I know at first glance that sounds and reads pretty weird and you know what? That was the exact reaction I had when I came across a YouTube Video with this title. I knew it couldn’t be a joke because Sarah Jakes Roberts featured in it… but it got me thinking for a moment, the time I was faced with the fact that I was no different than the title you read.
It was a Sunday, I came to church ready to serve and with an open heart. I was willing to do anything and be where anyone needed me to be. I had a smile on my face, ready to be in God’s presence. By the end of the second service, I said hi to an older friend of mine and as you do, the conversation started with, “hey how are you?” and my go-to response was “Hey! I’m good thank you” but what happened next shocked me. She replied with “No, you’re not. Harriee I can see you’re putting on a front” … Now bear in mind, this was not how our usual conversation would go and I certainly wasn’t expecting that from her. Funny thing was, I genuinely thought I was okay. But I wasn’t. I got so used to saying I was okay that, I couldn’t see when I really wasn’t and it was okay to say so to this particular lady. I was brought up in a church where whatever happened to you during the week, was not brought into church on a Sunday. I was told that, what brought you down, shouldn’t affect the way you looked or worshipped Him.
We get into this cycle of settling for the most famous “I’m okay” phrase, thinking and racking up in our minds that no-one really cares about what is going on. Building up our own reality based on lies. Believing that no-one really wants to hear how many times you have had to cry yourself to sleep or if you have had to deal with family situations and what it’s like inside to see your ex everywhere you turn. That they would feel disgusted if we were to let them in on even an inch of what we are going through. Then we come to a holt and conclude that if people can’t accept it… then God can’t. But who told us this? If God can love all of us, in spite of our flaws, in spite of our past, in spite of being the victim or making the wrong decisions, then it’s possible for us too to love ourselves. God needs all of it. He said that He will work everything all together for our good (Romans 8:28), that doesn’t mean allowing God only into the kitchen but never the bedroom. Never the closet, where we feel ashamed and bottle up the reason why it’s been so hard to smile again. But we can’t love God with one foot in and one foot out. Only giving Him bits and pieces of ourselves. The bits we want Him to see. The bits we allow everybody else to see.
Yes, it’s true that we are not meant to trust everyone we speak to about our past and “dirty laundry” … but let me let you in on something. The church. Your church. My church is not everyone. My church is my family. A knitted community of people who love and care for me like Jesus would. A place of real and true belonging. My church is love. And love forces us to be vulnerable with each other and tell the truth. Church lets you know that you’re not in it by yourself. My sister-friend once referred to church, as a hospital where the broken is welcomed, the hurt and wounded are cared for, the lost is found and the blind can see.
Heavenly Father, I thank you that in spite of my past you can still love me and shower me with your grace. Help me to allow you in into every area of my life and surround me with people who won’t judge or shun me for the way I am feeling. For your love covers me like the crashing ocean and welcomes like a father would to a child. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.