Hiding in the Balcony

The expanse of the balcony looked totally empty as it should be until a movement far away caught my eye. A young woman with long blond hair had been sitting alone, her hair hiding her face. She got up and hurried out.

We have a Saturday night worship service at our church and because it is small, we close off the balcony. At the end of worship a few weeks ago I had to go up to talk to our tech people. This is when I spotted the balcony girl.

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Clearly she wanted to see but not be seen. She wore both hope and grief like strong perfume that almost hovered around her in visible clouds.

I tried to catch up to her as she scurried away, but I was too far away, so I prayed.

Maybe she came to grasp at the hem of Jesus’ robe without bothering Him, like the woman who couldn’t stop bleeding.* Did she find something of the healing she was looking for?

Maybe she came on Saturday when there wouldn’t be many people to see her, like the woman coming to the well in the middle of the day, carrying her shame in a water jug.* But Jesus was there at the well, and I pray balcony woman found Jesus here too.

Was she desperate, in a desert place like Hagar?* Did she discover God to be the One who seeks her and sees her no matter what?

Have you ever been that person hiding in the balcony? Or the bathroom at church?

Trying not to cry. Desperate to be in church, but in such pain that it also feels impossible?

I have.

Recently we got a letter from a dear couple who have been faithful volunteers at our church for a few years, but are leaving. Not in anger, but just sadness, because they haven’t felt “seen”.

People aren’t always ready to be found or seen by us. I get that. That’s where I wish I had super Spidey sense (or more Holy Spirit juice) to do or say the most helpful thing, or not say anything . To just hug, or keep my distance and just pray.

We can’t do Jesus’ job. We can’t MAKE others feel loved. But we can pay attention, pray for sensitivity, and as best we can, create a  place that feels safe and embracing – a place where people can encounter the God who always sees them and always loves them, even when we don’t.

I saw this sign from another church that I thought was just brilliant.

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When I look at the encounters with these hurting women in the Bible I see a God who sees, hears, asks questions, and responds, but doesn’t push.

What if the next time you go to worship you scan the pews for a “balcony person” and sit next to them? Maybe all you’ll do is pray for them. Or maybe you’ll feel nudged to do or say more.

*Luke 8:40-48

*John 4:1-26

*Genesis 16

Linking up here today…

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6 Comments

  1. Yes and more yes! Thank you Laura for reminding us to pray and love on the Balcony Girl’s in our life.

  2. Beautiful — I loved reading this and it is such a deep way of serving that we notice and really see those who are “hiding in the balcony.” Thank you Laura!

    • I was just returning home Sunday morning and watched the service on Livestream this week. I was touched by your meaningful and heartfelt prayer!! Thank you for using your gifts!

  3. Thank you for this post. We are currently in the process of finding a new church home because we haven’t felt seen at our home church of nearly 11 years. It is a process of grief and confusion, but we know that God is good all the time…and all the time God is good. I wish somehow our home church knew our experience, but I am not sure even if they did that it would matter.

    • I’m so, so sorry Kristine. I’d really encourage you to reach out to someone on staff and share what your experience has been. Many times we get so caught up in our comfortable communities that we forget to pay attention to those who may be waiting on the periphery. I would hope the church staff would want to know and become more sensitive to those around them who they may be missing.

      I trust that if not at this church, God has a vibrant, welcoming community you can be part of where your gifts will be valued and you will be able to engage and feel cared for. Praying that for you now…

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