Finding Your Way Back
I'm addressing a very specific group in this message. Those who have fallen by the wayside and after a few life events (or naturally maturing) you've decided to get serious about serving God. And not just superficially. I mean you're ready to dive in deep to find your purpose in Christ.
Your journey is incomparable to any other.
Yes, we've all had similar battles and setbacks, but none are identical in timing, place or people involved. You have to stop comparing your journey to others! Not only is it a sure way to shoot your confidence down, but we often compare apples to oranges with out even knowing it! Look for God to work on your individual struggles in His timing. If people still choose to view you a certain way it's because they're stuck focusing on what God hasn't yet done in your life instead of what He already has... and that negative mindset is a burden you should let them carry all by themselves.
You are not who you used to be.
Redemption comes through forgiveness and God has the authority to forgive every trespass if you only ask Him. Why is this so wonderful? Because you can be restored even if others haven't found forgiveness in their hearts towards you. It's painful to think that what you did in the past may still have a major impact on someone else's life, but realize you can only ask for their forgiveness. Whether or not they chose to accept it is now a matter between them and God.
You may still feel dejected at times.
This may seem contrary to the belief that you will be welcomed back blindly and with open arms. That's certainly how God will receive you, but the human reactions might be a bit different. Here's why you shouldn't be afraid of these.
Looking at it from the opposing perspective, you've been off track for a while now. Even if you had friendships in your church (if you are rejoining the same one), realize that much has taken place while you were gone. People have gone through their own transformations and through the same process of growing with God as you will have to. Because of this, there may or may not be some buffering when looking for a small group to connect with. You may still feel a bit distant, but don't let this temporary displacement discourage you. Give that part some time. The important thing is that God had accepted you back fully and unconditionally.
We can be Christ-like, but can never be Christ.
Set your expectations for yourself and others high, but realistically. If you expect to have a perfect experience in the church (or anywhere for that matter) then you're not being honest with yourself. Our goal in life is to mimic the love of Our Father, but we can never match it. Guilt means nothing with out recourse so when (yes 'when') you or someone close to you makes a mistake switch into a solutions-focus as quickly as possible. Ask yourself, "How can I correct my behavior or avoid other behaviors that are spiritually damaging?" That's the only way to remain steadfast in your renewed journey in Christ.
Enjoy your time with God! You're going to pushed into uncharted territory and stretched like never before, but, unlike the challenges you used to try to face on your own, God's yolk is easy and His burden light. Don't let anyone take away from your experience because you are ultimately accountable for your soul... and you've made an excellent choice to put it in His hands again.