BY ANGELA LURTON, GRACE ATTENDER
Me...I was a church bus kid. My sisters and I sat by the window every Sunday morning anxiously waiting for the bus to pull in our driveway. An hour or two of unconditional love from people who knew our struggles. We lived for it.
Our parents started out very active in the church we grew up in. Things went downhill after their divorce and my mom continued to struggle with prescription medications. She was in a true opioid crisis. She struggled so much that she began selling drugs out of our home as a business. I couldn’t have friends over. My house was the drug house. But every week, the church bus came without fail. If the doors to the church were open I was there. My sister and I even went to the mother-daughter banquet. Our mother wasn’t there. No one blinked an eye. We received a few sympathetic hugs but we soaked it up. Yes, we were embarrassed, but if the church was open that meant we were safe and fed. The church treated us like we were meant to be there. I felt like my presence was a blessing to them rather than a bother. I felt like we belonged there no matter what they knew about our parents or how badly we smelled of smoke.
We attended every youth event (and even other meetings we had no business being at). We were never turned away. In fact, our youth minister ended up becoming our foster parent and eventually obtaining full custody. He and his wife took my sister and I both in so we could stay together and not get separated. My foster parents were good about loving people wholly. I came from a very small community where people of other cultures and racial backgrounds were not welcome. That always felt very wrong to me. They reassured me my feelings were correct that it's not ok to think that way and that church was my safe place to come and pursue those instincts and just be myself. They really encouraged memorizing scripture. I never knew how much it would come back to me regularly when I went home and felt unloved. That was truly part of my 'saving grace.' For me, it was so important to hear scriptures and songs in repetition. To this day I cannot remember what I had for lunch but can quote scripture for reference when needed.
We moved to Fishers in 2002 from California. My husband is from Fishers. We had friends and family that went to a different church, but we were trying to find our own way. That’s when we found Grace. What we liked at Grace is we could go at our own pace. We ended up having 4 kids in 4 years and took in our nephew during that time too. We wanted a church with lots of resources and were not overwhelmed with the chaos that is the Lurton family. We are a very energetic creative group of misfits. We have tried out several different ministry avenues in our 15 years there and lots of small groups, but the great thing is that it never runs out. Try another, try something different, try out this group, try this one. If this one doesn't fit here's another one. If that doesn't fit your stage of life...try another. It's endless. There is a fit for every single person.
I also love the sermons that keep us engaged and pursuing the Kingdom in whole new ways. We experience it ourselves, but so do our children. Their leaders each have a different story, a different experience. All unique. Each one has a new way of helping us get through raising 4 sons. The legacy of addiction ends with me and this church is helping my kids understand that we are their parents, but God is their eternal father.
When we moved from California we decided that we were not going to live in the Christian bubble socially anymore. That's been great, but how in the world do I answer the questions people outside the bubble have if I don't seek counsel from those in my church and stayed engaged? Just like Tony Compolo says...we should follow Jesus without embarrassing God. I would majorly screw this up without help. Truth is, I sometimes still do, but I just go back and try again and try again and try again until my day is up.
If you find the right church, you have a group of people reminding you that you don't have the right to hold on to things you shouldn't. You can't afford to. There's too much at stake. And...you have people like Tim Ayres telling you why it's important and why it's relevant today. Digging deeper than our minds can comprehend, into stories we've heard over and over possibly our whole lives. If we don't have that then the Bible can become just a bunch of parables that aren't really relevant and ones we can't relate to today. We really need to hear the big fish story at a deeper level. We just do. We can begin to tell ourselves Jesus was part of an ancient book full of stories that may or may not be true and begin to believe the media and mainstream culture. We can tell ourselves "Jesus didn't have school shooters and terrorists and people hurting people just to make the news" I would tell them come and see how relevant these stories truly are to your life. Come and find out how the apostles got through it then, and how do we do it today.
I wish everyone knew is that church is not like the Wizard of Oz. There’s nothing ‘magical’ about the building or the people in it. A loving church doesn't care where you've come from or what you've done. They care about the stirring inside you. They push you to ask deeper questions. Until a person knows who they are and who's they are, they can be so greatly disappointed by what the world hands them. The world just cannot fill that void no matter how wonderful your childhood is. The world will try, but every time it's so temporary and the void just comes back. Once you reconcile your relationship with your heavenly father, the church seeks to push you to a greater understanding of his love for you. It's not enough to know that God created you. Even humans can create people. The church reminds you He takes great delight in you. For a child living in a drug home with very little to eat you don't really feel like much of anyone takes delight in you let alone rejoices over you. Once you feel loved at that level then you will begin to feel the stirring of the soul that the Bible speaks about. It's not magical... it's necessary. It gives you the strength to overcome, strength to persevere, strength to do the right thing when all you really want to do is what's easy because you are so, so tired.
One last thing...my whole life I've had an addicted mother and an abusive stepfather. I'm not sure I really truly knew my mom. Our childhood was a mess with those she surrounded us with. Setting boundaries as an adult has been a necessity. I identified myself as an overcomer with a mother who was horrible to my siblings and I. I have trained my children based on this childhood. (Everyone is a Comer. You then choose to be a "BeComer", An "OverComer" or "Succumber". It's your choice, but the road will look very different down each one.) This month that journey ended. My mom lost her battle after an accidental overdose and passed away the beginning of January. No funeral, no one around. Sad way to end. True healing came after women's bible study a few weeks ago. We were talking about the prodigal son. I have heard that story my whole life and was actually kind of bummed to do it again. That study and proceeding lesson was life-changing for me when they played "Come To The Table". I've also heard that song lots of times and seen it in concert. This day was different. I was completely overwhelmed with the conviction that after everything my mother had done, she was now at the feet of her father where she was completely healed. Her seat was equal to mine at the table. She is now healed of addiction and all the lifelong manipulations. I had already forgiven her, but a weight had been lifted. She is no longer behind me, beneath me or the prodigal daughter and I the GOOD daughter. Her seat is secure and I can't wait to see her again someday. THAT is something that would have NEVER happened had it not been for my church. I belong to so many groups in our community, but none could help me heal like my church. SHOW UP. God will do the rest.