I want to welcome you here by sharing a short story from my own winding, limping faith journey, but first I want to preface this by saying: my story is mine, and I don’t expect it to be yours. And there may be parts of it that resonate with you, or there may be parts of it that you recognize in someone you know, someone you love. This will be true of almost every episode – with each episode I want you to either experience a sense of belonging, or become a person who can more compassionately extend that sense of belonging to someone else.
There was a time, in my twenties, when church was hard for me. I grew up in church, thrived in church as a child and as youth, but in my early adult years recognized some serious wounds I had received from the church of my past and felt like I had been lied to and manipulated. The faith of my youth did not seem to translate well into real life, into adulthood. It took me awhile to separate God from that church – because most of everything I had ever learned about God was at that church – thus I not only spent a season angry and bitter at the church, but also trying to reconcile this mistrust I had toward God.
During this wilderness season, showing up to church was hard. It was quite a feat for me to find the courage to leave the comfort and safety of my home on Sunday mornings.
I made it to church. I showed up.
But that was about it.
I could not go through the motions.
I could not sing.
I could not stand.
A part of me stayed seated in defiance to the legalistic church culture I had come from that would have criticized and corrected my posture and lack of reverence during the worship service. Part of me stayed seated to resist strategic and deceptive tactics in our church culture that I thought manipulated emotions and worship experiences. With the unhealed wounds in my heart during that season, I believe the most reverent thing I could do was to silently remain in my seat with my head bowed rather than going through scripted motions and singing words in a song I did not really mean in my heart. I had real spiritual wounds to work through back then, and sitting down quietly in my seat was the most honest worship I could give God in that moment. I still showed up. And I believe God was near me, sitting right there with me, as I begged to be healed and to trust again.
As difficult as it was for me to keep showing up during those years, I did. And I look back and know that it was God’s kindness and grace and gentleness that carried me through.
I don’t know what your experience is like with your local church, with the institutional Church, or with God. I’m going to do my best to not make any assumptions about you, other than that if you are listening to this podcast then perhaps you’re looking for a sanctuary of sorts, maybe that’s a place of refuge, or a place to worship, a place to learn, maybe it’s a place to gather, or a place to belong. Whatever it is, You’re in the right place.
The deep-seated issues I had with God and the church in my twenties ultimately became a powerful coming of faith season, and one of the most spiritually rich and transformative seasons of my Christian life.
I have since found myself enamored by the liturgical practices and traditions of the high church. Sit. Stand. Kneel. Pass the Peace. These prescribed corporate movements, weaved throughout the worship service, have over the years healed my wounded spirit and awakened not just my soul, but also my body. I have found that there is something beautiful in the discipline of choosing to stand – as a body. Choosing to kneel – as a body. Choosing to sit – as a body. Choosing to rejoice with those who rejoice. And choosing to mourn with those who mourn – with our bodies.
In relearning these postures of corporate worship, I have found many good and spiritual reasons to stand. To raise my hands. To clap my hands. But there are just as many good and spiritual reasons to sit and to kneel. With our heads bowed, hands over our face. Or extended to touch the shoulder of the one sitting next to us, who was also brave enough to show up.
I want to help us move toward a more embodied faith, so on this podcast you’ll hear me refer to postures of the heart, as well as postures of the body. I’ll talk about the relationships in our lives we approach with these postures – our relationship with God, our relationship with ourself, our relationships with others.
How are you able to welcome God’s presence?
Where are you able to welcome God’s presence?
Where do you struggle to recognize God’s presence?
What is keeping you from noticing God’s presence?
Who helps you to remember God’s presence?
I recognize that it’s a privilege to be a part of a local church community where I and all of my imperfections and brokenness, feel welcome and safe, loved and hopeful. I recognize the privilege it is to look forward to Sunday mornings with hope rather than with anxiety and dread. I’ve been there. And while I don’t ever wish to replace a local church body, I do want to be a bridge to a compassionate Christian community for those who could use a friend to help get to the other side of the valley.
I’m going to read Psalm 107, because this Psalm really resonates with the mission and heart of Sanctuary Woman.
I’m going to read this Psalm using the practice of Lectio Divina, an ancient liturgical practice for praying the scriptures. It is a Latin phrase that means “sacred reading.” It is a way of praying and listening for the still, small voice of God speaking through gentle reading or listening of scripture. Lectio Divina has also been known as “listening with the ear of the heart.”
As you settle into a place of loving openness, in a posture or position to listen more deeply, I’ll read the selected scripture three times. After each reading, there will be a moment of communal silence.
In this first reading from Psalm 107, listen for a word or a phrase that draws your attention.
In this second reading, consider how this passage touches your life today.
In this third reading of the scripture, consider if there is an invitation for you in this coming week.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his faithful love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord proclaim
that he has redeemed them from the power of the foe
and has gathered them from the lands—
from the east and the west,
from the north and the south.
Some wandered in the desolate wilderness,
finding no way to a city where they could live.
They were hungry and thirsty;
their spirits failed within them.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
he rescued them from their distress.
He led them by the right path
to go to a city where they could live.
Let them give thanks to the Lord
for his faithful love
and his wondrous works for all humanity.
For he has satisfied the thirsty
and filled the hungry with good things.
Lord, when we cannot stand, may we find your Church as a refuge for our wounded spirits and tired souls. When we find ourselves on our knees, Lord, may we there find your Church alongside us and experience her as an agent of healing rather than a thrower of stones. May we practice resurrection and find ourselves back on our feet, ready to extend the resurrection life to this world.