She took a deep breath to calm the sick feeling deep in her stomach. Happy faces glided past the windows outside, but she was safe and invisible behind the tinted glass. She glanced down at the faded flower dress that she found in the back of her closet this morning. It wasn’t nearly as pretty as the put together women and gentlemen who rushed past her car, toward those dark mahogany church doors. Maybe, she was not ready for this.
It had been almost a year since she had been to church. But, the guilt of a lazy Sunday morning routine had finally caught up with her. Easter was last week, and she purposely slept a little too late to make it on time. Her negligence bothered her all week long. Back when she was a girl, church had been a weekly place of familiar patterns and routines. It was the place of predictable boredom and safe friendships—or so she used to believe.
This morning, she was trapped inside a nameless car in the middle of a large church parking lot because she was afraid. It wasn’t the building or even the worship service that concerned her. It was the broken promises. She heard about the promises of life without pain. Promises of justice and fairness. Promises of people who loved and accepted her. And as soon as she stepped outside of her personal domain, onto the pavement, within the visible range of the others, she would be walking right into a painful expectation of those promises once again.
She could still remember the last time. Re-adjusting the seat belt, she pulled it away from her throat as a lump welled up in memory. She had put her heart and soul into a group of people just like these. She gave her time to the activities of the church, she made friends and even attended a Bible study. She was strong and happy, until she wasn’t. There came a time when life beat her a little too hard. Her friends at church didn’t understand. The advice didn’t fix anything, and they all looked more and more like hypocrites. She only heard words of condemnation when she desperately needed comfort. Secretly, she pushed her doubts and questions further away until… broken, ashamed, tired of the fight, she gave up and just stayed home.
This had been a lonely year, though. She could keep herself busy for a while with friends and she could distract herself for a few weekends by leaving town, but something was definitely missing. During the quiet moments, she would reflect on her mundane life, what was it all for? During the upsetting times, she longed for a perspective greater than her own. During the night when she feared her own death, she tried to remember why she shouldn’t worry. And so, when she watched these church people from behind her windshield, they looked like they had a direction and strength. She wanted that.
It was almost time. Still frozen by indecision, she just sat. I’m so stupid, she thought. Why do I care what they think? Coward! Why can’t I take a few steps toward that place? Weak! It shouldn’t be this hard. But the walk to church was too much to bear. In theory, she was so close. A few steps more and she would have been there. But for the lonely girl who was imprisoned in the car, it was still too far away.
“I have had enough, Lord,” [Elijah] said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. (1 Kings 19:4-8)
To my sister in the car I say, the journey is too much for you. Despite what the others say, God often gives us much more than we can handle. Elijah himself, a faithful prophet of God, also sat stunned in the wilderness, overwhelmed with the past steps behind and pathway ahead. I sit here, also trapped, ashamed of my yesterdays and afraid of my future journey.
But a Word from God, touches our ears. He says, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” There is One Who promised you life, He promised you righteousness, He promised a family of forgiveness, He promised to walk from death to life, for you. Gone is the shame of your weak and lame legs that wouldn’t walk in to church. Healed is your crippled journey, by the perfect steps of Another. Restored is your identity, not a lost outsider, but one who is forgiven and fed. Hear Christ’s amazing promise, “Get up and eat, this is my body given for you, for the forgiveness of your sins. The journey is too much for you; so I did it all, instead.”
Strengthened by that Word, she could again walk to church. Raised from death to life, released from prison to sanctuary, she was restored. The painful memories still stung, but she trusted in the promise of forgiveness fed to her. Afraid of the heartbreak that was bound to happen, she clung to the promise of acceptance in the everlasting family of God. Weak and timid, wandering in the wilderness of her everyday, the never-broken promises of Christ still found her.