I love telling this story because it’s a great example of how God can work in our brokenness. When J and I moved to Indianapolis and got settled into our first apartment together, there was an adjustment period of going from being in a long distance relationship to living together and getting used to living in a new state with only a couple of friends to call on. We grew a lot in that first year which is the silver lining here, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that there were some hard days trickled in there.
We could laugh about it after the fact, but there was definitely a day when he came home from work and I was packing my clothes to move back to Texas. I am one for the theatrics, what can I say? There was one particular day where we just weren’t seeing eye to eye or getting along on anything, so I did what any reasonable woman would do and I left to go shopping. I needed to get out of the house because my sanity and his life depended on it.
I drove around Indy for a bit and stopped in a Home Goods while I was out. It was an ordinary shopping trip, but I didn’t realize how significant this day was until about a week later.
We were sitting in a church that we liked, but didn’t love. We didn’t feel connected and the preaching was not exactly biblical. It’s hard to explain why we kept going there, but we didn’t want to church hop, so we stayed there until God revealed something better. One Sunday the preaching was so terrible (am I allowed to say that?) that for the first time in my life, we left a service in the middle of church. I remember being appalled and in tears at how unkind the pastor was being toward female sex workers and I was disappointed in the laughter from the congregation.
J and I were sitting in the car wondering what do we do next? Where do we even start to find another church? And then it hit me. While I was driving around Indy just a week before I saw this beautiful church right up the road from us that caught my eye while I was trying to avoid killing my then boyfriend.
We showed up the next Sunday and it was an experience I never want to forget. It was like coming home. Our timing could not have been any better because it was also Get Connected Sunday and we got to learn all about the small groups and young adult ministries after service. The very next day we went to a young adult meet up at one of the pastor’s houses, and we met a group that grew into some of our favorite people.
I have tears in my eyes typing this because I would have never guessed that meeting these people would have transformed my faith in the way that it did. These are the friends that I got to spend the next 3 years growing in my relationship with God with. They walked through the fire with J and I in our hardest moments and were there to hold our hands and wipe our tears every step of the way.
For every doctor appointment that didn’t go our way, there was a friend waiting for us at home with dinner or an errand ran on our behalf. They sat with and prayed over us in J’s last days and were an integral part of the funeral service. It was seeing the heart of Christianity in action in a way that I had never experienced.
This transformed and renewed my faith.
There’s something about always having a shoulder to cry on and people falling on their faces for you in prayer that gives you a snapshot into how deeply seen and loved and seen we actually are by God. We all know the church is filled with broken people who aren’t necessarily hypocrites. We’re just human. I see that humanness and honor it because it mirrors my own. Seeing the hands and feet of Jesus in action as we battled cancer was what kept me going in the moments that I was broken from God telling us no over and over again.
It’s the love of God that compels us, yes, but the kindness of His people also have a way of helping us put one foot in front of the other and finding the strength to fight another day.
If you’re not plugged into a church group or even a solid group of friends who will encourage you to live your best life on purpose, you need it. We weren’t meant to show up to church on Sundays and leave without ever interacting with the other parts of the body.
Even on the hardest days or longest hospital stays, we always had someone by our side to lift our chins and wipe our tears. That’s what the love of God is all about and that’s what kept me coming back every Sunday even when it felt like my prayers were falling on deaf ears.
We’re all working together to bring heaven on earth and we need each other’s encouragement as we walk through life.