Last year, I was dealing with issues from the past, events that took place long before I started attending my church. Opening old wounds you thought were healed is never pleasant, but added to that was the sense that I was alone in this one. As far as I knew, I was the only member who had gone through an experience such as this. I had also been hurt by well-meaning people the first go around. So to avoid a repeat, I decided that I had better tough it out on my own. As a result, I found myself becoming defensive. Not toward anyone in particular, but it was a gradual internal distancing, the raising of a mental and emotional barrier to protect myself. Of course, I tried to keep this hidden behind a smile, but it was hard, and I could feel the pressure building inside.
At least there was one person I could talk to - my daughter. Her response was, "Mother! This is Grace1 we're talking about. You know these people." And she was right, but I was still afraid. Afraid of rejection, misunderstanding, and above all, I didn't want to get hurt again. But it got to the point where I had to call out for help. And guess what? I got it. I received wise, compassionate counsel and much-needed prayer. As I opened up bit by bit, there was love and genuine concern. All my fears of what might happen were unfounded.
But isn't this often the case? The things we dread never come to pass because the driving force behind the fear was just a cleverly fabricated lie. In my case, a lie that caused me to sell my brothers and sisters and, in reality, the Lord short. So to combat the lies, there was only one thing to do. Get in the fight by preaching the truth to myself:
- There is no odd man out in the body of Christ. There is no one who has an identity that is other from the rest. It's no wonder Paul reminds the Ephesians that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father when he admonishes them to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The family of God shares a common identity - in Christ. (Eph. 4:3-6)
- Lack of common experience doesn't mean there is a lack of love or a desire to understand. When one member suffers, the body suffers. When one member rejoices, the body rejoices. (1 Cor. 12:26-27)
- Without the gospel, our differences would divide, but if we look at one another through the gospel lens, those differences become facets that reflect God's providence.2 We can praise Him together for the specific ways in which He has made, saved, and sanctifies each of His children. (Eph. 2:11-22)
- We don't bring our meager resources to the table and hope there is enough to go around. We are called to love, but He has loved us first. We are called to bear with one another, but He has borne with us. We are called to forgive each other, but He has forgiven us. (Col. 3:12-14)
So I share this with the hope of encouraging you to persevere in the local church. It's not always easy and hard work at times, but if Christ loves the church and laid down His life for her, isn't she worth fighting for?
1. My church's name is Grace Baptist Chapel or Grace, for short.
2. Made for More, Hannah Anderson, Moody Publishers, 2014, pp. 146-147.