"Engrave this upon thy heart: There isn't anyone you couldn't love once you've heard their story." ~ Mary Lou Kownacki
Sunday was a day full of transparency and reality at my church (www.firstchurchpo.org). Instead of a sermon, average, everyday, messed up folks just like you and me shared their stories.
Richard shared that his son Garrett was abducted by his ex-wife. He was separated from his son for 22 months. He spent each day of those 22 months looking for his son until he was told Garrett had been found in Reno, Nevada. Richard said, " After being reunited with my son many years ago he has been in and out of jail, addiction, rehab and is currently homeless. Frankly, I don't know if he'll ever be better than he is today." Before yesterday, I thought Richard was just an extremely nice guy who reaches out to the helpless and is in charge of the thrift store. (Update to this post. Garrett died Monday, September 7th, 2009)
Every Sunday, Betsy brings her grandma to church in a wheelchair. Betsy's grandma is what others would describe as "out of it" maybe "asleep". Betsy and her family sit with grandma each Sunday. Yesterday, I found out that Betsy's grandma is the reason that she and her entire family are in church. "She taught us by example. Grandma took me to church every Sunday. I watched her as she helped people who needed it and she taught me to love everyone no matter what. I want to teach my family what Grandma showed me", said Betsy through her tears. Before yesterday, I thought Grandma was just an old woman hunched over in a wheelchair.
Angelo shared how the divorce of his parents showed the true "not so friendly" colors of the church that he attended. After the divorce, he lost his childhood church. Then his grandfather died and he lost the only positive male role model in his life. Then Angelo lost his faith in God. Angelo told us that my church became a haven for him when he was invited to play drums with our worship band. The love and acceptance of the church brought him back to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Before yesterday, I thought Angelo was just a college kid who plays drums and helps out with youth group.
I learned something about myself yesterday when I heard the details of these people's lives. I don't know enough about the people I sit with every Sunday. What about you? Do you know about the hurt, the pain and the struggles of the people you go to church with? Each Sunday I am sitting with broken marriages, broken faith, broken trust and completely broken, messy lives. I usually rant and rave about looking outside our church walls for the hurting and the broken. Before yesterday, I didn't really realize how many I sit with every Sunday. I challenge us to really ask people how they are doing and then really listen. Next comes the hard part. After listening we can't just say, "I'll pray for you brother." We actually need to respond. I know a couple who asked that question and then bought a car for a single mom. Maybe you don't have the money to buy someone a car. We can all do something. Or as Mike Foster said, "Love Takes Balls".
Before we go to church this week or this Labor Day weekend, let's take a moment and watch this performance of "Broken and Beautiful". You'll find it below. I pray that it reminds you and I about the broken, messy lives we're sitting next to in church.
This is how amazing God works. After I wrote this post, I checked out what my friend Russell posted at his blog. He wrote this post several hours earlier.