As an outsider, looking in to the church, it can be hard to feel like you belong anywhere. It can, so often, seem like everyone has it all together and like you’ll never fit in, so why bother even trying. I know, for me, that was a big obstacle for to overcome. That is one of the many reasons why I love the Celebrate Recovery ministry so much; it’s a place where other Christians are open and honest about their brokenness. Celebrate Recovery has opened my eyes to see that everyone, even the people who I would’ve thought had life all figured out, struggle with life in this broken and fallen world.
Fellowship, though, is an important part of the Christian life. God did not create us to go through this life alone. He made us to be a part of a community of fellow believers, to be connected with a group of people to encourage and love each other, to pray for and with each other.
Hebrew 10:24-25 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
But for the new believer, especially the new believer with a scary past, it can be hard to connect with other Christians. It can be hard to bear your soul, exposing the deepest, most vulnerable parts of yourself, to people who, in your mind, have it all under control. This is a lie though; a lie that the enemy uses to keep us bound in the silence of our shame. No one, not the gracious Sunday school teacher, not the pastor’s wife, not the seemingly perfect looking family sitting next to you in the pew, has it all figured out. Every one of us carries around our fair share (and then some) of baggage, pain, guilt, and sin. We ALL fail to meet God’s standards. Yes, our sins may look different; but that doesn’t matter, we have still ALL sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
For me, it was a struggle to get connected with a small group. I was terrified out of mind at the thought of these people, people who seemed to love and accept me but who I thought had it all together, finding out about my horrific past and rejecting me because of it. But it’s funny how God places just the right people in our paths at just the right time. As I got to know these people better, I learned that maybe, just maybe, they were just as human as I am. I told myself I would probably never open up and be honest with them, quite frankly, I was just scared. I knew in my heart that they would love me and accept me no matter what, but because of the self-condemnation I had carried from my past, I often doubted it. I knew that God didn’t condemn me (Romans 8:1), but for some reason I couldn’t stop condemning myself; which left me with an irrational fear that others would condemn me also.
But something miraculous happened when God gave me the courage to be open and honest, these people still loved me and still accepted me – and I think it was better than before because I was now free, free to be me (even though I’m still not totally sure who that is).
So now, I am a part of this wonderful small group, it’s like I have another family. These people have prayed for me and with me. They have helped me through some rough times. They have just loved me. And I continue to be in awe of the love God shows me through them. But here’s the problem that I still have. I am still ridiculously socially anxious. Because I care so much about what these people think of me, I often find myself not knowing what to say and wondering if I am ever saying the right thing. I over analyze EVERYTHING I say and do. Does it have anything to do with them? No, absolutely not. But it has everything to do with me. You see, more often than not, I don’t know how to interact with people who come from a different background than I do and sometimes I feel like we have absolutely nothing in common. Then I get worried and start thinking, well if I am thinking this way (and I’m the messed up one), what’re they thinking? I’ve recently realized that, quite frequently, I don’t know how to accept the love that others show me. I’m afraid to ask for help because I don’t want to appear needy (which, by the way, I really am). I am weak, emotional, tired, restless, doubtful, and confused. And all too often, I sugar coat this because I’m just scared of what people would say (even though I know in my heart that everyone else feels this same way).
I’ve been struggling with this for a while now; with the condemnation of my own thoughts. But in the last week or so, God has been shining His light into the darkness in that area of my heart. He’s been gently reminding me (in a persistent kind of way) that He loves me and my brothers and sisters in Christ love me, so why won’t I love myself? One thing God has really been harping on me about lately is my contempt for myself. I need to give myself a little grace – but for a perfectionist who isn’t perfect, that is easier said than done. When I am filled with self-contempt, it is impossible for me to love other people with the love of God.
Romans 12:3 – Don’t think you are better (or worse) than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
So today, while sitting in church and listening to the sermon, something my pastor said really stood out to me – It doesn’t matter what I have in common with anyone regarding our personal lives, where we’ve come from, or our experiences; the point is that we are now on the same page. The only thing we need to have in common is Jesus Christ. We are all striving to follow Him and be more like Him and share Him with other people. If that is our common goal, then nothing, absolutely nothing, else matters.
Romans 12:4-5 – Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
We are different parts of the body, but our mission is the same. We each function in our own unique ways, but that’s what makes us so great. If we were all the same, the church would be boring and watered down.
I have a value and a purpose and I am loved. It’s time I start recognizing that and telling that ugly voice in my head to be quiet. I am not who I once was. I am a new creation in Jesus. Love God, love others, love myself – I think all of those need to be in line before we can really get it.