My Safe Place
What makes a safe church?
It’s many things, but most important for me, it’s where there is an openness, an atmosphere where I can be honest with my church family because I feel they are committed to my spiritual welfare. It’s a place where there’s an understanding that we are all sinners, but where we can encourage and challenge one another within that understanding, to grow in the Lord.
That's not how I grew up. Being Catholic, and growing up in a small town, meant that whenever I sinned, I was going to get caught, and there would be consequences. There wasn’t a lot of mercy. So I became sneaky in my sin: stealing a nickel out of my brothers’ paper route money, lying about it. Shoplifting a shirt. Forging a permission slip I'd forgotten to ask my mother to sign. Later, even more serious things like helping a friend get an abortion. The guilt of these sins, including the ones I managed to keep hidden, became really burdensome, but I enjoyed some sins more than I feared their consequences, and more than the guilt they produced.
Oddly enough, all this time I was searching for peace, purpose, fulfillment, acceptance... but on my terms. I wanted my way... but it wasn’t working. By now I was married, early thirties, and just beginning to consider alcohol to help combat a growing unhappiness...
...and then Jesus stepped in.
I was confronted flat out about my sin and about my utter helplessness to be right with God. In His mercy, the Holy Spirit was creating in me a desire to be right with God. I was presented with the cross as the only bridge between my sinful life and eternal peace with God Himself. I dragged all my sin, all that I could remember, before Him and laid weeping in His presence as He poured peace and forgiveness into my spirit. I knew that I knew that I knew that I was right with God!
Within months, some obvious external sins were dealt with. The more serious sins... well, that took more time. Some things I am still dealing with today are rooted in my past and try to control my actions or attitudes: fear of exposure of sin, sometimes a feeling that somehow I've disqualified myself from the promises of God because of ongoing sin, that sort of thing.
But my master is not the judge from the past; it is the Lord, and I am slave to Him. I need not obey the old master, nor hide my sinful self from others. There’s no fear of discovery of my sin now whenever I’ve confessed it. When I get discouraged that I’ve been a Christian for forty-five years and still struggle with certain sins, I remember that He who began a good work in me will be able to complete it unto the day of Christ Jesus.
The things I always searched for, the peace and acceptance, are being realized now in Jesus. That’s not just a nice thought. I truly have come to realize that without Jesus, everything is counterfeit. All the good things in my life only have meaning in Him.
So I want you to ask me sometimes how I’m doing: if I’m being honest with God about sin, or if Jesus is still the one I go to first of all to get my needs met, that sort of thing. Loudoun Valley Baptist Church is my safe place because I am among friends who are sinners too, but who seek to grow in godliness with fear of the Lord, alongside me.
I hope that encourages you, as it encourages me.