I haven't had a church home in a long time now. When I left Tennessee for the long sojourn to the Storehouse of Snow of South Dakota, I was pastoring a small church. I loved that experience. However, looking back at it, I always feel sad. I will never know but it seemed we were on the verge of growth. I loved that small congregation with everything within me. I saw God moving and touching lives. Just before I moved to South Dakota we seemed to all disperse. It was the great diaspora from The Well.
I've not belonged anywhere since then. I made some attempts at fellowshipping with other believers while I was in South Dakota. Like the geography, everything was cold and distant. There were no warm smiles or greetings at any church I attended. It probably wasn't personal. The coldness of the people was so pervasive that I think it seemed as normal to them as the sub-zero weather.
I knew that all excuses and reasons were over. I have struggled every Sunday since coming back to Tennessee. I knew I needed to recommit myself to the Biblical admonition to regular fellowship (Hebrews 10:25). But where? I've changed a lot over the years. Where did I belong? Certainly if God wanted me in church, there had to be a place for me.
I attended a church in walking distance a few times. It's a really nice church. The people seem happy to be there. The church seems healthy. I liked the liturgy and found it meaningful. I loved the opportunity to partake of the Lord's Table every Sunday. Was this the place for me?
Last night I tossed and turned all night. I knew I had to get up for church this morning. I knew I had to go somewhere. I woke up several times. I went back to sleep. Finally the clock said now or never. After hitting the button on the coffee maker I hit the shower. Where would I go? I put on one of my new dresses. I still was unsettled.
I have a friend at this church. If she were there I'd sit with her. I'd been there before to minister. You can see it here. A friendly face spotted me. Immediately she came, called me by name, and gave me a hug. Five minutes past until I saw my friend. My back seat was traded for a front seat.
It sounds corny, but you could feel the love in that place. The love multiplied the hugs around me. I was greeted with the warmest of hugs and smiles. I realized how long it had been since I felt welcomed. The Pastor came and welcomed me. His wife greeted me with an excited hug and smile. Finally, the service started with another invitation to greet each other. Hugs and smiles again. As if the love there couldn't be contained, for a third time they stopped to hug each other again.
As I stood with my arms raised singing How Great Is Our God I felt a tear begin to form. It never dropped but it was in my eye. My heart was thankful. I was thankful to have survived the crucible of South Dakota. Perhaps someday I'll share the depth of my pain there. Until then I will only say, it is a miracle I am alive. It was good to be in the presence of the Lord and with His people. The love of God and His people enveloped me like one giant hug.
It was graduation Sunday. Like the unexpected guest at a family event, I listened and prayed for the graduates. Those bright young faces listened to their sermon - God Created You For Greatness. It was a good word. I stayed until each was prayed over and blessed. There were lots of tears in the house of the Lord today. The Holy Spirit has melded their hearts together in love and fellowship. It seems they are a family, not just a congregation.
I am sure I'll go back. I'm not sure it's home. I do know I felt welcomed. I felt loved. Most importantly, I saw Jesus manifested in each face.