Sometimes the transitions between seasons aren’t as obvious as others. Transitions may come and go in a blink of an eye and we don’t bother to think much about how they might affect the present or the future. And then there are those moments, large landmarks in our life or the lives around us that paint a big picture with a strong underlying theme, “the times are changing.”
This week has been one of these beautiful pieces.
Last night I stared out at the ocean for the third time in the last few months, the sun long consumed, and the sky burning with golden streaks of orange over oncoming night. The crescent moon rose into the sky above those waters and I felt my throat catch - the end of a challenging and worthwhile adventure was coming to a bittersweet close. Early into the morning we spoke of well placed memories and affirmations over each other - marking it as a place to remember how far we had come.
That prior morning I had taken Ben to pre-school for the last time, a summer of whimsy and adventure lies ahead of us, and the ominous change of kindergarten sits there in September. I remember coming into his room as he was reading a book that morning and realized, perhaps for the first time, how very grown up he appeared all of a sudden. He was deep in thought about leaving his safe place - his school - deeply feeling for himself the first major transition he will probably ever remember in his life.
Then there is the new engagements of this week, the wonderous act of God in the union of two dear friends of mine, the dozens of friends that are on their way to Raleigh.There is the fact that a personal season of hard climbing is sitting ahead of me right now - and while I’ve taken the first couple steps up, I look up ahead with a slight hesitation.
Part of me always wonders at these points - why? Why can’t we just stay as we are - everything is so perfect and so beautiful and so good. Why do we have to keep moving forward when everything seems just so right?
Because if we don’t move forward - we will be thrown forward anyway. And these transitions provide us with time to take a beat, to mourn what is ending and changing no matter how great it is, and to rejoice in the excitement of the future. If we weren’t to continue to move forward we would grow stagnant, and boring, and never really get any work done for the kingdom.
Growth would never have to exist - and despite how difficult growth can be at moments, oh how very much worth it is. How great it is to stand at the top of these mountains and yell out into the wilderness, “LOOK! LOOK WHERE WE HAVE COME FROM! LOOK HOW FAR WE HAVE MADE IT BY HIS GRACE! GLORY!”
Saying goodbye is never easy, but staying present until the moment you have to do just that will allow you to soak up every second of memories that you can. Because after that - things will continue to change and the opportunity will never arrive where you can go back to the way things were. So here we are, ushering in a brand new start, and kissing the dear things we love so much goodbye as we are handed the new.
Preface: I’ve been chewing on these words for the past two weeks – praying and asking and waiting for them to form into sentences that were valid and true and not so … well, askew. My brain is always a jumble of messy. It’s why I write, my impromptu articulation isn’t my strength, and if you know me than you know how awkward I can be at moments. It happens, I’ve embraced it long ago. In any case, last night I was sitting with my friend Katie who is leaving for North Carolina within the month (you go, woman!) and she said something that kind of all made it come together. So, Katie, THANK YOU.
Just a reminder that this blog is a personal account of my journey as a woman and a renewed follower of Jesus Christ. Everything said here is open to further conversations if you want – especially now, since the sun has come out and the patios are open around Portland. Much love!
I didn’t become a Christian to become one who is “saved” as they say in churchy lingo these days. When I walked in the doors of a church, finally with more intentions than that of a tourist, I could have cared less about my salvation. My choices, including the one to leave the Church body completely a decade prior, were a reflection of that. No, when I walked in that night I was at the very bottom of bottoms for myself – I was in desperate search of something more hopeful and loving that what had left the gaping cavity in my soul.
My story is full of deep twists and turns, dozens of ups and downs – and if there is one thing - with the utmost honesty - that pushed me further from faith during early adulthood - those who were on mission to “save” as many people as they could through activities that included: picketing abortion clinics, evangelizing fire and brimstone on my college campus (I can’t even tell you how many times I was told I would burn in hell), or the dozens up on dozens of situations where my friends were abused, ridiculed, and even beat for their sexual preferences. All mind you, “in the name of Jesus.”
There were lots of reasons I didn’t intend to ever again join up with a community laced with that sort of “love.” But the selfish intentions of Christains to force their beliefs on me and try to “save me” was the headliner.
Since then, as I’m obviously back as a passionate follower of Christ, it has been, and continues to be, a long journey of forgiving, forgetting, and rebuilding my relationships all the while struggling with trust. Maybe I opened up more over time, but God absolutely started to soften my heart, and it really wasn’t until 2010 that I started to see and feel the grace filled love of Jesus through Christians that had infiltrated my life. They respected me, loved me, and listened to me and all my doubts and questions. And more than anything, they saw me – they even empathized with the concerns of my heart over all of it.
A year and a half and six more countries later, I found myself enveloped in the Holy Spirit during a service one Sunday night. Five months later – after being consumed by the love of God through this community – I surrendered to His pursuit of me and was baptized. And I didn’t go under the waters just to make sure my salvation was in place – it was first an act of pure gratitude for the healing that He had begun in my broken spirit; and also because I wanted His love to consume my entire being so then I could show others as well. I wanted to love people the way I had been loved – the rest I accepted, and continue to accept humbly, as a gift I don’t deserve.
And yet, I’d be lying if I said I don’t cringe every time someone speaks in terms such as, “saving this person or this group of people.” Because here is the truth: You nor I can save anyone. Period – end of sentence – no ifs, ands, or buts.
Jesus saves people.
Of course He tells us to share the gospel with our lips and make disciples of all the nations – this is biblically sound. But if one is to live their entire life walking with Jesus, simply working day in and day out to see how many people they can tally off as “lead to Jesus by ME” - well, then I guess they are just missing the point. Salvation is absolutely an incredible thing, this perfect gift that our Creator gave to us by dying the most intense, brutal, shameful death – and thus covering all our sins. YES – there is no question about this. But it isn’t, and never will be, OUR gift to give to people. And God, Yahweh, Mighty Creator over all will not love you any more or any less if you are part of one person’s story in coming to His Son or thousands. His love is equal for all of His children and His Kingdom – His Kingdom that is for absolutely everyone.
Jesus came to be the sacrificial lamb that would cover all of our iniquities. But He also came and lived a life for 30+ years to show us what the Kingdom looks like. He lived humbly, not screaming out at the top of His lungs that He was who they had all been waiting for – no, He moved quietly and gave all glory to His Father. He pushed boundaries and defied the laws. He ate with the weird ones and the misfits – the ones everyone else had called unworthy, and never cursed them for the way they had been living. He spoke to them out of pure love and forgave them – even in the end as they taunted Him upon the hill. His life is the ultimate example for us.
And when He died and rose – that tore the veil between us and Yahweh, our Father. It opened a gateway so that we may have the utmost of personal relationships with Him and in turn, we empty ourselves out so that His Holy Spirit can fill us up and the abounding love and faithfulness and grace of God can overflow from our lives. We live so that He may use us to bring the Kingdom. We live so that we may reflect the true image of our patient, kind, just, incredible God.
My friend, Josh, taught a few days ago and preached - if we live a selfless, humble, unconditional loving life people will be more willing to hear you because you have no personal agenda (paraphrase mine). No personal agenda. No agenda to “save” them. No agenda to preach at them on how they should or shouldn’t be living their lives. No agenda to check another one off for your “How Many People I’ve Saved” list.
Can you think about how the outside world would look at Christians if we were more like that? If we (yes, me too) put our egos to the side and lived to serve?
There are so many branches and denominations and variations of Christian churches. But Jesus remains at the center – and He wants you to know more than anything that He loves you with a pure passionate love laced with forgiveness and grace – and He will love you right where you are at … even in your state of question, doubts, or unbelief. That’s the type of God He is. All selfless – everything for His children.
And I? I work for the Kingdom. I work to spread love and light and justice – all to glorify my Father. It’s not for me, I don’t want to save you, I don’t want to bring you to Christ. I want you to come to Christ on your own and experience His love the way I have – but until that moment I’m going to love and respect you just as I always have – belief differences aside. Because that’s who I was made to be – a pure reflection of my Creator with a heart for His Kingdom and His people.
How great our world would be if we remembered that we were saved to bring the Kingdom, and thus should focus on Kingdom work and let our Savior do the saving.