Over two years ago now, I returned from the missions field. And I remember when I was getting ready to come home, I had all these ideas of how landing on American soil and getting back into my old life would magically make everything better. It's like I thought "if I could just go back, I can pretend none of this ever happened, and all will be right in the world again". Of course that didn't happen... as quickly I was faced with the reality that I was not the same person who had left for the missions field, nor were my friends. And try as I did to wish my old life back into existence, it just wouldn't work...and I struggled with that a lot (in fact, some days I still do).
One of the hardest things in coming back to the country after two years, having experienced all that I experienced and faced all I faced, was realizing I didn't have a community of people who got me anymore. For at least the last six or more months of my time on the missions field I had worked so hard to put up a Christian front for people back home that when I walked back into my sending church I immediately realized I was not the person people were expecting and there was no way I could be. Because of that, I immediately began to become overwhelmed with fear and anxiety because I didn't want to disappoint people and I felt like no matter what I did I would. Even more than that, I feared I was a disappointment to God and I couldn't wrap my head around the idea that other people would accept me when I didn't even believe that God did any more. So after several months of skipping church, trying to start going again, and then skipping more...I decide to stop going all together. At the time I justified it because I was still getting up Sunday morning and leaving the house. In fact, I always had the intention of at least trying to meet with God by going to a coffee shop with my Bible and journal on those Sunday mornings. But then I would get distracted by shopping or school work and before I knew it, it was just easier to walk away.
One of the greatest ramifications of that time (which mind you, there are a lot), is I lost a lot of Christian friends. People just couldn't understand what was going on with me and I was unwilling to share myself because I feared in being honest they would see me in my mess and reject me. So instead I just pushed people away, or let them fall away, without really giving them a chance. The thing is, when you start walking out this life alone (or at least without some solid spiritual influence) you set yourself up to be a prime target for the enemy, and that's exactly what I did. Now, I didn't go off and start doing drugs or sleeping around or anything so completely irresponsible like that. But I still got snarled in the traps of the enemy. The depression I felt before coming home only continued to build up in me during this time and before I knew it I was (and sadly in many ways still am) so wrapped up in fear, anxiety, and a lack of hope that I literally couldn't cry out for help if I wanted to. Thankfully, and only by God's grace, I found myself back in church about 8 months ago (albeit a different church). I can't say going back has always been easy, but it's always good...if that makes sense.
And today... today was a special day in service for me, although it didn't start off that way. For months now I have struggle so much in trying to figure out how to build some new Godly friendships. I am not a very outgoing person to begin with, but couple that with the scars and entanglements of the past few years, putting myself out there in a Christian setting has not been easy. Furthermore, in the times I have successfully stepped out of my comfort zone and truly reached out to try and make a christian connection, nothing has really ever come of it...and it has been hard. So this morning when I got up, I wasn't super excited to head to church and as I sat in my seat during majority of the service I was fighting everything God was trying to tell me because, shoot...how can I believe any of this is really true if it has no lasting impact on my day to day life and I always seem to end up back where I started....clearly I am doing it wrong and that's why nobody wants to be my friend and why God can't possibly love me on a deep personal level...and yada, yada, whine, whine, whine. (ugh!). And that's where I was at when service ended... in the midst of a wonderfully epic pity party that only goes to prove you can go to God's house and still make it all about you!
Anyway, as I was walking out of service one of my few friends who has stuck by me through the years texted me that she was thinking of coming to church (which is a whole other story, but not mine to tell) and something in me knew I wanted to be there for her (if for no other reason than I would want a friend to be there for me in the same position). So sitting in my car, I texted back that instead of driving off and going on with my day, I would wait for her and go to service a second time so she wouldn't have to be alone. It sounds so righteous and selfless that I would put off my day to be there for a friend, but really that decision was a bit self-centered or at least self-indulgent for me. You see, every week I sit in service alone, feeling like I don't really belong and I never will. That they've let me in the door and they will be nice to me, but they don't really know me and if they did I would never be welcomed into their group. But sitting in service for the second time this morning, next to a precious friend who means the world to me and whose let me see her junk and allowed me to be honest with mine, I felt accepted into God's kingdom in a way I haven't felt in years. It was as if in having that one person beside me.... whose seen my junk and still cares about me and believes that I have a right to sit in the house of God... I was able to believe that maybe there was a place for me after all, that maybe I could belong, and maybe I don't have to live on the outskirts of community for the rest of my life. It was like in the one moment of time I was able to see the possibility of belonging to a Christian "family"... of having a group of believers who actually know me and accept me allow me to be a part of their life and get to know them in such a deeply intimate way that we truly become the family of God and build each other up and spur each other on in Christ.
It's been a long time since I've been able to consider the possibility of that...and a long time since the possibility didn't scare me.... but today the thought made me feel free, and for that I am grateful. Now the last thing I am gonna do is sit here and think that things are automatically gonna change now...I'm not silly enough to think I won't have to fight for this type of community.... but at least for once I am willing to fight...and at least for once I think it's a battle that could actually be won. For that I am thankful (Thank you God!). You see, it only really takes one decision... one little, spur of the moment choice, to begin to see things change. I am believing in that today!