After being in a Christian cult it was very difficult to find a place to call home. There were some good parts to the cult (if not, it would not have been quite so appealing), such as a sense of community. Believers talking freely about God and the bible without pastors egos or laymen titles, just us, the teachers, and the taught ,on equal footing, all loving God’s word and discussing it openly.
We didn’t just go to church, we did church.
From Sunday afternoon dinners with the whole group. to singles, couples, and families joining hands around a meal to pray, we spent time together. When we left the cult, wounded, broken, and scared to go anywhere, we started a home church. In the safety of our home we learned about God in a new light as we grew together in New Testament principles.
Just like us, others found a place in our home where the wounds inflicted upon God’s people, by God’s people, could find a place of common healing – a bond of brokenness. Our Saturday night fellowship became a place to propagate many of the wrong teachings we had all embraced, as well as truth seekers sharing differing doctrines and ideologies, as God opened our eyes piece by piece, to who He really is. We continued to explore our limited formal church options in rural Vermont, but we were lost in the culture and customs of a Christianity we didn’t recognize.
Coming from a place where grace was lacking and works was a way of breathing, main stream churches felt much too liberal for us.
Hello dear ones, I am right here. Jesus kept beckoning us to follow Him through the brokenness to the place of wonder.
Wounded people, wound people, and we were a long way from becoming wounded healers.
We tried – oh we really tried, and throughout most of our endeavors our home was known as a place of great peace; a place where people gathered to safely discuss theology and a life of discipleship. Somehow, in the midst of the mess of healing, breaking, and healing again, God’s spirit continued to guide us to Love.
Where sin abounds – where the law tries to steal, kill, and destroy – grace abounds even more.
We were parched, lost in a desert of gospel barrenness, but the refreshing waters came in the hands of those who knew how to love us in our messy parts. It came through the types and kinds of Christians I would have run away from before – liberal, “love gospel” types, who spoke about Jesus in ways that made me question my beliefs. They were tormenting questions. The enemy of my soul whispered that I could lose my salvation by even thinking them.
It was the voice of Jesus speaking Good News in a wilderness of dead works.
Chaplains, psychologist, counselors – friends – as I began to pursue my education in psychology, I found others who professed Christ living in great joy and peace daily on a journey, not just concerned with arriving at a destination. They were the fragrance of Christ; I could breathe in grace and breathe out freedom. They were the church.
I read books by authors who wrote about a different Jesus – one who could free me from my performance anxiety to live fully loved. Fully engaged.
I began to enjoy the journey and find peace in the questions.
“Good Morning Jamie, I love you.” I began to understand what it means to be deeply, unconditionally, recklessly loved with a Perfect Love.
My cup of English Breakfast Tea in the morning is sipped with Jesus sitting beside me, encouraging my questions, revealing the answers, or pointing ahead to the path where they may be discovered.
I began to see that performance based Christianity was a vicious cycle of attempt to change, fail, pray more, fast more, try more, fail more.
Grace says, “I love you in your messy, nakedness and I have clothed you in beauty.”
Grace says, “Only when you love, accept, and forgive yourself will you love, accept, and forgive others.”
I stopped trying to defend myself as a female chaplain by explaining that I wasn’t a pastor, and embrace the God gifts I have to teach and encourage. I could hear the voice of Jesus and the feel the presence of God when a heart was touched, set free, healed, or embraced by the power of God’s love.
I learned to pray, “Forgive them Father they know what they do” when they unknowingly ripped the scabs of spiritual abuse off our hearts and made it bleed again.
I began to see the church as the family of God – broken, bleeding, messy, incorrigible, and in desperate need of repair.
Just like me.
The more intimately we get to know people, the more we see their flaws. We have a chance to choose to love in spite of their messy lives and filthy hearts. We get to choose to deliberately walk through the mess with them, instead of bailing.
Just like Jesus.
Each person with a story, begging to be told, released into the freedom of forever. Each person is yearning for the Lover of our souls in the dark places and begging Him come – fill the burning passion of holy love.
It was scary leaving the desert where only those who knew how to love wounded people like me came and went. It was scary leaving the safety of my wilderness room where only the Sacred and I met together. It made me vulnerable to opening up the wounds of abuse again, and again, and again.
To grow in grace requires others. It requires the church. They are the water that feeds us, the storms that break us, and God fixes, and then we break again, and are fed again, in the jumbled up journey.
We need each other to be conformed Him – to learn to love who He loves, serve who He serves, and be who He is.
To love the unlovable. Like us.
The accepted ones. The redeemed ones. The forgiven ones. The beautiful ones.
The journeying ones.