I have been sharing my thoughts with you in this column for a few years now. Mostly I write about things I’m learning about people or God ... or how I see God in people.

Without fail, I hear from some of you: “Thank you for sharing, I feel less alone now.” And every time I hear that, I’m glad I was vulnerable with you.

Being alone seems to be easy when times are good. And when times are hectic, I long for solitude and silence. When my kids were little, I was known to hide in the bathroom with a book for an inordinate amount of time and seriously considered changing my name from “mom” to just about anything else. But in the midst of struggle and turmoil, being alone seems to magnify my troubles and worries like shadow puppets on the wall. My mind wanders and frets and self-soothing seems to be unattainable.

I’m in a space of time in my life that is unexpected and hard. As a somewhat introverted person, my inclination is to retreat and isolate myself. And that’s not entirely a bad thing. Jesus was known to leave his band of 12 and be alone with his thoughts and his God.

I have been a churchgoer my whole life, and it would seem like I might find solace on a Sunday morning in the familiar sanctuary with like-minded believers. However, this has not been my experience. Most Sunday morning services are not designed for this. Worship and instruction are what most structured church services are about.

Sunday morning is still valuable to me ... but it’s not where I find healing. And I’m beginning to find “church” in a lot of unexpected places.

More than easy answers, more than superficial platitudes, more than anything ... I want to feel not alone in my struggle. I want to be heard and known and loved.

I think that’s what we all want. We don’t necessarily want to be fixed, we want to be found. Found by a few friends and family members who aren’t afraid of messy situations. Found by a few people who have walked the same road. Found by a God who sees all the parts of us that we don’t want to see ourselves.

In this time, my healing has come from shared stories and shared meals. It has come from a friend who has walked this same road and is farther down it than me. It has come from someone who listens without judgment and loves unconditionally. And it has come from a God who loves me more than I could ever love myself.

Author and researcher Brené Brown says, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Find someone safe and tell your story. The whole thing. And be that safe person for someone else. Maybe the joy will come from finding each other and fixing nothing.

Maybe that’s where church happens. Maybe in the midst of being with a friend, you’ll find God ... or he’ll find you. Either way ...

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Jennifer Chetelat, the assistant director of World Horizons USA and owner/artist of Carved in Mud Pottery, lives in Midlothian. She can be reached at jennifer.chetelat@gmail.com.

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