I slipped into the pew next to my sister and her six year old daughter. It been months since I’d stepped foot into the church that raised me. My stomach was in knots as I wondered what kind of reception I would get when the service was over. Had I been gone too long? Would they see me as an outsider now? These fears circulated my mind as I sat through the service. I pushed these fears back far enough to paste on a happy face.
Looking around I watched faces light up in recognition. I soon replaced my fears with the thought that everything would be just fine. People were happy to see me and that’s what mattered. That is until the pastor started to asperse dirt into a pitcher of water. That sermon was about the gift of Sanctification, which means to be set apart by God, for God. That’s when the proverbial smack upside the head from God happened.
In that moment it was as if God was holding a mirror to my soul. What I saw was a soul more soiled than the water pitcher the pastor was demonstrating with. He could have dumped an entire garden full of dirt into that pitcher and it would still be cleaner than what I saw in myself. I’d let myself become Satan’s tool, succumbing to temptation after temptation. Of course I’d known better, I’d heard the dog barking at the bush, so to speak. Instead, I’d tuned out that voice and let myself get dragged farther and farther.
The next half hour or so was painfully wonderful. The congregation began singing the closing hymn for that service, Is your all on the altar, was the song’s tittle. It is a beautifully compelling hymn. By the time we got to the words “does your heart the Spirit control?” which is in the first stanza, I was becoming an emotional wreck. Then I saw my older brother kneel on the front bench, he was ready to rededicate himself to Christ’s purpose. This was the final straw for me, I knew if he could do it, I could do it. By this time, my heart was beating fast enough to warrant a speeding ticket, tears threatened to blind me, and my ego threatened to hold me back. Christ’s love compelled me forward.
There I knelt, next to my brother, determined now to turn over a new leaf, again. While the pastor prayed with my brother, I waited, and cried like never before. I was a mess by the time the pastor came to pray with me. I can’t remember what my answer was when the pastor asked me what was on my heart, but I remember thinking it felt incredibly heavy. Kind of like the feeling you get when someone sits on you. It was uncomfortable and hard to breath. I let the pastor pray first, thinking I’d have a chance to catch my breath, not so, his prayer just made me cry harder. A heartfelt, genuine prayer on your behalf can do that to you. When my turn came to pray, my sinuses were completely blocked from crying. But I prayed anyway, I cried my heart out to God while I felt sorry for the pastor having to hear my sniffles after each word. Eventually I managed to get through my prayer, having voiced only a small portion of the words only God heard.
Then my heart felt lighter than it had in months, it felt lighter, but so much stronger. It felt as though my heart had been a broken clay vessel, then taken into the Potter’s hand to be purified and remolded. I felt as though I’d cried my soul clean. That moment, when you know you’re forgiven, that’s one of the best feelings to have. That and having a bunch of people hug you and tell you how much they’ve missed you, that they’ve been praying for you. That’s how you know you belong. That’s how I know I belong, I’ve come back home to my God family!