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New Horizons

Joining a Church

Carol Gohl

I had completed the education classes to join this new church. Meeting with the elders was the next step in the process. I had finally adjusted to the fact that I could sit with the pastor and two ruling elders and profess my faith before them.

Then I learned that there would be four ruling elders, not two. My heart went into panic mode. The way I saw it, I would have to sit in a room with five men, who would judge my credibility as a Christian woman. I had three days to think about this meeting. At work, I talked with several people about it. It was light talk, just words disconnected from my true feelings. We even laughed about it.

When the day came, I kept telling myself, "I know I can do it. I was making too big of a "thing about the whole situation! When I came home from work that day, I was counting the hours—four hours left. In my mind, I was fighting my fears, not even knowing what I was afraid of. I kept telling myself that God was with me, that he always sent his Spirit to me when I needed him. I had nothing to fear! But, as the hours went on, I didn't get stronger—I got weaker. My thoughts were not controlling my feelings. My prayers weren't being answered.

My very "being" was rising to the surface. I was feeling every rejection I had ever felt in the presence of men. My own father had shown no feelings for me. How ugly I must have been that he never even reached out to me! My husband had beaten me down and mocked me, and laughed at me for ten years! I must have deserved it. Now I had to get in my car, drive to church, and face those men!

When I arrived at church, I went in and the door where the meeting was being held was closed. It angered me so much—why was the door closed? So, I decided to sit in the church, near the front, and talk to God for a while. I knew he loved me! He would lift me up—he always did!

"Father," I prayed, "help me pull myself together. I know I'm being foolish about this. I need you, Lord. Please, please help me!" Nothing happened. I had to go and knock on that door. As I walked across the church, I heard all of them laughing inside. My heart cried out, "Father, where are you?" God had left me alone in my fear. I knocked, and no one heard me. I started saying the Lord's Prayer to myself. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name...." I knocked again, and someone opened the door.

"Come in," said a man I had never seen before. He directed me behind the partitioned room to the meeting place. I looked, but was so consumed with fear, I didn't really see everyone. My eyes first found the pastor at the head of the table, and he was smiling. He was the only one who knew me; he was my safe person. But, in my fear, I wasn't sure anymore. I sat at the opposite end of the table, directly facing him. I am sure I was introduced to each one of the elders, but I don't really remember.

The pastor asked me something about my faith, and I didn't have a clue as to what to say. I was gradually focusing on each man in the room. I had seen them in church before, but they all looked different to me in that room, in my fearful state of being. Tauno wasn't arrogant or laughing; he was kind and gentle. Phil wasn't powerful and self-seeking; he was kind, sensitive, and gentle. John wasn't seeking position; he was sincere in his life and faith. Clarence wasn't rule-bound or judgmental; he was a true believer. And the pastor, my safe person, was honest and truly seeking the kingdom of God. I was focusing with my heart and soul, not my mind and eyes.

When it was over, I didn't even know what I had said, but I knew what I felt. As I stood up to leave, they all stood too; I reached in my pocket for the five chocolate valentine hearts I had brought for them. I brought them as a symbol of my heart—which, I knew from experience, they could laugh at, kick, mock, and finally break! But I didn't tell them that. I just said, "Here, these are for you." They accepted it.

I left the room, went to my car, and knew what God had done for me! As I drove home, I was consumed with the joy that one can only know from the Holy Spirit! All I could say was, "My God is an awesome God! Thank you, Lord. You are so good to me!" He didn't leave me alone in that room. He wanted me to see, with my soul, God in them. And I did!

At work the next day, I was on a cloud of joy! When asked how it went, I said, "I met a new breed of men, and I'm calling them Christians!" Two thumbs up was everyone's reaction. Praise God!

Carol Gohl is a member (and the church secretary) of Rockford Springs Community OPC in Rockford Springs, Michigan. Reprinted from New Horizons, February 2000.

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