Wednesday. Small group day.
I always look forward to this. I've mentioned it many times before. But tonight is just a little different. Tonight is different because I finally got to tell this amazing group of people something I've wanted to say for a very long time.
"This church, this small group, is the first time I ever felt wanted or accepted by a church. Ever."
And rewriting that line brings tears to my eyes out of sheer gratitude that I finally have something like this. That I finally let go of all the fear that was holding me back from trusting churches and walked straight into one of the best things that's ever happened to me. That I have a church family again, but for the first time, I have one that I trust, that I can be vulnerable with, that I know loves me.
Sitting in a circle around Kevin and Amy's living room, the love was palpable. A dozen or so people that not only truly love Jesus, but who really do love each other. It's the kind of crowd that can joke like family, that isn't afraid to tell the truth about how we feel or the way we see things because we know the relationships won't change. I know that no matter what happens, these people are there to encourage me and pray for me, and it is my honor to do the same for them.
And they know this. They know that I love them. But what I'm not sure if they know is the real impact they have had on me personally and my trust issues. Every week that I am able to sit there and talk openly and freely with them is another week that a little bit more of the scars left on my heart from my hometown church are healed. This crew, in the way they own their imperfections, has taught me how to really forgive the hurt I suffered at the hands of Christians years ago. Because of the love they have shown me, I learned how to completely and truly let it go.
Just tonight, one of them reached out to me to let me know that he could relate to my issues with loving Chelsea in all of her sickness. There was no judgment, just honest words of advice from someone who's been there, someone who has felt some of the same things I've felt and am so ashamed of.
But even more than that, I think back on all the years that I spent drowning in my own hurt, believing with everything in me that no one would care if I just disappeared. And these friends of mine, these sweet brothers and sisters in Christ, remind me that I am wanted with every conversation, every meeting, every prayer. And in turn, the depth of that love reminds me that I am wanted by God.
Ephesians 3:20-21a is one of my absolute favorite lines from the Bible. "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine...to Him be the glory..." Not even after my baptism could I have imagined that I would be here now with a church family that I adore, that the longtime outcast could really and truly feel like I belong in a church.
I couldn't be more thankful.