I sat and listened as the heart was poured out with the grief of years of hurt. The wounding, now many years in effect, had been inflicted years ago; yet the wounds were still raw and painful. I could identify, but these seemed deeper than I had experienced. Looking into the eyes toward the soul, there was the unmistakeable mark of betrayal.
Just days previous to this I listened as a mother lamented that her children loved God, but would not attend church because of the wounding that was inflicted on them, their parents.
I have a friend that watched his sister be falsely accused and driven from the church. They are ones that love God, serve God, winners of souls; yet they still walk with the hurt of those events long past. I feel their pain every time I speak with them and the topic moves that way. The remembrances of that pain are not far from the surface.
My daughter reminded me of a quote from Brennan Manning, “I am deeply loved by Jesus and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” Mary went on to say that we are like babies. A baby does not return love; they just need love. We feed them, care for them, answer their every whim and cry because we love them. They did not earn it, they sometimes do not deserve it. But, we would lay down our life for our child. We do not even expect them to love us back at first. We take the fact that they are calm and sleep in our arms as some kind of love, but it is more their reception of our love and the security they feel. Jesus treats us the same way. We are loved. We did not earn it or deserve it. In fact, we have been difficult, dysfunctional, and primarily rebellious. We want our way. Amazingly he continues to love us, not based on our lack of sin, or our wonderful righteousness, but because we are his children. Family, familia!
Oh, the wonders of family. We are loved in spite of ourselves. We are prayed for, agonized over, encouraged, lectured, disciplined, you name it. But at the end of the day, you are still family. That wonderful assurance that we have in Jesus, in spite of our screw ups and failures, and blatant sin. It causes us to sing boisterously Amazing Grace.
The Lord has spoken to us that we are a hospital and that he was going to bring the wounded home. He was going to the highways and hedges to get his people. They are coming and they are a wounded mess. We have people coming that are drug addicts, mentally messed up, divorcees, multiple partners, people just living together, alcoholics, cheats, robbers, haters, the list of usual suspects. They come angry, hurt, confused, some even attempting suicide. Their whole idea of church is a bunch hypocrites sitting around judging others, pumping their particular brand of doctrine, and pompously extolling their own self righteousness. They are hard to reach and they do not trust easily.
These we are called to love. The thing that can really help in ministering to the lost is a good sense of our personal poverty and that we are on the road and not there yet. Maintaining a sense of being a pilgrim helps keep us from the legalism of self righteousness. We all fall into that trap so easily. It is like the man who quits smoking and immediately judges everyone who is still smoking. Or, I have been delivered, it was easy, what is your problem that you cannot shake it, just quit. It is not that easy for all and the battle rages in every arena for the souls of man and woman.
I understand what some age does for you. I am not so quick to judge as I was when I was young. I have experienced enough pain and failure to not be so quick to tell anyone to just get over it. I understand that it hurts and it can hurt a long time. I watched as one woman had to walk through a divorce after 50 years of marriage and now to spend the latter years of her life along. It hurts and it hurts badly.
To the human tragedy God addresses his grace through Jesus. To know you are loved is a great treasure. To see some overcome what seems to be insurmountable circumstances is a testimony of God’s love. To be rejected by mother and father and beaten and driven away would surely warp life into one of hatred and distrust, but then to see a flower blossom in that life with love, compassion, and forgiveness, can only be classified as a miracle of God’s love.
We will never do church just right. We are human and we fail in our relationships at times. But I will continue to pursue it. I will say it again, I want a move of the Holy Spirit with peace and unity. Goofiness, weirdness, control, and misuse of the gifts will not bring us peace and unity. His grace will bring peace, unity, and healing for the wounded. Oh, to trust God again with His church.