The Gracious Bride of Christ

I need to brag on our church for a minute. This week we made a crazy decision to pack up our whole life in four days. That decision obviously meant that we had a lot to do in a very short time.

When our church family found out they didn't just say "well, let us know if you need anything" and then continue to go about their lives as normal. They rearranged things, sacrificed, and helped. The church found out on Tuesday and on Wednesday night eleven people showed up to pray for us and help us move. The worship team usually practices on Wednesday night but instead of practicing they all showed up to help us.

No one flinched from the un-vacuumed floors, they just knelt down in our filth and prayed. Despite the fact that I was sweaty and smelly there were long and genuine hugs given. Everyone jumped in to lug load after load to the truck. One couple took all of the stuff I had set aside to give away and loaded it into their truck so that I didn't need to worry about taking it to good will or some place. One friend brought fresh picked strawberry's for the kids.

The next day more people came and helped. They packed up my dishes in the kitchen. Took nails off of the wall. Labeled boxes. Played with the kids and did so much more.

We are the one's who decided to move and decided to so it so quickly so that Bryan could start treatments right away. We are the only one's who were responsible for getting done what needed to be done. There is not really any reason that our spontaneous decision should force others to rearrange their lives. But, love isn't reasonable.

That's what we felt...loved. Supported. Cared for.

And pursued.

Even as we left for a time we felt pursued.

This church body has never stopped asking us how we really are, and how they can help. They did that before cancer became a reality for us and even more afterwards. They have pursued us from the first time we walked through the doors right up until now.

This week no one let us say, "oh, it's ok. We can do it." Even when I tried to say things to that effect.

When I told a friend not to worry about bringing us dinner she still brought snacks for us for the drive and homemade strawberry jam because I had told her that I was sad I wouldn't get to go pick strawberries this summer like I'd planned.

When I told another friend from church to ignore my dirty dishes she didn't listen and went right ahead washing them and then proceeded to take out the trash. They saw needs and filled them even when I felt to uncomfortable to ask.

Here's the really amazing thing to me, before all this it had been a whole month since we had been at church. Because of Bryan's radiation treatment and all of us getting ill this month we didn't make it to church at all.

The love and support we felt was not due to our actions. It was not because we had been so incredibly regular in our attendance or service. It was not because we are particularly friendly, social or dynamic (we are mostly awkward). It was not because we had brought a lot of people to church or were especially part of some inner circle.

Their love for us has been full of grace. Just like Christ's. I know that they will keep loving us even when we are not physically present with them. I feel confident that they would keep pursuing us and loving us in tangible ways even if we criticized them, or disagreed with them. Even if we acted out. Even if we got angry with God for our circumstances. Even if we grieved. Even if we stopped attending every Sunday.

High Point Church may not have the newest hippest venue, but it is filled with the Spirit of God. They may not have the biggest best worship team, but their worship team doesn't only praise God with their musical gifts they worship through their love of one another. High Point may not always have the most dynamic sermon but the pastor and the staff shepherd the flock by actively being part of their lives and spiritual journey. The church body is made up of a random mix of people from farmers to businessmen but they all mesh together and support one another seamlessly.

It's not a perfect church. It's made up of broken people like all churches. To most outsiders looking in it wouldn't seem like anything all that special, but it really is. Because despite imperfect Sunday gatherings and imperfect people, the spirit of God is clearly at work in this body. The spirit that teaches us to love and calls us to the kind of love that God has for us - unconditional and full of grace.

Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany Stedman