Last week I spent some time away, all by myself…well, I traveled with four other women from South Carolina that I had only really had a friendship with online, but it was the first time since we planted LifeSong that I went away where I wasn’t leading a group or organizing an event. I literally got to go away and just take some time for me…some time with my own thoughts, and for that, I’m so grateful. I went to Armed and Dangerous Pastor’s Wives Retreat in Nashville, TN. I came in contact with mostly lead pastor’s wives or campus pastor’s wives across the country, who had all pretty much had a virtual online relationship prior to meeting. In a room of 140 ministry wives, you find commonality, fellowship, relateability, and deep bond. In a time of rest and refreshing, though, I found myself with time to think over these last almost 4 years at LifeSong. As I shared our story with some of the Pastor’s wives I met, one thing I found myself repeating over and over was how my church restored me personally.
In our current sermon series at LifeSong, my husband has been preaching on “Love Invades,” focusing on various areas of life where we can love more fully…our marriages, our relationships, both good and bad ones…anywhere we can love more fully and freely. Yesterday, as he broke down how to “Love the Unlovable” I found myself thinking, once again, how my church has restored me – restored me by loving me for me. Jeff hit one point in particular that resounded loudly with me. He said,
“Lovers of the unlovable meet people where they are.”
He pointed out that Jesus always knew the story behind the person (John 4:16-18), citing the Samaritan woman and her attempt to hide how many husbands she had actually had, and that even her current “husband” was, in fact, not her husband at all. Jesus knew her story. He knew her story and he loved her through it. From the get-go, my LifeSong family has known my story. My story is defined by hurt. My story is of a hurt person hurting others…a story of not always making the right decisions of how to handle the hurt, but my church loved me irregardless. They even loved me when the majority never knew the details of my story. They just knew enough to know I had a story and they loved me for me. My husband said something yesterday that made me wanna shout. “The Church is perfect…until the people come in!” Wow, yes! None of us is perfect, yet many of us are living in bondage to an image that we’ve created that the Church must be. As I said, I had become a hurt person, hurting people. That could have greatly alienated me from others had my church treated me that I could only have my act together to lead, to teach, to be allowed in the door, even! It was through the teaching, leading and just coming that my heart began to heal. As I taught the Word, the scabs began to fall off and new life began to form. As I led others, that place of vulnerability I found myself in exposed and wounded, led others that felt just like me to a deeper place. Love heals. Bitterness kills. I’m thankful that someone took the time to know me and to love me in spite of what they found. In my humanity, I often fail at figuring out why people do what they do. Sometimes people scare us off. Sometimes people come on too strong. Sometimes people are just mean. All of them have a story. I struggle, even, with how to love each one individually. Some I love with every bit of me, and closely. Others, I must love at a distance because toxic breeds toxic. The point? LOVE! Don’t hold back. Don’t say, “Someone else will have to.” You just simply and fully love!
Whose story do you need to read? Whose story do you know, but ignore? Today, who is God telling you to love? What will you do?