A Circle of Strangers

By on February 1, 2015 in News & Musings

When Gary handed me that stone, I panicked. Recovery Worship–for those feeling broken. The group was small–maybe thirteen–they sat in a circle. What if I had misunderstood? Was this an AA meeting? My struggle was not alcohol; was I intruding? Was I in the right place? But he handed me that stone and I couldn’t turn and run. And I was feeling broken. My struggle wasn’t alcohol or drugs, but I did feel incredibly weak, incredibly sad, incredibly human. I needed somewhere to be this. To be weak and raw and full of flaws with others who were weak too, with others who knew they needed something much bigger to pull them up.

With others who knew they needed forgiveness more than anything else in the world.

So I took my place in the circle, rubbing my smooth stone, looking around me and wondering where in the world I was. I sat next to Durk, a pastor-in-training, but the other pastor was there too, Meta; she was young and smiling. And the group around me was eclectic. All colors, all genders, all backgrounds, all of us wearing the weakness that had brought us there.

I remember exactly what I was wearing–gray t-shirt, ripped jeans, my hair sloppy and pulled back after a busy day with little boys. It was July or August. Some summer month. We had just moved to Minneapolis and I was lost and aching, floundering, a young mother who was supposed to care daily for her three-year-old and 18 month old little boys, but who was feeling like she could barely care for herself. A sort of darkness in the sunniest month of this new Northern home.

We recited the twelve steps, a creed I had previously thought was meant for alcoholics, but it was for me too. Recovery. It was for me too. And I cried silently through the whole thing. All thirteen looking on, all thirteen seeing my rawness, wondering who was this strange young girl who showed up to cry tonight?

But I did not feel judged. I felt loved. I felt forgiven. I felt saved. By a circle of strangers in the basement of an old church.

So I went home that night and told my husband, “I want to go back. On Sunday. Let’s bring the kids.”

We were Catholic. We were suburban. This small, Lutheran city church in eclectic, transient, diverse Lyndale was out of our comfort zone.

It was exactly where we needed to be.


Our guest blogger, Jill VanHimbergen, is now a mother of three living in Cincinnati. But that evening at Recovery Worship was the beginning of her family’s two year journey with Zion. They are terribly loved and missed – and still part of our community despite the many miles.





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