Thursday, April 7, 2011

Company of Courage

I stumbled upon the announcement on the grocery store bulletin board.  Lysa TerKeurst, in person, Spring Women's Conference.  It was the same bulletin board on which I had skeptically placed flyers many times before for events held at our former church.  Now, I found myself reading the words I was convinced no one ever would.

But I did.

I normally head for the hills when I hear the words "women" and "conference" used together. I suppose it's conditioning from too many years of listening to too many unimportant words at such events. 

But this was different.  I had been introduced to Lysa's voice on the radio while driving to work one morning.  Her words were substantial, filled with truth.  Life giving truth that stirred my heart.  I longed to hear more.

There was one obstacle.  The conference was to be held at our former church, the one we left six years ago.  I had only been there once since, for a friend's memorial service.  It was a place filled with many memories of serving, teaching, leading, following, sitting together in the pew.  One of my most cherished memories is just sitting next to my Dear Professor, his arm around my shoulders while we waited for the service to begin.

There are other memories too.  Memories of misunderstanding, injustice, anger, accusation, fear.  And betrayal.  We left when my heart broke under the weight of it all.  Yes, there are hypocrites in any church, but there are also the walking wounded, those whose fragile hearts have not been safely handled. Those who stand with their back to the wall, arms crossed, waiting, hoping.  I still weep for them there.  Leaving a church is like leaving a marriage.  Grief and recrimination follow.  Those left behind feel abandoned, can't understand,  and all too often find the wrong meaning on their own.

I know.  I was one of the left behind, too many times to count.

I struggled with indecision.  I wanted to hear the words of truth, I did not want to go where they would be spoken.  So I looked for courage in companionship.  I invited a friend, and she invited her cousin.  There is safety in numbers.

It was a divine appointment for us three.  We spent the night between sessions at a local motel, sharing our stories, our questions, our wounds, our healing, our snacks, and very little sleep!

I sat with my two sisters and listened to nourishing words.   Words of encouragement, shared sorrow, surprising strength.  But it was more than just words.  Behind them was the power that holds the world and us together.

P1920058


Not new truths, but a new awareness of our heart's need for them.  We emerged stronger, more resolute, nourished by words.  Words of life.  The company of courage.

P1920061


We vowed to quit marching fruitlessly around our mountains, to abandon the beaten paths of defeat, regret, fear, and head onward to a new place where God is our portion, our enabler, our strength for the challenges of each new day.  The challenges that are meant to refine, not define us.  Onward to a new awareness of the fragility of those around us, the power of our words to wield lifeOr death.


We moved together toward recognizing that each desire of our heart drives us to Him who alone can satisfy our hunger.

In Christ alone, my hope is found.

And peace.

There, in the company of courage, I went where I did not want to go, said goodbye to old friends, and found peace.

P1920055


Peace with the past.  Peace with the future.  Because of Christ. . .and the company of courage.


My counting with the company of courage and community of gratitude
241.  grocery store bulletin boards
242.  courageous old friend
243.  courageous new friend
244.  hunger
245.  desiring truth
246.  radio interviews
247.  Made to Crave
248.  divine appointments
249.  saying goodbye
250.  hugs
251.  late nighters
252.  comfortable rooms
253.  homemade hummus and guacamole
254.  peanut butter m&ms
255.  safety in numbers
256.  a heartfelt thank you
257.  resolution
258.  a willing heart
259.  making peace with the past
260.  words of life

4 comments:

Linda said...

This is completely and totally (redundant) selfish....I simply cannot bear the thought of you "flying south"! The beautiful picture on your blog brings a stream of tears. And yet, I know that it is the best thing for you both. You're a wise and godly woman....among the most courageous I know!

Craving with You,
Linda

Angie said...

This is a beautiful post. So courageous of you to go back to your old church and face all those feelings you had. I am glad you, actually all 3 of your, emerged from this experience more corageous and at peace. Be blessed,

Angie
Linen & verbena

JAS-- said...

To Linda-Thank you for your kind words. I can very easily echo them back to you.

To Angie-through the company of courage, what began as fear was transformed into love. His Grace is always sufficient. I am afraid I don't rely upon it often enough.

Jenny said...

What a joy to have met you. And sad it wasn't sooner. Your words are beautiful.I hear your heart, and I see our Savior's gracious love preparing you to move on, without an ounce of unlovely leftover baggage. All glory to our wonderful Lord Jesus!
Jenny :)