taking the words of Jesus seriously


To the woman who was sitting two pews back from me in church on Sunday, June 7, 2015,


Thank you for handing me those tissues. By the time I had gotten myself together, connected with my kids after Sunday school and washed down my plate of fried chicken, green beans, and potato salad with a cup of cold sweet tea, I looked for you and you were gone. I have gone to your church often enough that I don’t have to stand with the visitors, but I still haven’t really gotten to know many people yet. I’ll be back next Sunday to thank you in person, but I wanted to let you know what a blessing that little act of kindness was to me.


You did not ask me why I was crying or tell me that everything would be okay, and I thank you for that. You just gave me what I needed. My purse was crammed with keys, phone, sunglasses, hair rubber bands, band aids, water bottle, a rubber ball, scraps of paper, a plastic fork, a datebook and a pen, but no tissues. In all my years of being a mom, I try my best to be prepared, but I often come up short.


And there I was, all alone, with my glasses fogging up and my nose dripping on my Sunday clothes. I had a whole pew to myself. My husband had stayed home with my younger kids that day and the older two had gone downstairs for Sunday school. The pastor said something about nailing his own sins to the cross every day. He said something about not wanting to be a stumbling block in anyone’s faith journey. His words touched a ten year old wound which I thought had healed. There it was again, pushing out those saltwater tears. We all carry them, those trespasses we thought we had forgiven, those places that still need healing, those long held griefs for ourselves and for others.


Perhaps you could have come up to me later and listened to what bubbled to the surface. Should I have described the years of injury that a pastors’ year of unfaithfulness and narcissism caused to a congregation I served? Should I have told you about the woman who finds it hard to pray and does not go to church anymore because her pastor raped her when she was twelve? Should I have told you how good it felt to hear a leader acknowledge that no sin is ever private; that our faith is strengthened in the presence of faithfulness?


You were two rows behind me but you saw me take off my glasses, wipe my cheeks, sniff. You reached across that empty space and tapped me on my shoulder. Those two tissues, like angel wings, came just when I needed them. I’m sure you’re no angel and neither am I, but you were at worship with your eyes open, and that is a gift. It made me think of that old gospel hymn:


Amazing grace shall always be my song of praise,
for it was grace that brought my liberty;
I do not know just why He came to love me so,
He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.


I shall forever life mine eyes to Calvary,
to view the cross where Jesus died for me,
how marvelous the grace that caught my falling soul;
He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.


So many folks don’t even bother with church anymore. They just can’t see Jesus in that room full of broken people. Their wounds are so deep and sometimes just being in church opens them up again. But, if I had just stayed home and found a good sermon to listen to online, I would have missed the blessing that came that morning. There was healing that came through the words in the pastor’s sermon, but your act of comfort will bring me back in those doors. Distracted as I often am with squirming kids and endless lists I’m going to try to remember to get a pack of tissues for my purse and keep my eyes open. I may not be able to lend a listening ear, but I could hand over a tissue, and by God’s grace that just might be what a sister needs.


About The Author


Josina Guess clings stubbornly to the Church and to the belief that God is making something beautiful from our broken worlds. She lives with her husband and their four children at Jubilee Partners, a Christian service community in northeast Georgia that offers hospitality to recently arrived refugees. Josina serves on the Board of Directors of Koinonia Farm in Americus, GA.

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