Today I finally got to church. It was the first time in weeks, and honestly I didn’t feel like being there. I really didn’t feel well, but Sam told me that I would be glad I had gone once I got there, and he was right. Physically I struggled, I was (and still am) dealing with a lot of stomach/chest/back pain that makes it hard to be comfortable no matter what position I’m in, and I just get exhausted very quickly. But God blessed me so much for being there.
To explain what I got out of the service, I need to backtrack a little bit. I have done a lot of hard work in the last couple of years dealing with “stuff” in my life. Between a wonderful Christian counselor and an amazing class based on a book called Search for Significance (I can’t recommend it highly enough, buy it, read it, get a class together and do the study guide….), I have done some deep healing. I had a LOT of issues from my past, going way back to childhood and lots of rejection from peers, through damage I did to my own life because of total lack of self esteem, through a very dysfunctional marriage and a divorce. I had tons of guilt and self-hate over what I had done to my kids during the marriage and through the divorce, and all the resulting trauma. I would obsess about things that happened years earlier and beat myself up until I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think straight. But God brought me to a talented counselor and a class that taught me that I am loved unconditionally, accepted completely and wanted for myself exactly as I am. These were words I knew, concepts I had even taught – but never realities in my heart, until somehow this book and class made them real to me. The peace and freedom I have found since then have been life-changing.
However, today in church, the pastor was talking about us being chosen of God, and a new area of my heart opened to a truth. I suddenly saw that I had always felt, without ever conceptualizing it in words, that I somehow got in on a technicality. God so loved the world that he made this way of salvation – and I found out about it and believed and prayed the prayer, so he was kind of stuck with me. He couldn’t back out of the deal. Like finding an invitation to the Inaugural Ball on the sidewalk. I could use it to get in but it wasn’t really intended for me. My self-doubt and self-hatred let me spend most of my Christian life feeling like an outsider. When the pastor was preaching, he used the example of choosing sides for teams in school, and said that some people could identify with the feeling of being chosen last, or fearing they would be. I was chosen last every single time for every single game from elementary school to graduation. Occasionally there were arguments over which side had to take me. The idea of not being wanted, not being chosen, was pretty deep in my psyche and affected what I thought about myself and my worth. Deep in my mind, I was someone who wouldn’t and shouldn’t be chosen. And, from a standpoint of the law, that is true. I don’t deserve to be chosen. None of us do. The things I do and take lightly, make excuses for, brush off as “just normal” are appalling to a completely holy Almighty God.
However – it’s not about me AT ALL! That’s the good news. I’m not chosen because I deserve it. I’m not loved because I’m worthy. I’m not saved because I’m special. It’s because he is so good.
So this morning, when God spoke into my heart and showed me what I have been missing, unintentionally seeing myself as the unwanted child, and made it clear that he truly wanted me and chose me from before one day of my life started, was very much worth the discomfort of being in church. Sam was so right. I was glad I went.
…but with your own eyes you saw my body being formed. Even before I was born, you had written in your book everything I would do. Psalm 139:16
God saved us and chose us to be his holy people. We did nothing to deserve this, but God planned it because he is so kind. Even before time began God planned for Christ Jesus to show kindness to us. 2 Timothy 1:9