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Faith Grace Pain

A Redeemed Heart - Devotions for Christian Women

Seven years ago, I walked carefully up bare wooden stairs to join the rest of my group in the not-quite-finished upper level of a building under construction. As our leader pointed out various features of the space and explained its future use in detail, I squinted my eyes and tried to imagine it.

This building was going to be the home of our church plant.

Over the next several months, the group that stood amidst those boards and nails and prayed for God’s blessing slowly fell apart. Due to miscommunication, misunderstandings and misaligned priorities, what was once a tight-knit second family determined to share the gospel and bring glory to God became a group of frustrated and – honestly – angry people who couldn’t possibly serve the Lord together.

And out of all the things we disagreed about and struggled over, The Building, as it became known, was a big one. Not merely a sore spot, that building grew into a bone of contention and source of debate until the topic couldn’t be broached without shoulders hunching, jaws clenching and eyes rolling.

The second our focus turned away from God and his people and toward a building and our opinions, we were doomed to failure. But The Building was just one of many things that tore apart the six couples who had, just months before, been so full of hope and excitement and passion. Music, website design, children’s programs and potluck dinners were other things we fought about, both openly and behind each others’ backs. In every area we created discord.

It was impossible for a group so focused on everything but the main thing to succeed. And so we didn’t. Less than one year after setting out to start a new church with our best friends, my husband and I limped back to our home church, devastated and disoriented.

For more than five years, we tried to find a new fit, a new normal in our old church. But nothing was ever the same. Things that we’d loved about that church now rubbed us the wrong way, and people we’d enjoyed spending time with simply weren’t there anymore. Finally, we knew it was time to move on.

Last summer we began “church shopping.” I know. That’s an unfortunate term, but it’s not necessarily inaccurate, either. We tried a few churches where we knew people, but couldn’t quite settle into a new church home. One church had a great children’s church and a creative drama team, but we didn’t like the preaching. Another church had solid preaching, but the music was annoying. One church was too big. Another had uncomfortable chairs.

We didn’t really cross a church off our list because of its chairs or parking lot or worship leader, and we persevered, prayerfully, throughout the summer. Still, the excitement of looking for the place God had for us dimmed quickly as another Sunday came and went without resolution to our search. Finally, I remembered that a friend of mine who lives across the country had told me that her pastor suggested a church not too far from my house. I’d looked it up online but when I saw that it was a church plant, a whole parade of red flags flashed before my eyes.

But after several weeks of shopping, we felt desperate enough to try anything. Even another church plant.

Last July, we went to the early service of the church my out-of-state friend’s pastor recommended. And aside from a few weekends we’ve been out of town or sick, we’ve been back every Sunday since.

Not too long after we began attending this church, I decided to join a women’s small group. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the group met at the church office – located in the very building our church plant had intended to use.

When I walked into the building that first morning, I felt a little shaky.
It was just so . . . weird. Of course the building didn’t look the same as it had the last time I’d seen it. It had walls and paint and brick and everything. No exposed beams or wiring in sight. Still, I knew. I was in The Building.

As I introduced myself to the ladies in the group and dove into the book we were studying, my shaking subsided and my mind quit reeling. Over the following months, I grew to love that small group and our new church home. In January, I began an apprenticeship with our pastor’s wife and eventually led that same small group through a spring study.

And last month, I accepted a job with our church as the Admin Catalyst (a fancy title that means I am responsible for volunteer management and care, organization, communication and whatever else they throw my way). My tiny office is in The Building.

Honestly, I can barely wrap my mind around it. The failure of our church plant was the single most devastating thing my husband and I have experienced in our faith journeys. But not only has God redeemed that experience and all that we hoped and desired to do for Him during that time, but He has actually redeemed the physical space that has represented that part of our lives.

Nothing about our church plant experience was wasted. My desire to reach a community and help people find their way back to God? My desire to be an integral part of a growing church, spending the bulk of my days using my skills within a church team? The actual building that caused so much strife, despite its beginning as a holy place dedicated to serving the Lord? Every single part of it has been redeemed.

As I’ve gone through the process of interviewing for and beginning this new job, I can’t stop saying to myself, my husband and anyone else who will listen: It’s just so weird! It is. It’s weird in a wonderful God way, and I just can’t get over it.

I think that’s okay. While there was certainly a [long] time when I wanted nothing more than to “get over” the whole church plant experience, I think there’s something to be said for working through it instead. Now, seeing what God has done, how He has transformed my heart and directed my life’s path, I. Just. Can’t. Get. Over. It. And I don’t think I want to.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good
of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
(Romans 8:28)
How has God redeemed an experience or place in your life?

By: Mary, Giving Up on Perfect

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  1. 2

    OH, Mary! How much do I love this?!! I know exactly that pain of church plant. (*heart squeeze*)

    And look what God does! He DOES restore! I don’t have anything profound to say to add to your gorgeous post. Just yay God!

    a

  2. 4
    Just Me says:

    What a wonderful redemption for you! I love how God “kisses our owies” and makes them all better!
    Looking forward to my own kiss–hope it is soon.

  3. 6

    Oh, Mary!! I love this. What a lovely, unexpected full circle for you. I can’t wait to see how God works through you in your new job.

  4. 8

    Oh we can so relate. Bless your heart for writing this! Thank you!

  5. 9

    I relate! The change to a new community and the things that happen or get taken away…the pain of that is so hard to go through. And then to watch God redeem it is amazing and like you said: “I. Just. Can’t. Get. Over. It. And I don’t think I want to.” I so agree!!
    It’s like manna, God gives us something totally strange to us and we say “what is it?” and it IS a miracle and a wonder.

  6. 11

    Your words spoke right to my heart and soothed a sore spot. You actually encouraged me as it was the very thing I was talking to God about. How can I let my frustration go?

    • 12

      I’m so glad my post was encouraging. Letting go of our frustrations and hurts IS so difficult. In fact, I think it’s impossible to do on our own. Praying God walks you through that healing process soon.

  7. 13
    blsdbyndblef says:

    What an uplifting story! As I have matured in Christ, I have learned that it is not about ME, or the building, but about Him. Worship is not a time to be made comfortable, or entertained, it is a time to worhip Him…simply stated…and it all begins in the heart. May God continue to bless you as you strive to do His will!

  8. 14

    Ah Mary! The timing of your post couldn’t be more of a “God way” as you put it! I missed a flight for a weekend I had been looking forward to for a long time. One I thought might change my life with people I was really excited about getting to know.

    I have been in places similar to yours as the pastor’s wife. When we stepped out of ‘the ministry’ I had to find a new role to be me. I thought this weekend was part of my ‘redemption’ to some extent. Yet, I couldn’t make it happen!

    The Proverbs says, “A hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life.” I’m still at heart sick! But I do have hope that there is a tree of life already beginning to grow.

    Your post reminded me!
    Thanks!
    Kathy

    • 15

      That Proverb is such a perfect description of these types of situations! I love that it doesn’t stop at heart sick, though – and we know He will always fulfill our hopes in His perfect time.

  9. 16
    Savanasu says:

    Excuse me for being so dumb but…..what is a “church plant”? Never heard the term before.

    • 17
      Beth Williams says:

      A church plant is when a small group–about 6-10 couples–get together and start a new church. Usually they start in someone’s basement or some building. When the church gets enough money and people together they may decide to buy or build a building to house their serivces.

      I hope this clear things up for you!

  10. 19

    What a GREAT reminder of how God sees the WHOLE picture, while we only see a glimpse! Loved this :)

  11. 20

    I love your story. I could only nod my head as I saw yet another example of how everything can fall apart, even the best of intentions, when we stop making Him the center of it. If only the rest of the world could understand, that even as committed Christians, we fail and only He can make things work right. All the more to His Glory.

  12. 21
    Jennifer Harman says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I am in a time where I have had to let go of someone really important in my life because he couldnt decide if he wanted to be in a relationship with me (after having been friends and courting for a year and a half). The last part of your story
    “While there was certainly a [long] time when I wanted nothing more than to “get over” the whole church plant experience, I think there’s something to be said for working through it instead. Now, seeing what God has done, how He has transformed my heart and directed my life’s path, I. Just. Can’t. Get. Over. It. And I don’t think I want to”, is where I want to be. I woke up this morning really feeling the pain and I prayed asking God to help me because I dont want to feel this pain; I want to move straight into healing, peace and not have any anger or bitterness about the relationship not working out. I desire to be on the other side of this pain, but I do know God will work it for my good and His glory. Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11-12, 2 Corinthians, and Psalm 73:25-26 are all verses which have been speaking to me of God’s faithfulness and purpose in this difficult time in my life. So thank you for this post. God used it to speak to my heart in huge ways, especially this morning when I am feelin’ it something awful. If you could please pray for me too, all y’all, I would appreciate it! Blessings.
    Desperately Dependent on Jesus,
    ~Jennifer

    • 22

      Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your heart and life here. Living the pain of a fallen world – whether the realities and consequences we face are the result of our own choices or others’ – is SO HARD. Praying this period doesn’t last too long for you and that God continues speaking to your heart and easing your pain.

  13. 23

    Jennifer, give it time. I promise it will get easier and you and it will be okay. I have been there and invested way more time than you. Cry when you feel like it. And eventually those too will end. You will laugh again. You will be stronger for the experience. Tell yourself on the times you are feeling particularly low that God has got this. He knows and wants what is best for his daughter. Trust in that fact above all else. Just give it time.

  14. 24

    Perfect picture of redemption, my friend. Thank you for sharing your hard times so we may see Jesus at work. Love you!

  15. 25

    I just love you and your transparency Mary! I knew not long into this that it was you writing it. So thankful for you & the ways God has redeemed so much of the church planting situation in your life!! Don’t get over it – keep using it to shine light on God’s ability to redeem so many hard things in our lives. I constantly feel like he’s redeeming my Fibromyalgia, even when I can’t always see it, he shows me his amazing ways that always baffle me. He is so AWESOME!!!

  16. 27
    Beth Williams says:

    Great story of how God’s will is done, even in the midst of our humanness. Good example of how God can make beauty out of ashes!

    Praying for peace for you, your family and your new church family!

  17. 29

    Thanks, needed to hear how God turned things around. I am in a place, where just not any deep relationships. Put it in one word LONELY. Just don’t know what God is doing exactly, just trusting. It is hard

    • 30

      Stacy, I’m so sad that you’re so lonely. Praying that God places the exactly right people in your life soon and that you see them and have the courage to reach out. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

  18. 31

    Amazing story. Thanks for sharing. I think “redemption” just might be my favorite word. What Satan intended for evil, God redeemed and is still transforming lives in that very same church building. Absolutely amazing.

  19. 32

    Mary, this is awesome <3

  20. 33

    We do get in our own way, don’t we? I’m not sure why this is the part I keep thinking about but I’m curious…have your relationships with the other couples healed? Maybe the beginnings of another post??

    • 34

      Yes, our relationships with the four of the five other couples have healed. Those relationships aren’t the same; I don’t know that it’s possible or healthy to go back to “the way things were.” But I’m so very thankful that, though we’re not as close to all of them as we once were, the majority of our relationships have also been restored.

      Thank you for reading my post!

      • 35

        I realized later why I kept coming back to the relationships. It’s because *I* have relationships that have been damaged and I wonder if they ever completely heal. I’m glad that, though it isn’t the same, there has been closure and healing in those relationships. thanks for responding and for the post!

  21. 36

    What a beautiful story! It’s sad when Christians can’t live in the unity that Christ offers, yet isn’t it beautiful how God can use even our broken human relationships and ambitions for his own purpose. Thanks for sharing this story.

  22. 37

    Mary, what a beautiful story of God’s grace in the mess! We are still in the midst of the mess with broken hearts over our last church (and church shopping too), and it REALLY ministers to me to look forward and see the healing there for you! Thanks for sharing how our awesome God works!

  23. 39

    The word “redeeming” has been one of my favorite words and truths for the last 3 years ! Thank you for sharing this personal part of your heart ! Someone spoke in a devastating way over my home once… God has fully redeemed that over and beyond my wildest imaginations. I’m actually considering naming my house — “Restored…Redeemed” :)

  24. 40

    I love it when things fall so together in a weird, God way! :) I LOVE this post. He always seems to bring us back full circle, doesn’t He?

  25. 41

    The beauty of God’s sovereign care is all over this… love you, Mary.

  26. 42

    “Seven years ago, I walked carefully up bare wooden stairs…” Reading those words made my breath catch in my throat. Although I know all too well how that story begins, I’m so thankful for how it ends…for all of us. Thank you for sharing so beautifully how such a painful experience can be redeemed. I pray that others see how this can be true in their own lives as well.

  27. 43

    Such a beautiful story! Thank you Mary.

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