I used to position myself at the end of the pew, just in case someone I’m not too comfortable with might come along and try to sit down.
It saved us both that awkward conversation where they ask if they can join me and I say “yes” with my mouth but “no” with my body language.
Frankly, I was at church to be lifted up so I could face the coming week with power and strength. I didn’t want to be dragged down by their reality of brokenness and sometimes bitter tears.
I don’t do that anymore.
I realize that most of what made me uncomfortable was other people’s pain.
Now I’m the one who’s broken. I’m the one who can’t get through “Amazing Grace” without blubbering.
And I’m the one that others hope won’t ask to join THEM.
But here’s the deal: God loves the broken. Christ came for the broken. It’s the broken and breathless who long for the Spirit to blow life across their wounded hearts.
It’s the hopeless and fearful that run faster to the safety of their Shepherd.
It’s the worried and weary who are thankful for a Burden-bearer.
When I refuse to move over and make room for the broken, I’m barring the way for the very ones who most desperately need the blessing. When I want my worship experience to exclude those who haven’t the strength to bring their own hearts before the throne of grace, I’m being selfish.
And that is sin.
Jesus went out of His way to heal the hurting,
to bless the broken and
to speak strength to the weary.
So now I sit in the middle of the pew and leave room for whoever God brings my way.
I want to be an open door, not a gatekeeper.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~Jesus
(Matthew 11:28-30 PHILLIPS)