I was afraid of revealing my messy past to these people…But slowly, I found my brick walls crumbling.
I arrived in DC when I was 19, ready for college. When a friend asked me to join her at her church only weeks after moving, I was hesitant, to say the least. I’d only recently become a Christian, and it was only on the “condition” that I didn’t have to do church or community (as if God is bound by my conditional acceptance of the Cross!).
I grew up going to a church that was not about community. It was not about vulnerability. And by the time I left a couple years before moving, I was disillusioned and scarred. Even after I became a Christian, I was afraid of being labeled with the title “Christian” – a label earned, in my mind, by going to church.
And yet, by God’s grace, I found myself sitting next to this friend on Sunday, in a small gathering of only 20 or so people. With that few people, I could not slip in and out unnoticed as easily as I’d hoped. Even so, I found that I was not afraid of these people, although a part of me wished I was. Fear had been an easy escape. Fear “permitted” me to walk away without looking back, with regard only for my comfort. But the Lord held my heart, and I stayed.
I was surprised to find a group of people who genuinely wanted to be with one another, who listened, and who were excited to get to know me. These people stayed after church to talk and share each other’s company, and each other’s burdens. They were genuine and vulnerable, but not serious about themselves. The only thing they took seriously was God and His Word. I held my guard, but despite my brick walls, the persistence of people and the relentless nagging of the Spirit began to bring them down.
I was afraid of revealing my messy past to these people (would they be disgusted with my less-than-perfect life?), of admitting that I hated the Church (would they kick me out?), or admitting that I didn’t know very much about the Bible, or about God (would they put me in some class and hide me until I was proficient?), or of admitting that I had questions, doubts, reservations, concerns, and disagreements (was I even allowed to call myself a Christian if I had questions?).
But slowly, I found my brick walls crumbling, and my heart being opened wide to these people. Often, I would say things and then think, did I seriously just say that? I don’t even know them that well – what on earth was I thinking? But the more I opened up, the more people were able to love and serve me well. I did not find the rejection or disgust I expected. Not only did those walls come down, but the scars I held from past experiences slowly began to heal and fade. The more the church grew, the more I was challenged to open up to new people, to put myself in vulnerable situations, and to love others well, my own discomfort aside; I found the more this happened, the more God taught me about His people.
The church has grown now, and there are days I still have to fight with myself to be honest with others. But God knew that I needed a small community where I couldn’t escape and through it He has taught me the absolute pleasures and joys of being with His family. 2,000 miles away from my own blood family, I have found another. God has used this place to show me what genuine community ought to look like, and how essential it is to walking a Christian life. I am so thankful that the Lord put me in a place where I could not run or hide, to teach me about the delight of His people, and the freedom found in honest community.