Can I get a hand raise if anyone has fears? It’s not just me? Oh, good.
I fear anything involving a ball, social situations where I don’t know anyone, losing love, and evangelical churches. Not in any particular order.
The church fear lingers years after I got a sour taste in my mouth for Christianity in general and suddenly discovered that there are certain sorts of Christians who only “love” you if your life is picture-perfect. It turns out some Christians only care about the rigid rules of religion rather than the expansive, welcoming heart of our beautiful Savior, and this ends up causing a lot of pain and disillusionment in the lives they touch. It’s been years since I made this discovery and felt my heart push open a little door and walk out of my chest and away from these toxic people, but somehow I still have this uncomfortable, twisting knot in my feeling each time I go to church. Hence, I don’t go to church often. Usually, fear wins.
This Sunday, I went to church after some gentle prodding from one of my beautiful-hearted girlfriends. When the pastor walked on stage, I sat at attention. He was thirty-something, tatted all over, and had a pronounced speech impediment. KJ.
KJ began speaking about Christmas parties, and if Jesus threw a party what it would be like, and began unraveling a parable from the Gospels to explain this concept. The premise was basically that Jesus invited the lame, blind, poor and outcasts to hang out with him. That Jesus loves everyone, however broken we all are in our own ways. And then, pastor KJ said that he had to tell the church this. “You belong. You belong. You belong.” He repeated this about twenty times, until my eye makeup was smudged because I was sitting there ugly crying. Me? I belong?
Because if you knew… if you saw a glimpse into my past, any of it, you’d proclaim quickly and decidedly that I am not, indeed, the good church girl I look like. You’d throw me out the heavy, stained glass front doors and far away from the whitewashed steeple pointing up to heaven. But Jesus? Well, Jesus spent his time on earth with tax collectors, hypocritical Pharisees, and women who had more husbands than they could count. He has a prostitute in his lineage. This is the Jesus who says, You belong, Abigail. You belong.
I went to meet KJ after the service to thank him. I told him for years, I’d felt like an imposter, and that if anyone knew my story, they’d throw me out the front doors. And he looked at me with tears in his eyes, and quietly replied, “Me, too.”
You belong. You belong.