I woke up this morning on the dawn of my 41st birthday with a headache. There is an impending storm, but the overcast day will do little to make me forget the sunshine of yesterday or the spring that is waking across the mountain. A hike yesterday afternoon with my family revealed that even in the depth of the woods, new shoots of green leaves are pushing through the surface to make their appearance known. So many symbolic references to be made between the newness of my life and the emerging new life of spring, but that was not the intent of this blog post.
Yesterday morning's sermon was about the judgments we pass on one another and how the church should be a place of acceptance, outstretched arms of love to those around us. The pastor said that instead of being the conduit of the love of God to a hurting world (my paraphrase), we judge and condemn them for doing what comes naturally. That struck such a chord in my heart. So often instead of being appalled by the sin and the consequences that follow, I am disgusted with people. I wonder in my own heart, "What is wrong with them??!" As a believer, I already know that they do what they do because they are slaves to their human nature. Even fellow believers still have the flesh to contend with, that wages war against every bit of what is inside of us that is good. I have been hurt as much inside the church as I was ever hurt from the outside. But I try to remember that I too have inflicted similar hurts on others, and keep this as a warning inside my own heart and mind to tread lightly and hold grace as a banner over others. (At least this is what I want to do, though often I do not do it.)
Recently in a newcomer's class at the church we have started going to, I faced the judgmental words of a woman that said, "I've never been divorced." This has been one of my biggest, most paralyzing fears that I would be summed up as a person and a Christian on the sole event known as the end of my marriage. Without having to bare your soul for the world, nobody knows how hard you tried to make it work or what you endured so that this would never be the final outcome. Even in marriages that put on a happy face, nobody knows if the person asserting, "I was never divorced" was the most miserable spouse in the world, in a marriage that lasted due to no credit of their own but because of the patience and long-suffering of another. The fear of this judgment over my divorce has held me back from the body of Christ. I have attended church over the last couple of years sporadically, but I have not invested in a body of believers or the people around me for fear that if they got to know my situation or me, that they would decide I was "less than". I think it is time to risk the judgment and the fear of rejection and embrace the fellowship of other believers. I have missed this for so long.
The sermon yesterday spoke this hope into my life, that I was free.