This week is Holy Week. It is the week leading up to Easter Sunday.
As I ponder the meaning, the sacredness, and the absolute amazement of this week, I am struck with such joy.
I am also struck with a somber awareness of the many who do not know Jesus, or what He did for them. My heart saddens and cries out to God for Him to shake up my faith. Shake up my heart!
Some days I can go through an entire day without one thought of the lost faces that surround me at any given moment. I get sucked into my tiny world and forget that the person behind me at the grocery story may need to know at that very second the HOPE of Jesus Christ.
I was also recently awakened [again] by the need for us as a Church to show love, grace, compassion and mercy to our fellow believers. This awakening came after a dear friend, with crocodile tears pouring off her face, shared her story with me.
A story starting out with such happiness and acceptance within her new small group at her new church. But, the story ends with pain and exclusion, and so much heartbreak.
She shared with me how she thought that she and her family were "safe" within the walls of her church and her small group. But, because of a few people that chose to turn their backs on her family, she was left confused and saddened, and with no desire to walk into another church.
I will let her share her own words. The story is not over, however. God always brings beauty from ashes, and He will continue to weave His Redemption and Mercy into her story.
My friend has chosen to remain anonymous. She wants no harm for those that turned on her, and only desires any of you who may have experienced similar trauma to know that there is HOPE and REDEMPTION on the other side of the pain.
I hope after reading this, we are all awakened to the need to look around us. Make eye contact with those next to us, and share the Love that God has so graciously poured into us to be poured out.
We never know what someone has experienced. But, we can choose to notice those around us. Making a heart connection whenever we possibly can. Listening. Not judging or condemning. Being ever aware of the lavish Grace that God continues to pour over us.
May we share that same lavish Grace with others. No one is exempt from God's Grace.
We are God's Church. We must represent Him everywhere we go.
I will start this off by saying that I don't want pity for my story. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for what has happened to my family and I. It is life. My family always said bad things can and will happen to good people.
This is just a very small portion of our story. First, I want to say that my husband and I have been so blessed in our life. We have been married for 20 years and have 3 amazing kids. We have not a want for anything.
We both were raised in church and felt very safe and comfortable there. We even sent our kids to the church preschool.
We moved a few years ago and found ourselves each Sunday visiting church after church. Then one day my sweet neighbor offered to take my kids to her church. I agreed.
For several weeks she took them and they would go to church. My husband and I finally joined them. We attended this church for a while. We were involved in everything! We did it all--VBS , small group Sunday school, and we served in various areas as well.
Then one day we were asked to join a couples study, so we did. My husband didn't really want to but he knew I felt it was important, so he went .
We would comment all the time that we seemed to have fought more over these few weeks than any before. I would say, "Yeah! Because the devil is mad! The devil is mad because we are diving into the Bible and how it relates to our marriage and he doesn't like that."
We trucked on and hung in the entire study.
We started to feel safe in the environment and the group we were with. We hosted a dinner at our house at the end of the study. I remember cleaning the house so much because I was nervous about them coming to my inadequate home. "Would I fit in?" , I thought. My house is small.
They came that evening and we ended up talking and sharing things about our families. We ended up sharing the personal information that we had gotten pregnant before marriage. Honestly, I didn't think anything about it. Yes I had sinned, but I also brought life into this world. This was a part of our family story and we thought it was a safe place to share.
However, the couples in the small group did not look at it like that. They were not accepting of our story.
After everyone left our home, we were never really spoken to again by these people.
These people would not talk to us at church or anywhere in public. Nothing.
I went up to several of them and asked them if I had done anything wrong. I would get polite "no" and that was it.
After a while my husband said that he was not going back to that church any longer. I continued to go for a bit, but soon I stopped going too.
We stopped going to church for a long time.
I was that mom that still prayed everyday for my husband, kids, and my family. We did memory verses together. You name it, we did it. As a family.
We would go about once a month to church with my mother or in laws. Otherwise, I fed our family in any which way I could. I know that sounds silly, but that is what I ended up doing for years.
This past year my daughter was away at college and she told me her roomates invited her to church. She declined. She was then invited to a small group.
In six months I saw this child of mine start going to small group. She also started talking about the study they were learning about. She would tell me to download sermons on you tube and listen. She would text me to remind me to listen and she would call and we would talk about it .
Then, she began to tell me she made sure she was always off on Wednesday so she could go to her study.
I was so thankful! I prayed that God would show her that Jesus was good and she didn't have to fear hurt from people.
I began to see her heart grow and things began to happen for her.
Then in January, I saw a post online about a small group bible study and asked if I could join.
I was so scared that I would be told no. The opposite happened. I was told please come.
I did go, and I have been attending! At first, I sat in this room of women thinking, "they are not going to allow me in their group.They are going to be nice, but because I do not go to their church, I will not fit in."
Well, I feel like the complete opposite. I have felt that everyone has been very accepting of me. I have met some nice women. I am so glad that I am in a small group learning about the Bible again. I did not know how much I truly missed it.
Update by Jill: This is my friend's precious story. God is still working on the details to unveil a beautiful masterpiece of grace and redemption for her family. I am also thrilled to let all of you know that she and her family are planning on visiting a church this Easter Sunday! So, if you see someone new at your church...or if you see a face and feel the ping of the Holy Spirit to reach out to them, please do.
We must love those around us. We must show the Love of Christ, or we are not representing Christ. I am stirred by my friend's story. Stirred to love bigger. Reach out more. Invite more. And tell everyone I know the HOPE of Jesus Christ. I hope her story stirs your heart the same way.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
love one another,