I wound my way up
my parents’ steep, mountain driveway in western North Carolina, unsure if I
would be welcomed or rejected. I was broken by the choices I had made. Stubborn
and willful, I had followed my own path, and now I would have to face the
consequences. I had caused pain for my children and loved ones. I feared I had
embarrassed my parents. It seemed I had wrecked my world. The shame was almost
I had driven sixteen hours from South Florida, stopping to pick up my youngest daughter at boarding school, and now I was tired and anxious. The familiarity of my childhood environs did little to subdue my fears. The February mountain air was crisp and clean. The bare trees—maple, poplar, and oak—lining the drive up to my parents’ house afforded a view this time of year, but I was too absorbed to notice.
What would my life be like now? I had gone against everyone’s advice. My family had warned me. They had tried to stop me. But I had not listened. I needed to do what was best for me, I had told them. And now my life was a shambles. I was a failure in my own eyes and certainly would be in the eyes of others when they learned what “Billy Graham’s daughter” had done. I feared I had humiliated those I held dearest. How would I be able to face them?
Driving up the mountain, my fears multiplied. Adrenaline kept my foot on the gas. I felt my hands grip the steering wheel. My mind was spinning. I tried to remember my mother’s insistent tone from our phone conversation a few days earlier: “Come home,” she had urged. I was desperate when I called her. I told her of my mistake and was trying to piece together a plan when she interjected with the voice of a loving, protective parent. But how would she and my father respond when they saw me? What would they say to me? Would they say, “You’ve made your bed; now lie in it”? Would they condemn me? Would they reject me? Despise me? They had every right.
As I rounded the last bend in the driveway, Daddy came into view. He was standing in the paved area where visitors usually park. Rolling the car to a stop, I took a deep breath and prepared to greet my father. I turned off the ignition, opened the car door, and stepped onto the driveway. Then I looked up— Daddy was already at my side. Before I could say a word, he took me into his arms and said, “Welcome home.”
IS THERE A BROKEN HEART IN YOUR PEW? I know what it’s like to sit in the pew with a broken heart. For years I sat in church with my fears, doubts, and disappointments, thinking I was alone in my condition. Those around me seemed to have it all together. They looked so “spiritual.” Did they not struggle as I did? Was I the only one whose dreams had fallen to pieces? Was I the only one who had blown it? Was I the only one depressed and feeling beyond hope? To protect myself and to fit in, I masked my shortcomings and dared not whisper my failures. I worked hard to create the impression that my life was neat and orderly. I knew the posture and language well—and I carried it off. Few knew or guessed the truth. But I was miserable.
Perhaps you too have walked this tightrope. You are hurting. Something in your life is causing you great distress and unspeakable pain. But you cover it over with a smile. Perhaps you are depressed or feel inadequate, unable to cope with life. Perhaps you have been rejected by someone close to you. Maybe your spouse has walked out. Maybe your child has run away from home. Maybe you are lonely or struggling with an addiction. Overwhelmed, you want to scream. You need to scream. But it is a silent scream. Because you are afraid to let anyone know the depth of your pain.
Have you experienced this kind of pressure? Are you experiencing it now? Are you broken and worried you have nowhere safe to open your heart? Do you fear you may never recover from the blows life has dealt you? Is it hard for you to imagine being normal again? Are you saddled with shame and guilt, or resentment and anger? Have you lost hope?
Let us walk together through these pages and find healing and comfort in the arms of a God who will never reject us. God will not abandon you. He is not like the people who have failed you. He never throws up his hands and walks away. He never quits loving. I would not compare my father with God, but on that February day in our driveway, my dad offered me exactly what God offers us. God stands with his arms wide open, waiting to renew us in his embrace. When we come to him broken, with our fears multiplied and more questions than answers, God wraps his arms around us and says, “Welcome home.”
Do you know someone who is broken? Do you want to help? Perhaps you recognize that living among you right now are people hiding deep wounds. You may be sitting unaware in church week after week with suffering people, even as friends and acquaintances sat beside me while I smiled and behaved as though I didn’t have a care in the world. If your desire is to help, then let us explore ways to create safe places in which our wounded neighbors, friends, and loved ones can express themselves. Like my father, you might become the welcoming arms of God to the broken person in your pew. Let us hope so— let us pray it may be so. For this is what we were made to be: God’s arms of love, both as individuals and as the church. Scripture says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).