Seated on a bench in a local piazza, surrounded by a busy traffic circle, the noises of the city and Italian conversations all around, Giulia (name changed for security) encountered God's freedom and grace in a powerful way.
We sat there munching on Roman pizza (let's be real; what else would we be eating?) when the conversation suddenly turned toward the topic of communion.
I must admit, I was a little taken aback when she looked at me and offered, "I haven't taken communion in 17 years."
She proceeded to share that it was 17 years ago that she committed a sin of which she's deeply ashamed and that, since then, has felt that she doesn't qualify to participate in communion, although she's repented and received the Lord's forgiveness on multiple occasions.
I responded by asking her to talk about what communion symbolized. A believer for many years, she knew the meaning behind the wine and bread but somehow felt it didn't apply to her.
As the conversation continued, her face began to visibly reveal her joy upon realizing that she was free and that there was nothing keeping her back from the Lord's Supper. She accepted that communion serves to commemorate how Christ's body was crushed in our place (bread) and remind us that His shed blood cleanses us from all sin (wine). In that moment, everything began to become undone.
She was free. After 17 years of paying a price that had already been paid in full. After 17 years of remaining at an arm's length away from her Heavenly Father. She was free.
Free to claim the blood of Jesus and be made new. Free to come boldly into God's presence and find her place at His table. Free to receive her identity as a beloved daughter, not defined by her past but instead by the tremendous love of Jesus poured out for her.
But the sweetest part of the story?
The very next day was Sunday and it just so happened to be the week that I was asked to help serve the elements of communion at church. Yes, you know where this is going. I had the honor of serving Giulia who eagerly stretched out her hand to take a mini cup of red wine for the first time in 17 years. I will never forget the smile we exchanged as I stood before her, her eyes gleaming with the joy of knowing she's free.
"No sin, no shame,
No past, no pain
Can separate me from Your love
No height, no depth,
No fear, no debt
Can separate me from Your love."
- Unstoppable Love, Kim Walker (Based on Romans 8:38-39)
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses . . . God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross."
- Colossians 2:13-14