My sister was recently in town visiting. I love spending time with her. There are fifteen years that separate our births, so for many years I looked at Sarah with a more maternal feeling. In the last few years, our relationship has grown into one of mutual friendship and I love it. Recently, Sarah was over at my house and I realized once again how special she is to me. When you look at Sarah you might see a beautiful young woman on the verge of starting her life. But, as you sit and talk you will discover that she carries a maturity in her heart that is aged far beyond her twenty-three years. The choices she made during her teen years left emotional scars she will carry with her for the rest of her life.
I know deep in my heart that God has a special plan for Sarah’s life. She has not traveled an easy road, but through life’s challenges she has chosen to come out a stronger woman. Sarah chose to turn to God, instead of wallowing in self-pity and she found the strength in Christ to move past her struggles and find new hope. I will never grow tired of hearing her talk about God and all He has done for her. It is because of her faith in Christ that I know one day, she will share her story with young women and they will be encouraged and motivated to find that same peace she now carries in her daily life.
It was when our conversation turned to church that I found my heart pumping a little faster. In my family (like many others) we have strong opinions about certain things in life and with those opinions we tend to carry deep convictions about how things ought to be. I recognize this flaw in myself, so I have deliberately kept certain topics off my blog. Mainly out of fear. Fear that I would offend someone at my church, someone in my family, or a friend that I care about, so with this fear in mind I have kept my keyboard silent, until now.
I don’t think I have ever met someone who doesn’t have a church story. Some people seem a little more willing than others to share their war stories, as if they have earned a rare badge of honor. I think part of growing in our Christian faith is the realization that everyone who attends church is human, so at some point they will accidentally hurt my feelings or cause some type of pain. As Christians, we are called to be forgiving and show grace to those who cause us offense. If we show them compassion, then perhaps that person will then be more willing to show compassion to the next person who might cause them an offense. I believe the chain reaction could have untold effects on brotherly love within the church walls.
Trust me, when I type that, I KNOW this is not always an easy thing to do.
This is a hot button for me, because I have seen the hurt that not being there for a fellow Christian can cause in a church. When Sarah was going through her difficult times as a teenager, it was uncomfortable for many in her church. For one, they didn’t know how to reach out to her and two they didn’t want to get too involved. It was easier to pray for her from a distance. At the time, the youth pastor from my own church went to the hospital to minister to her when her own church turned away from her. Sarah was going through something that made people uncomfortable, because she didn’t fit into the mold of what a teenager should be like in church. It was hard to accept her and know how to help her.
Looking back, I can extend grace and love, because I now see it as an older person with children of my own. At the time, I was angry and filled with worry over my sister. She was a girl who needed love and acceptance. It is easier to understand this need now years later. At the time when we were in the middle of the battle, the emotions and daily struggles overpowered all other thoughts and reasoning as we just focused on getting through each day.
I know there might be parents, siblings, and friends reading this who need that reassuring hug or just someone who is willing to just sit and pray with them. They do not need much; only compassion and love. Friendship, when it seems like the world has turned against them in their time of need. This is how we as a church can minister to those who are hurting around us. This is how we can remember our calling to the next generation. This is how we can keep the hurting in the doors of our church body, where they will feel the love of Christ and learn they are not alone in their time of need.
During this holiday season, I implore each of you to each out to a hurting friend or family member, offer to pray with them, bring them a meal and visit, or help them around their house. It only takes a moment to show the love of Christ and be His hands and feet.
Remember your calling.