Today in church toward the end of the service, the pastor asked for the people who needed a miracle, and who wanted to let Jesus know they were ready to fully accept him, to raise their hands. Raising my hand in church is difficult. During worship when all the arms are raised, mine can be found folded cross-body or in my jacket pockets. Today though, I let go, and raised my hand. And, then the pastor invited everyone who had raised their hands to come forward, to join the others who had raised their hands and we could all pray together for them. “Nope, no way, not a chance,” were the words I spoke to my husband as I put my hands right back in my pockets.
Did part of me want to go up there, you bet! Does part of me want to raise both hands high and sing in my awful deaf tone voice that I love Jesus and I know I am forgiven, yes, more than you can imagine. But, I don’t. Because my sins are many and there are moments that even in church, I am reminded that my sins are bad. And, that even if God has forgiven me, which I know he has for the most part (there are two sins I’m still confused on), the others in this room may not treat me as forgiven. They may see me as my sins, and not just as a flawed human being with a story like everyone else.
Let’s be honest, there are always those Christians, who do not live the way God would want. They go to church, they can quote a scripture, they give to the poor, feed the hungry yet still judge and condemn. And, that is why I would go to church intermittently throughout the years because if I stayed, I would connect, and if I connected, I would talk. And, if I talked, I would be judged. If you know me at all, you know two things: 1. I cannot lie to you if we are face to face. and, 2. I am an open book, and once I start sharing, I physically cannot stop, and within an hour you will know not only my life story, but every deep and dark secret. And… that is when that look comes across their face, of an uncomfortable smile, and an awkward exit with a loud and clear message of you are not worthy.
When I am strong, I am very confident in my worthiness, and it was God who told me just months ago, that I was worthy. But, in moments of weakness, when the devil returns to destroy what is being rebuilt with Jesus, my worthiness decreases. My inability to raise my arms stems from that unworthiness, and where there is unworthiness, there is relapse of sins. Tomorrow is unknown, and although I know he has greater plans for me than I have for myself, I knew that for the past 23 sinful years. I knew his plans for me were greater when my suicide attempt was not successful. When I woke up from my attempt angry at God for not wanting me, for not accepting me, and making me stay in the hell that my life was at that time; I knew there was more. Yet, I still faltered, I still sinned, and I managed to get my life together, only to have it fall apart time and time again. So, tell me how I can raise my hands today exalting that I am forgiven, that I am saved, when my track record shows evidence of a potential relapse in sins.
God has been a constant from a young age in my life. Even when I was not actively following him as a teenager and adult, he was still my constant. Were there times that I was misled to thinking God hated me? Definitely. Were there times that I sat up at night going over what God and I would talk about when it came time to review my life? Yes, more nights than you can imagine. But then again, because I knew God, and had faith in him, I knew he knew my heart. I believed he knew that I was not that person from my past and that he still loved me. That he knew I was trying.
Fear is never something I’ve had for God, because to me he was the only one who has never let me down. He is who I look up to and respect, and do not want to let down, but not who, I fear. So, maybe I am doing things wrong. But you at least can understand why I always come back, and always find my way to his message in church. As, we sat there today, praying for the group of people who were stronger than I was, and had walked up front, I stayed planted where I was, with silent tears rolling down my cheeks. My heart was happy for those in front of me, and I was content in praying for them because my heart wanted their hearts to be at peace.
It was then that I felt a light touch on my back, and I thought it was my husband who when he notices I am crying, he will console me. But I realized quickly it was not my husband, it was a woman behind us. I turned to her thinking I had dropped something, or she needed something, and she said “Will you go up there with me?” and I of course said yes. I said yes, because well I am in church, and what kind of a Christian would I be, if I said no?! I wanted to do what God would do, and because she needed my help. She asked me my name, and I told her, and she smiled as if she already knew and was confirming that she had the right person. She then said, “I don’t know why, but I’m being called to do this, either for you and your family, or for me and mine” and all I could get out were the words “oh, okay” as we walked up to the front arm in arm.
Once in front with the others who were just like us, we listened and pray, and I sobbed deeply and quietly. The pastor prayed for all the things, I needed, he prayed for a miracle, he prayed over finances and then he prayed for the devil to let go of our children, and I sobbed even more. Because this past Friday our daughter was in a situation that was scary, and a dear friend of mine said “Hear me out, the devil comes to attack when your family is close to god, and when he can’t break you, he will try and grab a hold of your children” and it made sense because this situation our daughter was in, was evil and hate filled. We needed the devil to flee.
As the sermon ended, and everyone walked away, I hugged her thanking her, an asked her name, it was Corinne. I hadn’t noticed her there before and she said she usually stays in the back and has a hard time coming forward so maybe that is why God led her to me. But I think God led her to me, because I needed her, because he knew I needed to be up front with the others, and I would go if it was to help someone else. Corinne didn’t ask what my sins were, she didn’t look at me with shame, or inequality, she simply put her arm around me, and walked beside me in front of all the others needing what we all need, God’s grace, love and acceptance.
I pray that I will get to see this woman again, and that each of you get to see the grace of god as I did today because it is the way Christians should be, and how I want to be.