Leading up to Grace Church's 25th Anniversary, we are counting down the days by posting 25 blog posts in 25 days by 25 authors (well, 24... Dave wrote twice)! The post below is one of these posts. Need tickets to the 25th Anniversary celebration at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on September 11, 2016? Get tickets here: gracechurch.us/25. Want more 25th Anniversary blog posts by awesome authors? Check this out!
BY CATHY FOLEY, VICE CHAIRWOMAN OF ELDER BOARD
After 21 years of worshiping, connecting and growing as a Christ follower, I feel it is an honor to share what God has done in me through Grace Church. Hebrews 12:1 says, Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith." You, Grace are my cloud of witnesses.
Faith. I came to Grace with a mere mustard seed of faith. I was broken in the aftermath of a divorce after 17 years of marriage. Sadness, shame, guilt, even mild depression were wracking my soul. I sat alone grieving the losses and seeking anonymity. For most of my adult life I had sought Christian community. Now, most of those "friends" turned from me, struggling with their own unanswered questions about broken marriage within the church. So I sought God, hoping to find Him in a church that didn't know me or my past. I visited several churches before coming to Grace. I heard what a dynamic and energized community of believers it was so I was both intrigued and hesitant. Once there, I heard a different kind of message based on the Word. I heard that I could have faith even in my brokenness. I heard these truths through worship songs, testimonies, and sermons. I also experienced a new kind of community, one where there was a lack of condemnation. It felt new and strange, but very welcomed by my spirit. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1
Slowly, I began to heal. Over time I was moved to get involved, meet others, and contribute to the body. I was afraid of being rejected for faith in Jesus and divorce was not consistent with the Word of God. However, I learned that my sin had been paid for and that the God I believed in wanted to use me. Me? Why? "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12: 3. As my spirit lifted, I began to volunteer as a small group leader for my son's fifth grade class. I got involved in women's ministry first as a learner, later as a leader. My faith in Jesus continued to grow as I experienced meeting other attenders and the wonderful staff who led the church. Over the past 21 years, I have served in many areas of Grace, and God has met me at every turn, growing and stretching my mustard seed of faith. Two years ago when I was asked to pray about serving on the Governing Board of Elders I was astonished. Me? Why me? Who, me? Have you ever asked yourself this question? Immediately I asked our Father, "Is this something you want me to do now?" Was He not aware of my busy calendar? Besides, I was not equipped for this! However, humbly I agreed to participate in the review process. I wanted to be transparent so that the leadership team would know all about me, my struggles and my past. At the same time, I was afraid that I would be rejected for my sins.
Instead of rejection, I found tremendous Love. Not only had the Lord forgiven me, but this body of godly men and women who call Grace their church home had also forgiven me. They lived what they believed! They heard my story of brokenness, not just the dissolution of my first marriage but also the story of a ten year estrangement from a beloved son, my battle with breast cancer, bringing my daughter back from the brink of death as she struggled with a severe eating disorder. What I have learned is that the body of Christ can't fix our individual pain but the community of the faithful can love each other deeply to allow God to do the healing. This love was so big, so amazing, so powerful that it showed me that full surrender meant giving back to the church, the community who not only loved me but who I loved in return.
Grace. This is not just the name of my church but it is the mysterious, unexplainable gift from God that He pours out on His people. In my healing I have learned how to humbly accept this gift from Him. I learned to let it fill my spirit. And as I have opened myself to the power of God's grace, I have learned to let it overflow into others in my life. Only at Grace, my church home can I say I have been completely challenged, accepted, and loved. My prayer is that as you grow, heal and connect, you too will find faith, love and grace within this amazing community called Grace Church.