I have seen her in many of the churches I have visited. I have seen those eyes staring back at me as I shared my story. Eyes that speak of a weariness and a haunted past. Eyes that have a subtle sparkle that speaks of forgiveness.
She came to me after my message to ask me about the book I had mentioned reading. I told her the title and told her it was a memoir, and warned her that there was some inappropriate language and that it might offend her.
She smiled at me, exposing a mouth full of missing teeth. “I was a meth addict for years,” she said. “It don’t bother me none. I been clean for six years though! Because of Jesus.”
We laughed together, and another friend of hers joined us that had been heavy into drugs as well.
We talked about the woman who had washed Jesus’ feet, and we talked about loving much because we had been forgiven much.
Our eyes filled with shared tears as we talked about Jesus. Our Jesus. We reveled in forgiveness and we soaked in the moment. A church-raised preacher’s kid and two drug addicts sharing our life’s single greatest joy and hope with one another.
I told her that I was thankful for her. I told her that I needed her, that the church needs her, that we need to learn from her. I told her that there are things about Jesus that she understands that I can never understand, and that I envy her that. And we gulped in awkward silence as tears threatened to spill from our eyes.
This is Church. It’s not cleaning everything up and presenting a polished program of entertainment.
Church is the recovering drug addict worshiping awkwardly because she doesn’t know any better, and she doesn’t care what you think anyway, because only Jesus knows how free her heart is now.
It’s the woman gasping through her sobs into her hands. It’s her friend coming up and squeezing her tight and holding her up as they walk back to their seats.
It’s the man who comes alone to church every week, whose family has no interest in religion. “I don’t like organized religion either,” he tells me. “But I just love Jesus.”
It’s the child whose parents are glad to have them out of the house for the morning. It’s the old lady who was a pastor for years and now sits bound to a wheelchair unable to put words to her thoughts. It’s the tears that wet her cheeks as we sing together, “He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock…”
And I am the least of these. I am the one who walks in proud, feeling like I have something to offer. I am the one who must be broken, over and over, each and every day. I am the one who keeps forgetting that I can’t earn the favor of God.
I am honored to be included with this Body. This mess of humanity, this awkward family, this intersection of lives that have nothing in common. Nothing except our Jesus.