I’ve been going to the same church for 4 years. If you had asked me 3 months ago how to describe my church, it would have been as follows: It’s a great church, and the worship is phenomenal. We really have some talented musicians. The sermons are short, simple, and geared towards new believers, because they tend to be somewhat superficial. You really have to get into a small group to be challenged and to grow your faith.
I’d never been challenged by my church’s sermons. Every once in a while the pastor would make a good point that served as a reminder, but I never once felt convicted, and I never, ever, felt like the pastor was speaking directly to or about me.
But something happened in my life in November that changed that. God seriously and forcibly began working on my heart. As He broke down my walls I’d built to keep Him and everyone else out, I sat and looked at all of the pieces. He began pointing out my flaws, my struggles, and my sins. The more I embraced ALL of me, including the stuff I’d hidden from myself and other believers, the more I knew I needed God, His mercy, and His daily forgiveness.
I hadn’t realized how that would change my Sunday morning sermon experience, though. The more God worked on my heart, the more the pastor’s simple “new believer” sermons hit home for me. It was like I was a new believer, sitting in church for the first time. I went from getting very little out of his lessons to sitting there, petrified, because it felt like he knew my life story and what I was struggling with at that very moment. He talked about pain, pride and humility, addiction, honesty, and relationships. I could’ve sworn someone had told him. It’s been about three months since my first meltdown, and I still sit there and cry during sermons.
Yesterday’s sermon, titled “Temptation Island” (remind me to link to it when it’s up on the church website), convicted me more than any other sermon I’ve heard in my lifetime. It made me so uncomfortable that I had to resist the urge to get up and walk out of church. That’s saying a lot, especially for someone like myself who’s been a “Christian” and sitting in church for 18 years. I sat there, crying, and thinking to God “This isn’t fair. It’s not fair that you get to do this to me.” But then in the next breath I’m praying “Ok, this is ok. I know I need this. Thank you, I love you, please keep it up.” Talk about a war between the Spirit and the flesh…
With yesterday’s sermon came a small revelation. I never really connected with worship songs or sermons before I was honest to myself about myself. Now, it seems like I fit the bill for every screwed up sinner, duty-fulfilling servant, and grace-abiding child of God that’s mentioned in churches and worship songs. Suddenly I identify with EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. And as much as I hate this roller coaster I’m on, at least it feels real and honest. And I know that even though I can’t see the track, and it’s sometimes dark, I know there’s a light at the end of the the tunnel, and God is in the seat next to me, cradling my heart.