Janelle sat at the fringes of the gathering wondering if she looked as forlorn as she felt. Her heart was etched with a pain so deep she wondered if it would ever go away. She’d done everything to mask it but it lingered at the back of her heart like a bat in a cave.
Why had she even come to this ‘home group?’ This was all foreign to her, yet here she was, lost and alone, with, as usual, no one paying any attention to her. Her agony of soul only increased. People were laughing, talking, having a good time. Janelle crawled inside herself, latching onto her misery, wishing that she could just slip away. That was impossible in light of the fact that she would have to walk right past everyone, which would be nothing short of rude.
Eyes welling with tears, she looked down, lest anyone glance her way. She didn’t want anyone to see her crying, especially here, where she knew no one. Not really, anyway… only by name. She felt a warm hand gently touch her shoulder. “Excuse me, I’d like to welcome you tonight and get to know you. I know your name is Janelle, but that’s all I know about you. Would you mind if I sat down?”
“No, I guess not.” Janelle said, cringing inside. She knew her eyes still held the sheen of tears.
“I’m Mary, the pastor’s wife.”
The pastor’s wife! Oh no… she can’t know the mess I’m in. I’ll never be welcomed here again, not to mention church. I’m so happy to have found a church that preaches the Word of God like it does, but I’d rather just stay in the background…
“I’m glad… to meet you.”
“Janelle, I’m not going to play the game of pleasant talk. I noticed that you’ve been crying. I’ve been told more than once that I’m a good listener. I’d like to hear your story.”
The compassionate gaze emanating from Mary’s lovely brown eyes drew Janelle in a way that she’d not been drawn for a long time and she found herself opening up as she had never opened up to anyone before. She felt like the damn of her heart had burst open and all the pent up waters of anguish came gushing forth in a torrent of words and emotions she had long held back to protect herself from feeling the ache.
When she was finished spilling her heart Mary asked if she minded sharing briefly with the group so they could gather around her and pray. Janelle nodded her assent, surprised at herself, but suddenly it felt very right to be doing this, because… she felt like she had come home and sensed that these people would become her family.
Mary filled the group in on the basics and then one by one, people laid hands on Janelle, making her feel swathed in a cozy blanket. The Holy Spirit moved amongst them as they began to pray, sending heartfelt petitions before the throne of grace.
Tears flowed down Janelle’s cheeks, her heart beginning to thaw the ice that had encased it for so long. These prayers, going up… for her… it was overwhelming to think of. God loved her that much? The prayers of the people told her He did. She had long yearned to believe it and tonight, did. One prayer in particular touched her heart deeply.
“Father, thank you for loving us so much that your thoughts toward us outnumber the grains of sand and that when we awake you’re still with us. (i) How my heart rejoices in that, Father and I pray tonight Janelle’s heart will rejoice as well. Lead her on your path, Lord and may she remember that as she seeks you, you will answer her and deliver her from all her fears. (ii) In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.”
“Amen.” Intoned the group.
Janelle looked up, her eyes shining brightly from joy instead of tears. Mary pulled her close in a loving embrace, something Janelle welcomed with relief. She had come to this home group expecting to be the outcast, but instead found herself surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ who genuinely cared for each other and put actions to their words.
As she said her good nights, she knew that she had indeed found a family here and that she would be coming back as often as she could, which she hoped would be every week.
(i) Psalm 139:18
(ii) Psalm 34:4
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