I’m about to be vulnerable here. Consider yourself warned.
Today, I’ll be honest, has been a regular suck-fest in my family, following on the heels of a week that I couldn’t wait to finally be over. The last nine days have been full of busyness, and I genuinely hate busyness. I had prepared myself as much as I could, I thought. I had school mostly managed, food mostly managed, responsibilities mostly managed. I did not, however, take into account that this very busy week also just so happened to be Holy Week. I didn’t give it a second thought, actually, until my family skipped church on Palm Sunday because we were already too tired going into the week to drag ourselves out of bed that morning. Then I got to Thursday and realized I hadn’t even talked to my children one single time about the Easter story, and then I got to Saturday and was rushing to our THIRD egg hunt of the week when it hit me that I had done absolutely NOTHING (no, not one single thing) to prepare my heart for the most important day of my faith. I was not in control of my week; my week was controlling me, and I was just following along blindly.
So it came as little surprise to me when this morning rolled around and I was tired, my children were fighting with each other and were whiny and cranky, I was fighting with my husband, he and I drove to church in silence, my daughter had to be taken out of the sanctuary for being disruptive, my son was mad that I wouldn’t let him sit with his friends or make paper airplanes out of the bulletin during the service, and the plans we had made to go to the mountains together as a family ended up seeming like the worst possible way for us to spend our day, so we ditched them entirely and just stayed home. This was quickly turning into the worst Easter ever.
It appeared as though I wasn’t the only one who came to church feeling vulnerable this morning. If you had looked around the body of Believers this morning at the little church on the corner of 16th and Highland, you would have seen a mixed kaleidoscope of joy and brokenness. I saw the mother who was weeping as she thought of her grown child who has walked away from the Lord. I saw the family who was on their way to a celebration while a cacophony of tensions were simultaneously mounting upon them from all sides. I saw the man and his family who together were fighting his terrible battle with cancer. I saw the woman with a mysterious illness who just-can’t-get-well-for-crying-out-loud. I saw the estranged husband and wife who were sitting together for the first time in well over a year (maybe two). I saw the young lady who brought her girlfriend with her for the first time. I saw the woman who shuffled her family out of the service early upon receiving news that her mother-in-law had just died. I saw the young man who was saying goodbye to his church family and moving away to pursue a budding relationship. I saw the missionary who stood and cried tears of joy as he testified of his deliverance from his bondage of sin in his earlier years. I even saw the Elder who had had such an intense conversation with the Lord in the wee small hours of the morning that he couldn’t even deliver the sermon that he had been preparing for weeks.
No, I certainly wasn’t alone in my vulnerability. But still, I didn’t want to be at church this morning. It just felt wrong. It felt wrong to worship the risen Lord when my heart was unprepared, my spirit was weak, and my relationships felt distant. When it came time to take communion, I wrestled with whether or not I should. I went forward anyway, questioning myself with each step, and I took the bread and the cup, and I sat back down to pray. I looked at the sacraments in my hands and said, “Lord, I’m not worthy of this today. My attitude is bad, I’m having this issue with my family that I can’t wrap up into a pretty little package and fix quickly, I’m tired, I’ve given you nothing this week, and while I want nothing more than to be with you right now, I’m just not worthy to take this.”
Jesus whispered a gentle response. “Look around this room, Ariaun. Look at the people who are sitting here with you. They are worthy, not because of anything they have done, but because they are mine. They are worthy because I have made them worthy, despite their weakness, their relationship struggles, their abortions, their former drug problems, their failed marriages, their deceptions, their prodigal children, their broken homes or their lack of faith. This bread and this cup are for them. My body was broken for them. My blood was spilled for them. And it’s all for you, too, beloved. You don’t come to the table because you’ve got it all together. You come to the table because you’ve been invited, so that you’ll remember that you’ve been bought with a price; and you’re free to come just as you are and not as you think you should be. Of course you’re not worthy. That’s precisely the point. But I am, and I have made you new. You’re confusing your worthiness with your worth. And dear one, your worth is beyond measure. You are worth my very life.”
I know enough about people to know that probably everyone in that building has felt, at one point or another, like they shouldn’t be there, that they needed to stay home, that they were hypocrites for worshiping God while their world felt like it was falling apart. But our brokenness is exactly the reason we come. It’s exactly the reason Jesus came. It’s exactly the reason we celebrate this day.
This morning I (maybe a little bit melodramatically) told Jeremy that my favorite Sunday of the year was ruined. But looking back, now that the I’m-sorrys and the I-forgive-yous have been said, I realize that this day wasn’t ruined at all. I just needed a different perspective. My expectation was that I would be smiley and cheerful and springy, and we would all just be shiny, happy people praising Jesus this morning without a care in the world. While looking around that room at some of the people I love most in this world, many of them hurting deeply, I held that cracker and cup of juice in my hand and was reminded of our immense value in the eyes of our Savior, despite our complete and utter brokenness and great imperfection. We’re the ones Jesus loves, and He has the crimson-stained grace on His hands to prove it.