For example, as you will hear about in our Lenten Series, “Making Change,” Meressa Bayley came to me in January of 2010 in a state of utter melt-down. I had just started this call about six months earlier and quite frankly, in a congregation this size, I had no idea who she was when I received a call at home from Linda Fowler saying she had just gotten this call and thought it sounded important enough to bother me on my Sabbath day.
I called Meressa back immediately and we talked for probably an hour and then continued to meet and talk once a week for about a month. You'll hear the story of one of the darkest times of her life as the series progresses so I won't go into it here. I feel honored that I was able to walk with her through that time period and that it ultimately had a happy ending.
I knew this section of her story quite well. I was intimately involved with it from the beginning.
What I didn't know was her larger story. There had been bits and pieces. We'd even had lunch several times but those darker, most difficult parts of one's life don't always come spilling out over Reubens and fries. So to sit and hear her tell it her way – with no filter, no interruptions – was a moving experience.
As a pastor, I find myself always feeling I'm the one who has to bring the grace and light of Christ into the lives of the people I minister to. What I forget sometimes is that each and every one of you, through your stories, experiences, and lives of faith, are bringing the grace and light of Christ into the lives of the people around you as well.
I too am discovering that it is in our darkest moments that we find God's greatest strength – of holding on and not letting us fall into complete despair and hopelessness, no matter how close to that edge we may come at times. I find comfort in hearing the stories of people who have gone through some of the things I have been dealing with – and am also shocked and amazed at times how many people have such similar stories. It reminds me we are not alone in this journey. There are others who walk along beside us – whether we know them well or are just getting to know them.
It was a valuable lesson as well – that when people you don't know very well come to you in crises, you can't make judgments or assumptions about who and what they are based on seeing them only at their weakest and most vulnerable of moments. There's a larger story that has brought them to this point and you're only getting the small snippet.
This is one of God's greatest gifts to us: community. That we do NOT walk this journey alone. That whatever crazy, surreal, insane time you are going through – there's someone who has travelled this road, too. Maybe not the exact same circumstances, but I think you'll find you connect with other people's brokenness far more than you would realize. That it's out there – we just have to have the courage to tell our story.
So I thank these three who were willing to lay it out there and publicize their most vulnerable moments in life so that perhaps one of you might be able to realize – you are not alone in your struggles. God walks with us, and he provides us companions for the journey.
If you would like to take the time to share YOUR story, please add your story to the comments section below. We'd love to hear it and give us a chance to know your struggles, your joys and your heartbreaks, and provide encouragement. While it may seem intimidating and even embarrassing for some – just remember – someone else has walked a similar path. They may need to hear your story to know - it's not just them. They're not the only ones. Life is full of twists, turns, and heartaches. Jesus' path led him to the cross. As a result, our path now leads us to the cross so that we too might be resurrected and healed.