“I’ve had multiple abortions.”
“I’m an adulterer.”
“I’m a murderer.”
“My marriage is dead.”
One by one, people turned over large pieces of cardboard sprawled with hand-written confessions. These weren’t made-up examples used to make a point in a sermon series. These were real secrets written down by real people in our church last week. People wrote their secrets on a piece of cardboard in a symbolic act of letting go of the burdens of the past and giving up their secrets to God.
Today, we ended a sermon series called, “My Secret.” In the past week since people wrote down their secrets, they were paraphrased and then re-written on larger pieces of cardboard to be used during today’s message. Eleven people walked on stage and stood in a line holding the large pieces of cardboard. One at a time, they flipped over the cardboard to reveal someone’s secret.
As each one was turned over, a message of God’s truth in that situation was displayed on the screen. The messages were assurance of His love, His truth, His redemption. His forgiveness. The promise that “there is no condemnation” (Romans 8:1) regardless of how horrible your secret.
I am part of a team of people who plan each week’s service, so I knew this moment was coming. But as I stood on stage holding one of the cardboard signs, I was not prepared for what I would experience. I was overcome with emotion. As each card was flipped, my heart ached. They weren’t just words on a piece of cardboard. These were the words of real people. Real secrets. Real people sitting in that room. Real people who were brave enough to write it down and hand it over and give it up. Real people making the choice not to let their stories be written by the choices of their past. Real people who were choosing to stop believing the lies that they are worthless or hopeless. Real people ready to embrace God’s truth in their lives.
Our second service of the morning begins at 11 a.m. So by the time the “cardboard confession” moment was happening at the end of service, the weather outside was getting scary. Winds were picking up and the emergency weather service was sending out warnings of tornadoes, thunder storms and flash floods.
We ended service quickly and people rushed to get their kids and get to their cars before the heavy rain and hail started. The dark clouds were ominous overhead. The wind was fast and swirling.
In the next few hours, tornadoes ripped through several communities south of us. We heard of one family that is dear to our church who lost their home and all of their possessions.
A few hours later, we were sitting in the kitchen waiting for the storm to end when all of a sudden an incredibly bright light came beaming through the windows. We ran outside to see what was happening because the light was so intense. A huge double rainbow was spanning the sky. It was a complete rainbow touching the ground on both ends with a second rainbow above it. The bottom rainbow was brighter than any rainbow I had ever seen.
Earlier in the day when we were rushing people out of church to beat the storm, I had wondered why God would cut short such a powerful moment during the second service. But as I thought about the storm, which came and went with such intensity, it felt like a perfect analogy of those secrets written on pieces of cardboard. So powerful and devastating. So intense and life threatening. So harsh and painful.
And then that rainbow. The symbol of His promise to us. So bright. So vivid. So intense. Never failing.