I sat in the front row of church Sunday and wept. My husband, Sam, is a pastor, and every week I reluctantly sit beside him in the front row. I like my husband; I don’t like sitting in the front. If it were up to me, I’d sit in the back, alone. I like the idea of a dark chapel where it feels like I can hide. I want empty seats beside me so I can freely raise my hands, so I don’t have to worry about being in someone else’s space. I want to cry with freedom. I want to sing loud and off-key without the care of what other people might think. If I want to sneak out for water or a walk, I don’t want to be a disruption.
When I sit near the stage, I feel like a thousand eyes are on me. If I’m late or checking something on my phone, I don’t just see eyes on me, I feel them. Does it ever feel like people are watching, judging, or scrutinizing your every move? Maybe it’s just me.
I wept Sunday because I felt so overwhelmed. The weight of the week came crashing in on me. I hold everything in and push everything down. There are people in my life who are sick. I have children who are struggling significantly. I have family members and friends who are slowly drifting away from Jesus.
All of these scenarios hurt. Even though I know I am not at fault for most of these circumstances, I carry the responsibility like an anchor around my waist. Sometimes I just feel so undone by the enormity of life and how often I fail at being the kind of person I long to be. I feel like I’m letting my kids down, friends down, and family down. The pressure presses down on me. Not only am I failing, but eyes are on me watching me fall face first.
So I cried. I wanted my feelings to wash away. I hated feeling that way so much. The more I worshipped, the more frustrated I was because my failures were all-consuming. I couldn’t carry everything anymore. I just wanted to sneak out the side door of the chapel and hide out in my car till the service was over. But there, in the second stanza of a worship song, these words came to me, “When feelings are inescapable, possibly the only way out is to invite Jesus in.”
My first response is always to escape. I look for the exit signs. I think about all my strategies to avoid pain. I run circles around God without ever really praying. I want to sit in the back row and be invisible. But God’s love is like a revolving door of welcome. He doesn’t want us to worship alone, without people or without Him. God wants to be right in the middle of my everyday ache. He sets up camp and inhabits all the space within me. The only way out of my feelings of failure is to let Jesus in.
Christmas is days away and as I reflect on my experience sitting in the front row, I see how Christ comes. He never stops coming. He came to the world, to lost people, to prideful priests, and naughty children. He came for the broken, beat up, and banished.
Jesus came. He still comes. He comes with His massive love and makes a way for us to come out of our pain. He doesn’t want us hiding in back rows or burning out. He wants us to sing loud, to raise our hands, to kneel down. Whatever row we occupy at church this week, Christ sits beside us and comes into the current reality of our lives.
Whatever feeling is overwhelming you at this moment, let it be there. Let it fill the entire space of your heart. Don’t outrun, fix, or fight the enormous feelings. No matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel, let those feelings remain.
The only way out of your envy, grief, anger, loneliness, feelings of failure or guilt is to allow Jesus in. When your feelings are opened to God, this is prayer:
“Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
Christ sits beside us and comes into the current reality of our lives. -Anjuli Paschall: Click To Tweet