She quietly walked into church one Sunday morning. She came in late and left early for many weeks, finding a seat in the back corner. Finally, she gained enough trust to introduce herself, but ever so timidly. Months later, she sat on the couch in the living room of our apartment, having asked if she could share her story with both Ellen and me. She tearfully spoke with a soft, broken voice as she sat curled up with pillows protecting her on every side.
With wet tissues clutched in her hand, she told the story of losing her marriage. Her husband was abusive physically, emotionally, and more. And they had two precious little daughters. But they were in church every Sunday—a neighboring church from ours. She volunteered; her husband was a lay leader, even speaking from time to time through the year. Her husband was becoming more and more violent and volatile. She finally went to the pastor of that church and asked for help. She was told by that pastor that her husband was the head of the house, that he (the pastor) could not speak against her husband, and that she needed to go home and submit. Heartbroken at the destruction this abuse was bringing to her soul and the wellbeing of her daughters, she finally reached the depths of desperation and fled. And now she sat in front of us, tearfully telling us her story.
What was she asking? Would we accept her as a friend? Of course, we already had, and her story changed nothing. Then she asked if our church would accept her now, knowing her story of brokenness and that she was divorced and a single mom trying her best to survive. Yes, yes, and yes—we would accept her and love her and be her champion as she found healing for her soul and for her daughters.
This is but one story of countless others where someone has come to me, or to one of our other pastors here at Pearce, asking if it was okay for them to come to church because they had a story of brokenness. It fills me with deep sadness even as I write this that broken and hurting people have been turned aside by the church in their hour of need and that they now come to us in fear and trepidation, asking permission to enter our doors.
Pearce Church family—I/We need your help. We need to show the world that church is not a museum of the saints, but a hospital for the hurting and broken. We need to show the world that God’s House of Prayer is a sanctuary of repentance as we turn from broken paths, as we confess and agree with God and step into the light of His grace, as we find forgiveness and freedom transformed from the inside out, as we journey together and, one day at a time, try to better look, live, and love like Jesus. We need to stop pretending to be perfect and, instead allow ourselves to love and be loved with the vulnerability that brings the depths of His love and grace to and through our homes to the world around us.
Father, open our hearts and our arms and our doors. Open them so wide that our most broken and hurting neighbors will feel welcome in Your presence. We sincerely ask You to trust us with the messy and joyful privilege of ministry to those who are broken and hurting. Amen.