My church kicked off an all-church small group series this Fall and this week’s message was on our calling to belong. We belong to a church family. We are called to hold each other up in the struggles, to encourage us when we’re weak, to slap us on the butt to get our rears in gear, to pray for our needs, and to join us in praise over the victories, no matter how small.
This week, my son was asked to share an experience he had with this band of brothers, the guys in his small group. Our church hosts groups on campus, totaling about one hundred people. He gets up on stage, knots in his stomach, possibly from the amount of people or the fact that mom and dad were in the back of the room, ready to cheer him on.
After grabbing the mic and saying, “How about that weather, huh?” in true nervous fashion, he shared an experience from months ago that really convicted his spirit. He made a choice and was immediately moved by the Holy Spirit that it was wrong and he felt such guilt over it. Now, he shared some details that we hadn’t heard before. Cue, “Mom’s jaw on the floor.” My jaw fell to the floor. I was like, “Whoa,” not knowing what to do, while asking myself, “Should I bail? This feels a bit awkward.” But no, I picked up my jaw from the floor, I stayed, I listened, I prayed. I let the tears well up in my soul for this young man of mine. The uncomfortable part was a smidgeon of a moment compared to the message of true community, fellowship, belonging, redemption, and love like never before, that he would eventually share.
No, I was not going to give in to my small moment of shock. This is real life. This was his story and sometimes our stories aren’t necessarily wrapped in ribbons and bows. I remembered the colors of my past decisions and they weren’t very bright. No, I am sticking with my boy.
Redeemed he was. My son went on to share how freeing it was to confess his sin to his brothers in Christ. The weight lifted off his shoulders, realizing he was not alone in his struggles. His confession was received with compassion, forgiveness, and humility. Yes, the water works were really flowing by this time. I no longer felt that “awkward” feeling, but had a huge amount of pride for my son. Proud of the work that God is doing in his life. Proud of the maturity and growth taking place before my eyes. Will he continue to have speed bumps along the way? Of course. We all will.
God tells us in James 5:16, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” Do you have a tribe to stand by you, arm in arm, when you have something stirring in you that you need to confess? The guilty feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, wondering if you do say something, will you be judged? Will you be mocked? Will you be turned away? Will you still belong? If your people are there for only the happy and joyous times and not for the hard and ugly times, these are not your people, friend. God created all of us for true community. He has created us to be a part of his family. Even he had a small group, in the beginning, hanging out with the Holy Spirit and Jesus, his Son.
The Bible is full of commands and truth about loving one another, building one another up, encouraging one another, bearing one another’s burdens, and so on. There are sixty-six “one another” statements in the New Testament. Everything that my son shared, his breakthrough moment with his small group, is what life is all about. We can’t do this crazy thing called life alone. Healing takes place with confession and prayer and his great power brings wonderful results when we’re gathered intimately with our brothers and sisters. My son’s story exemplified every bit of this and I pray it will continue to do so.
I am so glad I didn’t bail. It turns out that awkward feeling was all on me. The enemy was trying twist this all around. And if I had stepped out, would I be the example Christ sets for us if I walked away while my son was pouring out his soul? No. I’m beyond grateful for the Holy Spirit’s nudge to stay put, to stick it out, to listen, to be a support for him, because that is what he has called me to do, to welcome his belonging, even if it was from the back of the room.
I pray you have a small group of people that are there for you, through the muck life brings. If you don’t, pray for God to bring these people to you. Pray for God to lead you to the “one another” statements and how you can put them into practice in your life. Pray that you’ll have the courage to confess that sin that’s been gnawing at your insides. There’s healing friend. There’s wonderful results waiting to be produced. God is going to use every bit of your story, all for his glory, and to bring you closer to him in the process.
You are loved.