Tears on the face of a stranger

At the moment I am thinking a great deal about repentance and forgiveness and it is not an easy place to be. I am trying to be honest with myself about motivations and thoughts, actions and feelings, so that I can really allow the Holy Spirit to transform the bits which need transformation. I feel awkward and unacceptable. I don’t feel comfortable in church. If everyone knew what I’d done, would I be welcome?  I sometimes even find myself wondering if my dearest and most loving friends have had enough of me. Am I still welcome in their lives ? Is it time for me to stop talking about the reality of my still messy existence? On Friday I reflected on the difficulty  of being welcomed.

And then God gave me grace.

On Sunday I was miles from my home, and so I attended a church service. I was glad to be there, but the words of the preacher and the lyrics of the songs brought me to tears. We stood to sing and I couldn’t open my mouth. I stood crying and staring straight ahead. “Lord receive the sacrifice of a broken heart”. They sang. I lived it. Right there in the 4th row from the front.

I looked at the preacher who was standing facing the congregation. Our eyes met. I could see that he was taking in the strain on my face, the tears on my cheeks, and my arms folded tightly across my body in my attempt to keep something inside. I looked away.

Some minutes later we were invited to the altar rail to receive communion and I went forward. I wasn’t crying but I wasn’t far from it. I extended my hands with my head bent downwards. The preacher came to me with the bread, and leaned towards my lowered head, “You are welcome here today” he said. “Receive the body of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for you”.

I was welcome.  He wanted me to know I’d come to the right place. He didn’t know the pain in my heart or the sins I’m not sure I’ve repented of. He didn’t check whether I was good enough for his church.

I believed him. I believed I was welcome because he had seen me cry. I knew that his welcome wasn’t just for the ‘together’ me. The me who looks like she is handling life well and is fun to be with. He welcomed the crying, messy stranger, who hadn’t even come up at the right time in the right way, but had jumped the queue because actually I had an appointment I was running late for and I couldn’t stay for the whole service. He just told me I was welcome.

Let’s go into this week giving grace to each other; welcoming each other; seeing the tears on each other’s cheeks and yet coming close enough to say, “You are welcome here today.”

Every Sunday I try to link up with the #givemegrace community, and I love the rhythm that has developed in my week because of their call to the remembrance of grace every seven days. On Saturdays I find myself reflecting on grace as I begin to think about where it has been in my life that week, and I am more alert to grace and its consequences in my every day. I wanted to write this yesterday but the day was long and the writing didn’t happen. So this is my late link up 🙂

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16 thoughts on “Tears on the face of a stranger

  1. Your writing today really resonated. We often spend so much time wrangling with forgiving others, but when that moment comes when we recognise our own need for forgiveness, it is so easy to feel we are the only person on the planet who has committed such heinous sins. Guilt and shame are cripplers. The cross does not equate. It does not make sense. It it plane ridiculous in what it proposes to offer us. But when we run to that cross and lay down our burden – the relief is so tangible.

    I am glad you found yourself with your head bowed, at the communion table. The best place to be. Well done for another brave and strong move towards freedom.

    Liz

    On Mon, Jan 12, 2015 at 4:06 PM, The Hope Diaries – writing about the mess

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  2. Sitting here, crying in public while reading your words. They are a gift to me today dear one. The way you write your beautiful still being written redemption story speaks deeply of hope and health. Much love to you.

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    1. I love that you called it my “still being written redemption story”. I think I want it to be finished, but it’s so far from finished. Thank you for coming close enough to see my tears, and for letting me see yours. I love you sister xxx

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  3. Love your beautiful post and love your call to ‘give each other grace’. How desperately I need that, daily. I posted today, on tears also….I guess let the tears begin (I am one of the weeping worshipers on Sundays, too). Blessings, sandraj

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