I walked through the doors of a new church with 11-month-old Leslie on my hip. I was 6-weeks pregnant with twins. We had just moved and I was a little in awe of visiting the new church.
It was a large church.
I had my “I really want to make new friends” smile on.
And then I chucky-cheesed on the carpet.
How’s that for an entrance?
Service was in full swing and heads turned my way. I’m sure stomachs turned, too. I turned around and left for the parking lot to make a quick exit.
Yes, I left the pile of vomit on the carpet.
Not cool, I know.
Two weeks later my baby girl was going through a difficult surgery and the pastor showed up to pray and comfort us. “I understand you are the young lady that visited us last week,” he said.
Um, yeah, about that.
“We hope you come back.”
He meant it and we did go back. My children grew up there. The carpet changed. The leadership changed — twice.
And I changed.
The 23-year-old girl that first tentatively walked through the doors of the “big church” learned to teach, to grow, to worship, to connect, to give grace, to forgive, to thrive, to encourage, to grieve. . . all because of that church family.
Our church family was the first to wrap around us when I found out I had cancer at 31.
They were there when Ryan was hit by a drunk driver.
They cheered us on when Richard started a new journey as a full-time student at 48.
And we became family to others. We got to cheer on friends in the harder places. We got to weep with those who grieved. We had the privilege of encouraging a friend who was new in his or her faith.
Now, this is where I need to be really honest. It wasn’t a perfect church. I wasn’t always a perfect church member. There were times that the church went through conflict. There was one time when it felt like it might not survive. But this same church was comprised of ordinary people who loved Jesus, and together we made it.
Sometimes we can get a little cynical about the church as a whole. We can scrutinize. Are they teaching God’s word properly? Do they feed the hungry? Why did that person say that?
But remember that the “they” is “we”.
It’s you and me.
Last year we moved to a new state. When we walked through the doors of our new church, I looked over at Richard.
“I don’t know a soul,” I whispered.
He grinned. “Me either.”
But we began to intentionally make friends. We intentionally walked through doors of a church where no one knew anything about us. We are reaching out to form community with lots of grace for the “new” and lots of grace for ourselves in this season.
Because we need each other. Word, we need each other.
There are–and never will be–a perfect church. But it can become an imperfect, beautiful family and that’s a gift. If you desire to heal or grow, you don’t have to do it alone.
We are in this together.
Just so you know, you’re my family, too. Thank you for showing up today and sharing in the conversation around the table.
I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
What a great post, Suzie! I hope that our little church (a plant) will feel that way to others (and me, too!). Especially when we have an actual building instead of a high school auditorium and newcomers can find us!!
I think church is SO important! I get filled up each week and I think I’d be so empty without it. Yes, I also do a bible study and other things to help with the fill up. But I must be a bottle-less pit! I require the connection.
Great post. The first line was certainly a hook!!
I’ve come to realize that one of my very favorite things about being a follower of Christ is being a part of His Body. The Church is a magnificent thing and when a church is properly modeling that it absolutely gives me chills. My husband spent more than five months in the hospital and I know that God used His people as conduits to give me strength. I could be who I needed to be for my husband because of a lovely group of friends who walked the dog, took my daughter places, brought meals, cleaned the litter box and cleaned my house. Not to mention praying fiercely and being available 24/7 if things got iffy.
The more I become involved in Kingdom work, the more I see how important are “the least of these.” Our church is incredibly blessed to be right between a very poor area and a rather wealthy one. We have African refugees, kids from the “hood,” board members of huge corporations and suburban housewives worshiping and working side by side, with no one caring who is who and each giving of themselves. We have come to see how we need each other – it isn’t about “us” helping “them.” It’s about all of us serving Jesus. (Chills.) I love, love the way this portrays His Body.
Very little makes me happier than getting to know people where they are and being able to be a small part of their daily lives. This is the cry of my heart.
I wrote my linkup for today before knowing the writing prompt so I guess I’m kind of cheating but I think it portrays how we need each others gifts. Without the faithful, gifted broom-wielding, dust bunny slaying friends that God has given me, my life – and His Church – would be chaos.
I know I got really long-winded there but I have a parallel to your “chucky-cheesing” all over the floor of your new, and now beloved community. The first time we went to India, I got a nosebleed right before we got called in front of the church! That’s now one of my favorite communities in the world!
Two things. One, I love this comment. I love the description of your church as I believe it describes church that Jesus walked in. Diverse. Open. Loving. Working together.
Two, if you want an early prompt, join the #livefree friends on FB (your choice, friend). I’ll share next week’s prompt tomorrow with that group.
I’m so glad you joined this conversation today. <3
Thank you. Your post articulated thoughts that I haven’t been able to put words to. Have a blessed day.
Suzie, I’m so blessed by our church community (imperfect as it is). So glad you have found not one but 2 churches to wrap their arms around you!
Many years ago, as a young military family, our church /was/ our family. We had meals together, holidays, laughed, cried and shared births and deaths. We also shared the everyday Ups and downs of raising small children, being military wives and missing out on events “back home”. When you live away from your blood family, it’s good to know your God family is always there.
Love this Suzie and could not agree more! I’m so thankful to have an imperfect church home filled with love and ready to share life with this imperfect girl! May this post touch a few that have been afraid to step into a church family or have stepped in and felt stepped on. May healing occur if needed and may we all desire to be the body. It is beautiful thing!
Yes! We so desperately need each other. As a staff wife, I know very well how messy the church can be. And there were seasons when I wished and prayed God would release us from the church we were in so we could start fresh someplace else. I’m so grateful, however, that He didn’t release us to leave. It has been in the messiness that I’ve learned what it looks like to need the grace of others and how to freely give grace. My church family has seen me at my worst, and becaise of that, they can join me in giving God all the glory for His redemptive power in my life. If we don’t see the ugliness in ourselves and others, we can never fully grasp the magnitude of God’s grace toward each of us.
All this week I’ve been reading a Biblical novel written by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke. I reveled at how the church truly needed each other because they had no one else. I look around at today’s events and I believe that we are returning to a time when we’ll need each more than ever. Right now there are believers paying an ultimate price and they need us. On our knees. With our voices. With our encouragement and with one voice sharing that Jesus is indeed Christ.
Thank you for loving the church, Meagan. Thank you for sticking through hard times to love people. Thank you for your honesty today.
I really needed to read this today. I am struggling with getting out of my “comfort zone” of being a loner and forming relationships with people at my church. I joined a small group recently and honestly have to force myself to go. I know that I need to be there–to be a part of the community and to heal. Thanks for sharing this!
Lora, I hear you. Starting in a new state with a new church has been an adventure for this girl, too. I’ve learned that I need to be intentional. Walking up to someone and saying, “Would you be interested in going to lunch?” seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s my healthy risk for this season. Two weeks ago we went fishing with a couple. Talk about a risk! Starting a friendship in zero degree weather with snow and ice and staying in a cabin together, but it was so good. I crossed all kinds of discomfort zones that weekend, but I think I’ve gained a beautiful new friendship in the process. And I rediscovered that I love fishing — though next time I am hoping for warmer weather. <3
This topic is near and dear to my heart. I say it each week, “Listen women, we need each other!” And my church is in the throws of starting connection groups, because WE need each other. We need to live in community together…because WE are the church and WE need each other. Love these thoughts today, Suzie. Thank you for pointing us all to the ability to #livefree…and do it together. xo
I love my online friendships and they have filled a gap, but I also treasure the face-to-face connections where women come into my home and we eat together, pray together, and laugh. I treasure those moments where I’m sitting across the table from a friend and her words settle in my heart. Meredith, I pray that your connection groups thrive. I pray that your church grows and their reach expands because of that community.
Hi Sally, that day that I met you in the parking lot was a good day for me. I loved that I made a new friend. That you are fun and generous and kind and honest. I miss you, too. I miss everyone at M1A. We have made a good life here and I think we are here to stay forever, but my M1A family will always hold a treasured spot in this girl’s heart and life.
Suzie, I remember well those nervous moments of walking into my church for the first time. It wasn’t quite as eventful as your first day, but we were also met with open arms and welcoming hearts. That was 11 years ago. And my church family has been an incredible support. I’m not sure I would have made it through the last few years without them. Your words are always a blessing. Thank you for your encouragement.
Wow Suzanne…You truly blessed me today…and even inspired a blog piece from a somewhat similar experience. I can hardly wait to write it. I have to tell you that I am on the brink of joyous tears reading this. Oh wait, may not just on the brink, but actually eyes really leaking. Thank you for sharing. And thank you for allowing me over to your place, Friend! Mucho Love for ya!
Your words tugged my heart and made me smile. We went from a VERY traditional church to an Assembly of God and I certainly remember feeling like I was walking into a new world. One that I have come to love with all my heart.
As always I appreciate your transparency. You are a teacher in every sense of the word. Blessings to you my friend.
My son actually brought us to our church family. He was attending youth group there. It has become our family. We’ve thought about changing churches, like so many other members have, but this place feels like home right now. They are all dysfunctional, and so are we. But there is love there. The love of Christ.
We do need each other. Why else for all this promoting and platform building on social media? We need each other to carry our voices to those in need of our messages. I could never reach as many people as I have without my sisters in Christ sharing their constituencies with me! I really don’t know that many people! LOL
But more than that, through our relationships we are ministers of grace and love and we are able to touch one another as instruments of God. Just like your post has done for me today. Christ will in wise cast you out (even if there is vomit involved!!) LOL! What a great story in an icky sort of way!
But honestly, I you can’t puke in church, where can you puke??
Thanks for sharing your story!! 🙂
“In NO wise” Where’s the editor?? 😉
This post spoke to my heart in a big way. During a hurtful time of my life, I stepped away from the “organized church” for a full year. During that year, I dove heart-first into my Bible like never before. I got to know the Lord more intimately. And at the end of the year, I realized how desperately I missed the fellowship of others and how empty I felt without those connections. You described my experience to a T when you wrote:
“But having a church family allows you to pour in to others, to have support, to worship together, to work with others in the community or overseas, to lean on a friend or let them lean on you, to pray together, to sharpen each other, to give grace when they aren’t perfect or you fall short. . .”
I found your blog via Terry’s twitter this a.m. So glad I did!
Bless you, friend.
Welcome Bonnie! I love that your time away was spent immersing yourself in scripture and with God. What a beautiful way to spend a respite, and yet how awesome that this respite led you right back to the body of believers. <3
I hope we see you much more often!
Oh my, I love this, Suzie! I went through a similar experience (not with the vomit…but I can totally see that happening to me) when we visited a very large church in UT. We lived there several years ago and it was the largest Protestant church in the state. I was so nervous and had my best smile on too. It ended up becoming our church home and was truly the first place where I felt like I belonged. Such a beautiful thing. So, so important.
Oh Suzie, I remember those first nervous visits to my new church! I would sit in the back so no one would notice me! God sent me to that church on purpose with His purpose in mind. I have been so warmly welcomed and love my new church family.
Thank you always for your open and fresh way you inspire!
Blessings sweet friend!
I did the same thing, Jana. Now I don’t even recognize myself. I’m so at home with my friends who love Christ, and I look for those who once felt the way I did. I want them to know that they matter.
Oh, Suzie, I loved this! You are right, no church is perfect. But then again, neither are families! We have a wonderful church family who have laughed with us and grieved with us. They are my family, and I need them! Thank you!
Church family… one of the best things ever, and yet so nerve-wracking to step into for the first time or to make a transfer into. Even the online church, and linkups like this, it’s hard to be the new person, lol. But it’s a holy unit, and it’s sooo good to be apart of the family of God!
Suzanne, thanks for encouraging the family today 🙂
Christine, my arms are open to welcome my new friend into this linkup. I’m so glad you are here.
“But remember that the “they” is “we”.”
So true. Loved this post and you sharing your heart and story with us.
No church is perfect, or they wouldn’t let us in! May we be a loving church family to one another. Thanks for the great post & for hosting & God bless!
True, right? I miss my old church and love my new one. I also love the church that discipled me when I was a teen. All family. <3
“Because we need each other. Word, we need each other.” Yes, we do need each other! Thank you for this post and for this wonderful linkup.
Suzie, I wanted to share the ‘timeliness’ of your message. School was cancelled for the day, so I thought, maybe I’ll write a post for the link up today! I got up to let the dogs outside and discovered a 30-ft. tree had fallen on our house, through the ceiling! How did we sleep through that? Only God. And where it entered the house was right down the middle- inbetween the bedrooms where people were. Only God. Needless to say, I didn’t get a post written, but my precious 82-yr-old neighbor saw what happened and brought us homemade chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. So sweet! At that moment, I thought of your writing prompt. Yes, we do need each other:) We are blessed!