“I can’t believe I am sitting in this church. After all the things I have done, will God still forgive me?” This question burns in my heart. Glancing around the church, I noticed that folks large and small seemed to fit into the atmosphere of the church. Many people were well dressed. Suits and ties, well kept dresses, everyone was neat and tidy. Looking down at myself, I am dressed in a white T-shirt, scraggly jeans and worn shoes. “I shouldn’t have come. I look like I rolled out of a dryer.” However, when friendly time came around, it seemed like the whole church came around to shake my hand and welcome me to their church. Part of me was brooding and standoffish. The other part was enjoying being in a church again.
Finally, it was time for the preaching. Sitting there and listening to the minister deliver what the Lord would say to the church, I felt tears well up in my eyes. “God, I have wanted to feel your presence for so long. Thank you for letting me feel your touch again.” After church, I socialized with a few folks that I had met. On my way home, I found myself looking forward to going back to church.
As the new week began, I started to feel comfortable with going to church. The closer I drew to God, the more that I began to feel His presence. My church had a guest speaker, and I could not wait to hear this man preach. From all accounts it would be an awesome service. Rev. Shane Burns was our guest speaker, and as he preached, I could feel the urge to stand to my feet. “No matter how far you run, God is there. If you want to find your way back to God, go back to where you walked away from Him.” My eyes sprung a leak. Tears race down my face, and I stand to my feet. “Raise your hands!” The sweet presence that filled my room in Iraq and comforted me, fills my heart. My heart open and my hands raised, I spoke to God like He is my friend.
After service is over, I head home. Walking into my house, I notice that trash is scattered everywhere. My dog has torn out every piece of trash in the house. Usually, I would have become upset. Instead, I grab my broom and sweep it up into a pile. While I am picking up my trash, a still small voice speaks to me. “This is how I found you. Broken, dirty and in a sin-filled gutter. I picked you up, cleaned you and restored you.” For the second time that morning, I felt the presence of Almighty God. I could not wait to get back to church.
That evening, my mind was embroiled in memories of Iraq. As I drive down the highway, I am praying asking God to touch me and give me peace of mind. Entering the city limits, the still small voice speaks to me again. “Iraq was a long time ago. Cast your cares on me, for I care for you.” I almost wreck my truck. The power of God sat down in my truck and I worshipped Him all the way to church.
My redemption was found in a church and in restoring my relationship with my Savior. It has not been easy for me to make peace with what I have done. There are days that I struggle with my memories of Iraq. However, God has been a source of strength for me. Many friends that I have made have stood by me and been a shoulder that I could lean on. None of us are promised an easy road, but He is my faithful friend. In the darkness, He is the light that brought me out. He is my Redeemer and I am ever grateful.