Last weekend I was helping at a weekend retreat our church was running for people who are attending Alpha. I joined up with a small group for the videos, discussion, and helped with prayer ministry.
On Sunday before a closing Mass, people had an opportunity to give witness how God worked in them over the weekend. It was beautiful, powerful; the kind that leaves you in awe and speechless of the power of God. As the last person finished sharing, I had a realization: "these people, this church community, they are my family."
I know. That can have hokey, cheesy Hallmark vibes. But it wasn't that way. On a heart level, I suddenly looked differently at people whom on many levels I didn't know other than seeing them in the pew. It just struck me on such a deep chord, that we bring our entire selves to the table on Sunday. And that maybe for the first time in my adult life, I have truly felt like the people I worship with on Sunday are really my family.
We bring our hurt, pain, and brokenness when we come to worship. The Church, Pope Francis writes, is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners. Church (while not just a building) isn't where we come all neat n' tidy, but where we bring our hot-mess-self to find communion and unity with each other and God.
How many people whom we worship with on Sunday are battling alcoholism? Loneliness or depression? A marriage in crisis? Infertility? Divorce? Sexual addiction? Physical or emotional abuse? Probably a lot, more than we could ever know.
It sounds quite odd coming from a person who has grown up going to church her entire life. But while I grew up in church and knew lots of people who frequented those pews, it never felt like family to me. Yes I knew people, but really didn't know them. I only saw their polished, shiny version.
Over the weekend on the Alpha retreat, I really got to know some of the people. They shared and poured out their brokenness, which made me feel brave enough to get vulnerable too. I got to know them on a vulnerable level, that place we often avoid to go because it can be raw, painful, and awkward.
I met and became friends with a beautiful young woman who is walking the same path as me right now; she is not letting the reality of divorce define her. I prayed with and shared tears with people facing different situations in life. I let strangers into my fear and pain, I let them pray and cry with me too.
I realized in that small chapel all those unique, beautiful, and broken people are my people too. We are not different from each other. I belong, they belong. In each of our broken pieces, we belong and find communion with each other and our God.
And for me, this realization is a broken kind of beautiful.