The room seemed to be spinning around me. Heat was rising inside me. My hands were clammy and small beads of nervous sweat were building on my brow. I was 18 years old and pregnant. I had chosen life for my daughter and experienced the unconditional love of my family but I dared not hope for anything but scorn and judgment from my church.
I had grown up in this church. I had laughed and played and worshiped and prayed with these people. I had lived a lie in front of them. A mask of perfection was put on every Sunday morning as I entered the church building. No one could know my inner pain. No one could know the shame I lived with and the sins I had committed.
Didn’t they accept me because they thought me a good Christian girl? Weren’t the smiles and the warm greetings only for the good they saw in me? If they only knew what I struggled with or what battles raged within me, they would never treat me the same way.
So now with my sins exposed I slipped into the sanctuary vulnerable and scared. Shame kept me from looking anyone in the face. Fear of rejection kept me from reaching out to those I desperately needed. I hoped no one would stop me on my way to my seat. My feet felt unsteady under me. I struggled to take in air as my lungs constricted from my anxiety.
And then there was a touch; a gentle hand on my arm. I dared not look to see who touched me but then a compassionate voice called my name. I turned. And there before me was the face of acceptance. I saw that face over and over again that Sunday morning. In the woman who hugged me. In the man who told me I was loved and welcomed. In the numerous church members who encouraged me, embraced me, and accepted me sin and all. I would see the face of acceptance month after month as my belly grew. I would experience acceptance as baby donations poured into my home from church members. I would know acceptance from the two baby showers that were given for me and my growing baby.
No condemnation. No scorn. No judgment from the body of Christ.
Only grace and mercy and acceptance were found.
And isn’t that what the body of Christ should be? A living, tangible example of how God sees us?
He knows our sin, our brokenness and our pain. He knows how we have failed and yet He loves us. And He doesn’t leave us in our misery but He lifts us out of the pit of sin and sets our feet on the rock of salvation. He encourages us. He embraces us. He accepts us, sin and all. And then He transforms us, removing our sin and turning us towards Christ.
To my church family, thank you for accepting me, encouraging me and walking with me in my darkest hour. Thank you for your example of Christ’s love for me.
For the woman who never felt accepted within the four walls of a church, know that God accepts you. Know that God loves you. Know that God wants to transform you. And know that there are indeed churches filled with true believers who live and love as Christ does. I pray you can find a church that accepts you and encourages you as you grow in your relationship with Christ.
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