Last Sunday night, Blake preached a sermon in a series on "What is the Church" and posed a statement at the end for us to finish..."My church felt like family when..." He closed by having various church members share their personal stories and by the end of that sharing time, the tears were flowing for me. I take for granted sometimes the work of God when I see it happening all around me every day, but when I take time to reflect and hear testimonies...testimonies of people I walked some of those roads with...it's overwhelming.
I began to think...how would I finish that statement? Honestly, I could write a book. But, instead, I'll do what I do best...blog. My church felt like family long before I took my first breath. My Dad accepted Christ at my church and it was where he learned at the feet of many a man who has made him the spiritual rock he is today. My parents struggled with infertility and the loss of a child born premature and my church was there. When Mom was expecting me, the church provided many things (cribs, high chairs, etc) for her to use because she just couldn't bear buying anything for fear this baby may never be born. My church felt like family because it was my home away from home. My Dad was a Deacon and Sunday School teacher, and my Mom was a Sunday School teacher so if we weren't at home, school or work, we were at church. Even those folks they served side by side with became family...and their children and grandchildren are my family today.
When you think about family, you may let your mind only go to the good times. But every family has struggles, tragedies, and hard times. My church has been no different in my life. In 1991 my Dad went through a difficult time in leadership as one pastor was departing and another one was working to come on the scene. It was hurtful and hard to watch my Dad, who spent all hours of the night praying for our church's future, to be humiliated off the platform. But in families, you have those times. Even in that darkness, one staff member reached out to me in love, of which I'll never forget. Nine years later our church suffered a dark time again. The very things my Dad tried to help prevent had manifested itself and we all feared that God would remove His Spirit from our church for extreme disobedience. My church felt like family when a sweet saint and pillar of our church walked up to us as we all were in tears, fearing our family was crumbling away, to remind us that God was not finished with us yet. Do you know those times in your family when you think there is no hope for some situation? We felt it then. We experienced hurt and pain on every turn. Not a time one would reflect on positively. But as the problems of the past were removed and we started fresh and anew, God was ever so faithful and the blessings and joy that came out of that pain and hurt were unbelievable. No one who stands in the midst of our church family today would believe we ever experienced a painful time. True evidence of God's amazing grace.
My church felt like family when my Mom passed away....even during the months preceding her death. The love of my church showed as they prayed and wept with us while Mom was strong and ready to be free from the pain of this world. The visits, the food, the support...it was family. And my Dad will still tell you that many people will say they will pray for you and you wonder if they truly will, but there was one church member who stood with him at my Mom's casket and prayed right there. Two months after my Mom's passing, a family invited us for the Thanksgiving holiday so we wouldn't be alone. That is family. My church felt like family the times I've been in the hospital...or been unemployed...or needed rides to the airport...or fill in the blank. I've made friends for life through my church family from Tennessee to Trinidad. There are very few states in the union I could visit that I could not find a family that has moved on from our church that would take me in and let me visit. No matter where I roam, even if I leave my hometown, this church will always be home.
From a person like me that has very little biological family, my church has become my family. I have been blessed and pray that I'll be as much a blessing to others as many have been to me.