Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in Christ, church, church members, churches, compassion, forgiveness | Posted on 22-04-2013
Debbie was enjoying her new life in Christ. She had come to know Christ through a women’s bible study she had been invited to by a friend. Her past was dotted with alcohol, drug use, and some pretty crazy moments. She knew she didn’t have the best reputation in the community, but for the past few weeks, thanks to Christ and thanks to the supportive women in her bible study group, she felt a new peace and sense of direction.
She had slowly been able to put the past behind her and feel like the “new person” that Paul wrote about in the bible. One of her friends suggested to her that they try attending church. Her friend told her that worship was a pretty important part of being a Christian and getting “plugged in” was the next step. She had also said that being baptized was important and that a church would talk to her about that.
Debbie wasn’t sure about any of that. It was a small town and everyone knew her – or so it seemed. It was like everyone over the age of 50 had witnessed her rebellious teenage life, her post-high school career with its mistakes and even her DUI. She felt uncomfortable with the idea of going into any public gathering where people could see her, especially where her peers were. Heck, she even felt uncomfortable shopping at Wal-Mart sometimes. It seemed like there was always someone pointing at her, or a perceived whisper.
Her friend assured her that with her new life, her repentance, that all of that was behind her. Her friend told her that this was a progressive church that welcomed everyone, that everyone was wonderful. Debbie would of course be welcomed with open arms.
Debbie decided to give it a try. She was glad to hear of the casual dress policy but leaned towards something business minded anyway that Sunday. Her friend picked her up that Sunday morning and she was nervous.
When they walked in, there was a welcoming station where she got some information and the first few people were kind. A lot of people talked to her friend first then she was introduced to them. Some of these people were newer to the community and wouldn’t know her.
Then she saw the first one. Someone she knew from long ago – with the accompanying sneer. It was a girl she had gone to high school with. She was a woman now who had two young children with her. The woman looked Debbie up and down and then herded her two children in the other direction as if Debbie would spew venom on them.
Debbie decided to chalk this wordless conversation up to a misconception on her part. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe the woman had a facial tic.
She snapped out of her thoughts when her friend was introducing her to a man named Dan, who apparently was one of the church leaders. Dan had a shocked look for a moment then he said, “Debbie?” He paused then said, “What are you doing here?”
Debbie said, “I came to know Christ recently and my friend invited me here.”
Dan was distressed. Debbie knew why. They had been friends in high school and after. Dan had done some of the same things she had. He was comfortable here but wasn’t comfortable having her here.
Debbie’s friend said, “Dan, where’s your wife? I’d like to introduce them.”
Dan said quickly, “She’s here somewhere, gotta run, nice to meet you.”
The rest of the Sunday went at a pace like that. Some people were kind and friendly. They were the ones who had no idea who Debbie was or what she had done in her past. Then there were those who knew of her past sin and either didn’t approach her, or when they did, viewed her in contempt.
At the end of the service, Debbie was disheartened. Is this what the people of God were like? Holding on to people’s sin and not forgetting them? She was about to fill out the comment card she was given with her exact thoughts when she heard someone yelling, “Debbie!” from down the hall.
At first she didn’t recognize the woman. As she got closer, she recognized Michelle. In high school, she was a quiet thing, always keeping to herself. Michelle didn’t have many friends and there were probably a few times that Debbie had said a few rude things to her.
Michelle came right up and hugged her, “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“Really?” Debbie said.
Michelle said, “I know we didn’t really know each other well in high school, but I always thought you were a neat person.”
“Me?” Debbie said. “I made a lot of mistakes.
Michelle said, “Yeah, I know. But we all have. I heard you gave your heart to Christ. That’s great. I had an awful home life growing up. When I finally got out, I made a lot of mistakes of my own. But God extended His grace to me. And now, here you are too. And it’s going to be fine. Listen, I don’t have much time to talk now, but here’s my number. Let’s have lunch this week.”
“Thanks, Michelle,” Debbie said.
As she walked out the door, Debbie felt her heart pick up a bit as she thought about that final encounter.