felt like being invited to a former friend’s house who you probably should’ve kept in touch with, but didn’t. Walking into the sanctuary, I couldn’t escape the heavy feeling of shame that came over me. It wasn’t even sin shame. It was more of a “We didn’t keep in touch and it was definitely my fault” shame. I had been the one who kept the relationship strained and distant. I was angry, beaten down, and defeated by the Church and its members, and by association, God.

The songs begin and the Hillsong-esque lyrics flash upon the screens at the front. People jump into singing about how they love God “so so so so much!” It felt like watching a Kid’s Bop version of worship. The lyrics remained fairly vague and repetitive. It wasn’t until the 3rd song that I legitimately felt something.

“There Is Nothing Like” is one of my all-time favorite worship songs. I’ll know the words until I die. In the midst of being ashamed and feeling awkward, it felt like God began singing this song to me. It felt like he had switched around the person of the song and telling me that “he’ll love me forever.”

It was like he accepted my silent apology in song. “Sorry it’s been a while. I’ve been dealing with my own stuff. I didn’t want to talk to you.” “That’s ok. I’ll love you forever.”

The rest of the service rambled on through the end of worship and through moments of speaking by exuberant people as they read scripture, update the community, and preach a sermon.

I probably won’t return to this church, just because it’s too similar to the churches I’ve been raised in and that I’ve worked in; but there was definitely a reason for me to be here today, even if it was only for God to let me know that he still knows I exist and that he loves me.

Today, for the first time, I felt wonderstruck.

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“God Says: A Lesson in Grace”

I’ve never really had to deal with the problem of whether or not God is real. This is a blessing.

When I was little, maybe 5 years old or so, I was pushing a door back and forth with one of my sisters. This was in our old home in Illinois. The door was the door for the restroom upstairs and my father was in there cleaning out a fish tank. When he was finished and ready to leave, my sister pushed the door to me and left, so my father could get out. I, being behind a door and all, didn’t know this and I shoved the door back on my father who was walking out. In frustration he kicked the door, crushing my arm between the door and the wall, and I ran.

My parents chased me around the home and eventually got me to the hospital where it was confirmed; my arm had been broken. They slapped a cast on that sucker and we went on our way.

About 3 weeks later my little sisters and brother were at home with my mother on a Wednesday or Sunday night. I don’t remember which it was, I just remember my father and I heading to church by ourselves. When we got there, I was placed under the pew (children played quietly under the pews whilst the adults paid attention to the sermon) and all I really remember from that moment is this: God told me I didn’t have to wear the cast anymore. I stopped playing with the LEGOs I had and put both of my feet on either side of the bottom of the cast and shoved it off. When it was off I got out from under the pew, handed the cast to my dad, looked up at him and said, “God says I don’t have to wear this anymore.”

He immediately looked shocked, took the cast, and began feeling my arm before he walked up to the pulpit (mid-sermon) and spoke briefly with the pastor before telling him what happened. The pastor let him speak and he told the congregation what had transpired.

The next day we went to the hospital and saw the same doctors who put the cast on. They x-rayed and examined my arm only to tell us that there was no sign at all that it had ever been broken. It was as if the break had never happened.

This is why I’ll never really have trouble knowing God exists. He does. He spoke to me when I had childlike faith, just to believe what I heard Him say, no questions asked. Complete trust. No matter what God and I go through nowadays. No matter the troubles I deal with and send to Him, I never have to worry that He isn’t real; that He’s not listening. That’s grace folks. Plain and simple.