Coming Home: Thoughts on my church membership

3 Mar

Clearly, this is not me.  This is just how I feel.  🙂

Sunday.  For the past 7 years, it has been the day I perused the newspaper ads, the afternoon I went shopping or ran errands, the evening I feared what the week could hold.  But it was NOT the day of the week I attended church, though for 24 years of my life, that’s exactly what I did.  Every. Single.  Sunday.  (And many other days/nights of the week as well.)

In the fall of 2004, after moving out of my hometown, I just stopped.  Devastation, brokenness, heartache, and a long string of failures followed after me as I tried to live a life apart from God, apart from the Church.

I could never really get away, as friends, near and far kept in contact with me—at times, saving my spiritual and physical life with a phone call, a card, or even a trip to Friday Harbor, Washington (thank you Bill & Shannon, you saved my life.)  I thought that BFF Sarah was my only constant in ever-changing circumstances.  But, no, God was with us both—guiding, directing, wooing His daughters.

Earthly fathers fail.  Mothers turn their backs.  Dreams get broken. Hearts are crushed.  How could God let this happen?  God, how could You let this happen to me? It was my angry prayer as I shoved Him away.  He “deserved” my rage, my bitterness, my hatred.  I shook my fists, and still He calmed me when I let Him near.

It became a game—I’d let myself get so close to God, but then I’d run away, like a scared puppy trying to find its home.  The puppy wants to trust the kind stranger who can offer safety and security, yet she runs close and dashes away, comes closer and dashes further out of reach.  I thought, God, You cannot reach me.  You cannot have me.  You’ve ruined my life and I will not let it happen again.  I know You’re God, the Lord of Heaven and earth, I just can’t surrender my life, my all to You…what will You ask of me?  What will you take from me?  How will I survive it?

In September, I started to come apart—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  A tangled mess of humanity, I sought healing in all these areas.  Strangely enough, these intertwined issues led me to discover my spiritual crisis—I had no idea who I was [in God]!  My spiritual sickness trumped all my other issues (though admittedly, they were painful and horrible as well).  My hope was scant, but I know what God can do with just a tidbit of faith.  So it continues to this day.  He continues to breathe life into dead areas of my life, heal infected, pussy wounds…for He makes everything new! (And one day He will make ALL things new.)  Most of all, He makes beauty from ashen dreams and builds on the ruins of our broken lives.

God has given me a new beauty for a handful of ashes, and has shown me that ruins are truly redeemed through His power.

Tomorrow, Sunday, March 4, is a culmination of the past four months—the search for a church, being found by Bethany Church, and belonging to a loving congregation that empowers women!  After how I’ve hated the “church,” been spiritually abused in the past by church leaders, and experienced panic attacks when I set foot in a church, I can’t believe that I am once again becoming a member of an actual, physical church tomorrow!

I am so excited I can barely contain myself!  I am jumping around my apartment, singing loudly, smiling from ear-to-ear, and ready to explode with joy.  I’m not sure that anyone can really understand what choosing to become a member of Bethany United Methodist Church means to me.

Lyrics from Bebo Norman’s song, “Ruins,” keep flitting through my head:

“This is my holy hour, This is my world on fire
This is my desperate play, This is where I am made
This is my kingdom come, This is my freedom song
This is my helpless state, This is where I am saved

Let my ruins become the ground you build upon
Let my ruins become the start
Let my ruins become the ground you build it on
From what’s left of my broken heart”

I’ve quoted “Ruins” before, but only the chorus.  Right now, my focus is on the pre-chorus (though the chorus is too lovely and meaningful to leave out!)  If I burst out in song during our reception into the church (not likely to happen), you will understand why. (See YouTube video with lyrics below.  It was made by some random Bebo-lovin’ person out there in the world!)

So this Sunday is no ordinary Sunday, at least for me.  I’ve found a home and the people in my home are giving me an official welcome—dorky name tag and all—thank you, God, for my temporary place amongst Your people, in Your Church (and church!)

It’s good to be home.

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6 Responses to “Coming Home: Thoughts on my church membership”

  1. Vince Chough March 3, 2012 at 6:36 PM #

    Awesome! Wonderful! Excellent! Heavenly Grace!

  2. Donna Landis March 3, 2012 at 6:51 PM #

    Oh Amy, what a post! This brings tears to my eyes and hope to my soul. “For this child I prayed…” You are God’s daughter, His delight and you are that prodigal daughter returning to His fold. Oh, how magnificent His welcome to you! Oh how He has always loved and cherished you. This is the start of the Lord’s leading and blessing for you life. I am so excited for you!

  3. Amy March 3, 2012 at 7:31 PM #

    Vince, thank you so much and thanks for reading Backseat Writer!

    Mom, thanks! I wouldn’t characterize myself as a “prodigal” though. I wasn’t living the wild life; I was just scared to be with Christians and in a church. I knew God was with me and I continued to pray (after 2004, that is) and I half-trusted/half-ran, but I KNOW He was with me. I tried to NOT believe in God, and that didn’t work out. I always knew He was there and He was with me. I don’t think I understood my anger and bitterness. I just knew that when I went to church, I had panic attacks. It had to be unraveled. The start of the Lord’s blessing and leading in my life began when I was born, continued when I asked Him in my heart at the tender age of 3, and it still goes on. He has blessed me over the past seven years, but I didn’t see it because I didn’t look to Him.

  4. Christ-Follower March 3, 2012 at 7:38 PM #

    Love it. Even though the church has beaten me and left me for dead, it is still the Church! I love how God uses our crises to bring us closer to Him. He will use all brokenness for His eternal glory! May He bless you abundantly.

    -ChristFollower
    christatthecenter.wordpress.com

  5. Rich March 4, 2012 at 7:58 AM #

    Amy, very happy for you. You’ve inspired me to start seeking that out again as well. I think I’ve found it, but need to keep it in prayer still.

    Rich

  6. Valerie March 5, 2012 at 2:14 AM #

    Amy, my heart breaks for what you must have endured. I am also so happy for you that you have found your way back to a community of believers. I hope your first day back was a wonderful one.
    Thank you so much for the openness and honesty you always share in your posts.

    Blessings to you!

    Valerie

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