I spent this weekend with a wonderful group of people -- a bunch of other recovering Pentecostals, folks who have all been a part of the United Pentecostal Church at some point in their past. We shared testimonies, meals, lots of laughs, and a few tears. Before this weekend, many of them were perfect strangers to me... but it's funny how a shared struggle can make perfect strangers feel like extended family in no time!
It was interesting (though sometimes difficult) to hear others share their experiences in the UPC. It brought back a lot of memories: some good, and some not so good. It was encouraging to hear how so many different people had made the journey from legalism to grace in many different ways.
But one of the things that struck me the most was the fact that the hosts of this meeting -- Bro Buddy & Betty Martin from Christian Challenge -- were celebrating the 32nd anniversary of their church this weekend. Of all weekends, this one should have been all about them... yet they opened their church, their home, and their hearts to a group of virtual strangers and ministered to them instead. They invited us into their home, let us keep them up late (even though they needed to be up early in the morning), and shared a lot of encouragement and wisdom. They demonstrated great grace (which also happened to be the subject of the of the service this morning) towards all of us!
I used to live in Louisiana, not far from Christian Challenge... but I had some bad / painful memories from my time there. I hadn't been back since I left many years ago, so I was a little apprehensive about going. Just thinking about the trip was bringing up some things I would have rather not stirred up... but I had to face it / deal with it / get it out. I was able to do that here in a "safe" place with folks who understood and could help me. I thought that if I just ignored this wound and avoided talking about it, it would go away on its own... but after 7+ years, that didn't happen. Now, after all that time, it's finally starting to heal. I finally have a "peace" about the whole thing... and if I hadn't confronted it, I don't think that would have happened.
This morning during the worship service, I sang Chris Tomlin's version of Amazing Grace. It's basically the familiar hymn with an added chorus... but that chorus is powerful. As I sung it this morning, those words were especially meaningful to me:
My chains are gone, I've been set free
My God, my savior has ransomed me
And like a flood, His mercy rains
Unending love, amazing grace...
In many ways, that old wound was a chain holding me down... and now it's gone. It's still a little sore, but now that the wound has been cleaned out, it can heal properly.