“Will you go?” her boyfriend asked her. “You really should. You’ll love it and it’ll be good for you.”
“I don’t know,” she responded hesitantly. “There’s going to be a lot of people there.”
“So? It’ll be fine. You’ll see.”
She didn’t know why she found it so hard to be around groups of people. Even going to the same prayer group week after week still caused her to get sweaty-hands-and-stomach-cramps nervous.
“But I don’t know anyone there.”
“You’ll make some new friends. Everyone is really nice.”
“I won’t know what to do.”
“They’ll tell you. The leaders are great. They will take care of you.”
“What if I can’t sleep in that room filled with women?”
“I’ll be praying for you.”
Finally she agreed, and within a week she was signed up and on her way.
The first night was filled with introductions, expectations, and a short teaching. Not too bad, she thought. Even sleeping on her little cot went better than she expected.
The next day was so full of activities and teachings that she barely had time to think about being nervous. Everyone was so friendly and helpful, looking out for her and making sure she was OK. By that night she had begun relaxing and went to sleep full of the presence of God.
The next day brought a time of worship, a last message, and some group discussions. Then it was time for lunch.
While she ate, she marveled at the acceptance she felt from these ladies. No one was judging or criticizing her. No one was expecting her to be any different than what she was. It was even OK for her to be quiet and silent most of the weekend. She was so completely accepted just as she was. She knew after lunch would be the closing session and then it would be time to leave. She didn’t want to leave. She didn’t want to lose the warmth she had experienced all weekend.
A sound brought her out of her thoughts. Music? Where was it coming from? She noticed all the other women had also noticed and were looking around for the source. The music got louder and louder, and now voices could be heard accompanying the melody. Suddenly the door opened and in came a line of men holding lit candles while singing along with the music. And in amongst the men was her boyfriend! They made a ring around the women and sang to them. Most women were crying by then, and she was no exception. Only her tears were on the inside. The men were singing to them! The men were singing to her! She was loved and cherished and valued! She was overwhelmed!
On her way home, she struggled to put her feelings into words, to form a picture of what the weekend had been for her. And then she knew! It was her welcome home party!
That’s exactly what it was, she thought. I left God when I was young, just like the prodigal son in the Bible. Only I wasn’t smart enough to go back home like the son was. The Father had to come find me. We spent the last year walking together along the road back towards His home as He taught me about His love. And now, I’m surrounded by my brothers and sisters – all who love and accept me because He does! This weekend, like the party the father in the Bible threw for his son, was the party my amazing Father threw for me!
And she was grateful that her boyfriend had been right.