He is ten months sober. A few days ago, he sat across the table, across cups of coffee and talks of plans, ventures, dreams - all of which impossible only a year ago. In recounting his journey to this day and his steps into tomorrow, he expressed thankfulness for the community and friendships of those who gather at the support group Alcoholics Anonymous. Those who sit next to him there can celebrate his sobriety with him in a way that those outside cannot - as ones who know the very struggle, who have seen the pit, who have cried out and despaired, who have lost everything. They live alongside and cheer him on as those who have also tasted that bitter hell but are being saved. What a gift is found in the true understanding offered by others who have personally faced what we’re facing.
And I can’t stop thinking about how this is also true of the Church.
The snares of death encompassed me;
The pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O, Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”
This is the history of every member of the Church. We share in having been lost and enslaved, in having been strangled by the very grip of hell. We share in having cried out to the Lord, at different points in our lives and in different ways, but with a cry all the same: Deliver me!
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
Our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
When I was brought low, he saved me.
He saved me. He saved me! I was dying, I was in agony, I was desperate - and He saved me! This is the story of every follower of Christ. We gather together to celebrate and sing, “He has delivered us! Like you, I was chained in that awful pit, suffocating, and dying. But isn’t He gracious? Isn’t he merciful to have lifted us up? To have rescued us?”
Yet sometimes in our broken humanity, we don’t remember how the pit of death felt, so we forget the beauty of the rescue. Or maybe we feel the agony of a different pit - the pit of our affliction in this broken world.
Church, we need each other. We need to meet with our support group to regularly remind each other how it felt or to read the words of Psalm 116 together which give voice to our circumstances and pain. We need to circle up to retell our story:
[He has] delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
My feet from stumbling.
And to encourage one another when we feel new anguish in this fallen world:
Return, O soul, to your rest;
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
God in His grace has saved us. And in His grace upon grace, He has given us each other. We are a band of sinners and strugglers from every tribe and tongue whose unifying bond is our song: Jesus saves! May we gather to remember our common pit and celebrate our extraordinary rescue. To spur each other on in thankfulness. To confess our failings and pick each other up when we fall. To walk the long, difficult, and sometimes agonizing road of faith and faithfulness in abounding joy together.
That we may be the most broken but beautiful support group this world has ever known.