Today at church, the message was titled "When God Shows Up." It was our Christmas service, so Pastor Ben talked about how Christmas symbolizes God coming down into the messiness. We don't have to pretend like everything is great and beautiful just because it's the Christmas season, because God purposely chose to insert himself here when he came in the form of that little baby. It's the ultimate story of God showing up for us.
His message was really short because he said they were going to have a couple testimonies shared of God showing up in their lives. Well, while the first one was happening, my sweet friends Betsy and Adam talking about the journey they had to go on to get their son Teddy, I started getting this nudge that I had something to say. At first I thought 'well they have this planned out and Ben didn't ask me to talk and I don't want to be rude' and yada yada yada, but that feeling just kept getting stronger that God was telling me I needed to get up and say what was on my heart.
So I snuck down the side of the theater to Ben and whispered asking could I please have a couple minutes to say something? He said yeah as long as I could keep it really short, which I knew was only because the movie theater people need us out of there at a certain time. So believe it or not, I actually managed to say what I needed to say in about 3 minutes. I know, it's amazing for me!
Here's the thing. As Adam and Betsy spoke, I realized that one of the biggest ways God has shown up in my life in the past couple of years is that he brought me to City Grace. I wouldn't have even heard about or looked up this church if the data in the map app on my phone wasn't wrong in telling me its location. I moved here knowing that finding a church was the best thing for me to do, that I needed a community, but after getting kicked out of one as a teenager and never being truly accepted at another as a new Christian in college, I was scared. I was scared to put myself out there again. I was scared to start at another church and find out that I didn't belong there, either. And I remember when I first started coming to City Grace, I was terrified of really trusting anyone. They seemed so nice, but it seemed too good to be true. Sound familiar?
But God showed up in my life big time when he brought me to this family. They are the people who carried me through all of this craziness since I moved here - all the seizures, the shoulder surgery, both of the tumor scares. They showed me what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ when they brought me food every day after my surgery and checked in on me. They're the first church community that when they say they'll pray for me, I believe they'll actually be praying for me.
Because of City Grace, I found healing from my old bad experiences. Because of City Grace, I learned that though the people in the church are not Jesus, when they do get it right, it's the most beautiful thing in the world. Because of City Grace, I'm not scared anymore. I know that if I leave NYC to pursue my Ph.D. (which honestly will likely happen, but we'll see), I will be brave enough to find another church. Because of City Grace, I will always have family in this city, no matter where I end up.
Ben said to the congregation that me speaking wasn't planned but "how can I say no to someone asking to share how God has shown up for them?" I felt kind of bad after the fact for ambushing him, but he didn't seem to mind because I did keep it short so we still managed to get out of the theater on time. And so many people came up to thank me afterwards for sharing what I did, even a girl who had only been there three times so really knew nothing about me. It was weird, I actually got a little choked up while I was speaking, and I honestly don't remember the last time that happened. But it was so worth it. I wanted to share that and tell the people there who have supported me so faithfully from the beginning just how much God has used them to help me in my life. And I was grateful and relieved to hear that so many other people appreciated it, so I didn't waste their time.
Really, though, the biggest reason that I'm glad I did it is because I really felt it was God telling me to get up and go down there. I was scared Ben would say no, but I knew I had to try. So I got up and went. I was scared people wouldn't understand the point I was trying to say, but I spoke. I got shaky and emotional and for a second wondered what I was doing, but I finished it. Obedience isn't always easy, but God always makes it worth it. And tonight, I'm glad I don't have to go to bed wondering if I should have said something.
Be brave, friends. Even the smallest thing can seem so overwhelming when we know God is calling us into it, I know that. But thankfully, we serve a God who is bigger than anxiety and fear and who can get you through anything that he's calling you to do as long as you're willing. I never thought that public speaking would be something I would get nervous about, but God gave me the courage to get up and ask, the wisdom to say what I needed to say and do it succinctly, and the peace to do it to the end without losing my composure. And he blessed my obedience in getting up by giving me unplanned words that ended up touching a lot of people.
I've known for a while that God has given me a platform of sorts to minister to and help people with the things that I've learned through my life story. I'm glad I got up upon his prodding today, and I pray for the faithfulness to continue to listen out for his leadings. Because I'm learning that in being obedient and helping others through sharing my story, I'm helping myself, too.