Thanksgiving as the first day home. As we were walking over to church this morning, the closer we got the more my heart started to race. I suddenly got very panicky. I felt like everyone was looking at me but they were too nervous to say anything to me. So I felt very self-conscious. I looked at Benj and told him I might be on the way to a panic attack. We sat down and immediately I felt closer and closer to tears. Only I really didn’t know why. As I ponder, I’m piecing together what God has taught me in this day.
I have just come out of a very rigid, highly structured environment. I was surrounded every day by the same, familiar people who were all dealing with the same disease I was, walking the same hallways with me and sitting in groups discussing the same strategies and struggles. I was safely contained. Sitting in church I felt very vulnerable. All I wanted in those first few minutes of church was to be back at Melrose where I was safe. I dreadfully missed my friends and wondered what exactly they were doing at that moment. At the same time I felt guilty for those thoughts because I was with my family and I’m sure any of the girls at Melrose would have given anything to be out, surrounded by their own family and friends. As soon as church started though, my emotions shifted.
We stood to sing and I started to sing like everyone else, but I had to stop. Whenever I opened my mouth to join the music, tears started to come. This time it wasn’t because I wanted to be back at Melrose. What I felt was the most overwhelming presence of God. Pastor Bob continued the Thanksgiving service with a beautiful sermon about thankfulness in God’s grace, about joy in a Savior who calls us to the finish line, pulling off the hurt, sin, and pain that tugs on our legs trying to make us fall. God lifted me up in that Thanksgiving service and made me realize how much I have taken for granted the privilege of worshipping him amidst his great cloud of witnesses. I was not vulnerable in the congregation; I was lifted up and supported by God’s family. I felt unworthy of God’s grace, but so so thankful and full of indescribable joy that he had saved me. God has given me a second chance at life, and now I am seeing the world with new, born again eyes. Even as I felt his grace like a blanket, I also hurt for those I had left behind at Melrose. God took me out of my comfortable Iowa home to save me, but he also exposed me to the pain that is in this broken world. For the first time in my life, I deeply understood what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus; I felt like even using my smile could help ease some of their pain. Now I am away from those hurting friends. I cannot physically reach out to them. All I can do is pray. But even as I write that sentence, I know that my semantics is wrong. Pray does not limit my task as a Christian. Prayer opens the door to Christ in their lives. Prayer is what I can give and that is enough. I am on this earth as the hands, feet, and face of Jesus, but it is HIS power that works miracles. My prayers can open the door for him to work in the lives of the broken-hearted, sick, lonely, and hurt. I need to pray without ceasing for God to work miracles. I need to know without ceasing that God works miracles. I need to live my life as one of those miracles. I pray because I know God will hear my prayers and use them. I pray to strengthen my own faith.
I cried in church today, but not because I was vulnerable. I cried because God held my hand and lifted me on to his lap and whispered in my ear, “I have saved you. I have given you a second chance at life. How will you use it? By my grace, how will you use it?”