Before belonging to a church, I was fearful of being judged by their members. What would they think, and how would they treat me if they knew my story? If they knew my sins. Would they still smile as I walked in on Sunday and welcome me? Would they always pray over me and for me when I needed it? Would I be accepted?
Serving at church and serving GOD has changed that for me. Doing life with the people of our church has changed that. There have been Sundays when someone my flesh struggled with loving and even liking walked in. Sundays where my flesh struggled with being in service if I am honest; but GOD. GOD is faithful and has never allowed me to walk out feeling the way I walked in. He has never allowed my heart to become hardened to the point of letting my flesh overrule my GOD and his purpose with how he uses me.
The Holy Spirit in today’s service was intense and powerful. Our worship leader moved to tears with all the members stepping out in faith during worship and moving toward the altar, and all the prayer partners joining them to pray over them and with them. It was incredible —all of us doing life together. My heart breathed the moment in deeply, and GOD spoke the words, “SERVING A LIFE SENTENCE,” to me. That is what we are doing, and that is what we are afforded by doing it. LIFE.
Watching our church members, I am so thankful for those I choose to do life with. I’m grateful for the moments where someone or something made me uncomfortable, and it stretched, crushed, and pressed me. One of the Co-Pastors described what a grape endures before becoming wine. Sometimes it’s bitter and painful – but never for nothing. Eventually, it brings forth new wine.
I am proud today. Proud of our church, our members, myself, and the GOD we serve. Proud because nothing we go through is void of an opportunity to grow through it, together. I wanted to grab the hands of those who’ve walked through life with me and raise our hands victoriously, praising GOD for what he has accomplished in us, through us, through Him.
It was then that I understood how members within a church welcome people. How they smile as you enter, pray when you falter, and cover you in prayer. How pasts, and people who have things too hard and too heavy to carry desperately need a safe place to unload it. How sometimes, we need a safe person to help us unpack it. That is why fellowship is vital to our walk with the LORD. We need people who choose to accept the messy, the lost, and the broken. We need a place where loving people and loving GOD is safe – without judgment and where everyone is welcome.
I’m proud as heck that God is using me and showing me this first hand. He is disciplining me to disciple others by giving me a firsthand account and personal experience of all that is truly growing me. I’m so fortunate and moved that he uses someone like me.
He is actively preparing me and showing me that we are all serving a life sentence. Some are serving a sentence that can end in death, and others in everlasting life. We can change our life sentence, life expectancy even from being trapped behind fear, judgment, shame, and sin – to a sentence of freedom, forgiveness, grace, and life, literally transforming it from a penalty to reward. And, I get a front-row seat to the most beautiful experience by simply showing up and having faith.