Did the title grab you? I thought it would! I really did attend my first ever AA meeting this week and it was amazing. Due to the invitation of a church member, I attended the group which meets on Tuesday nights at Cool Spring for a special occasion – the annual Thanksgiving Celebration. A bunch of people were present as the celebration filled up the Old Fellowship Hall while overflowing into the New Fellowship Hall. The room was alive with conversation as I arrived. People were eating compliments of a classic covered dish dinner. After a few introductions (most by first name only), I walked over to grab a Diet Coke and worked my way to the rear of the room to gain a perspective for the evening. The program began. A man collects a chip for 30 days sobriety and another for 90 days; people applaud and cheer. I thought to myself, God rescued one, and another, and another. A new life – a sober life – was now being lived. There were so many stories in the room with most experiencing God’s rescue. Even though I hardly knew anyone in the room, I was proud of each one for their desire to change, a fresh determination, and a willful perseverance. God was in the process of rewriting stories; new pages penned daily.
I was mesmerized by the transparency of the participants at the celebration that evening. One by one each person stood admitting past faults, claiming new life, sharing tales of thanksgiving, and praising God. An addict stands verbalizing his thankfulness for family as his wife sits by his side celebrating this sobriety moment. Another stands to share his thankfulness for this Thanksgiving and that when Friday comes this will be a holiday he’ll remember. Another stood thanking God for second, third, and tenth chances. A mother stood thankful for her family, especially her children, who were present to support mom in her new sobriety. Fifteen second “thankful” testimonies continued throughout the evening. Each one similar, but each one unique. Lives were changed, families restored, and a verbal appreciation shared for all the little things we so often take for granted. So many in that room had been down and out and were now up and coming.
As I walked out of the Fellowship Hall toward my office to gather things and head home, I couldn’t help but think this was an example of the church at work – this was real ministry. It’s not the clean, neat, and polished stuff we sometimes try to surround ourselves with at church. These were real people, suffering real challenges, and God was at work in each circumstance. Each life that night was touched by another who came along side to journey during a dark life season. I’m thankful for the invite to attend my first AA meeting this week. What a fresh perspective of God’s moving!
“Lord, I know people are struggling, hurting, and trying to escape the grip of bondage. Please, please, please, never let this broken heart heal that I would be cold or indifferent to the struggles of others. May you use me to be balm, light, help, encouragement to the struggling and injured along this journey. Amen”