There are no words to try and describe this summer. Maybe that is the reason that I have sat down numerous times and attempted to write a catchy and cliché blog about how great it was only to find that by the end of the post, I am just rambling on and on with empty phrases about nothing.
I have been to Africa and back (thank the Lord I was able to spit a couple paragraphs of some worth out about that experience) and to auditoriums where every person sat on the edge of their chairs with tears rolling down their cheeks dreaming of changing the world. I have seen unshakable joy in the faces of men obsessed with Hope and despair in the sunken eyes of children dying of AIDS. I have sat as the disciples did at Jesus’ feet as He spoke to them the greatest sermon ever taught. I have wept and I have laughed and sung and danced. I have been forced to my knees in utter surrender and sprayed hate and confusion in the face of God. I have been shattered. I have been healed. I have been angry. I have been glad. I have lived.
And again I say; there are no words to try and describe this summer. In May I embarked on the journey by starting to memorize the Sermon on the Mount and I was not in any way prepared for the great adventure that awaited me. I started off very slow by trying to hold a couple verses a day but was soon blown away when I learned the Beatitudes and realized the magnitude of how different we are than what Jesus described for His followers to be. “Be poor in spirit,” Jesus said and then I realized how last time I checked, we all thought God would be lucky to have us in Church. He needs us. He needs the United States to make His name known. “well,” I thought, “0 for 1 so far.” Then I moved on to the next verse. “Blessed are those who mourn.” Crap. We suck at that. Actually we do the opposite and love the drama on news about the latest gang fight or news of people dying in an attack somewhere in the Middle East. Slowly but surely I started to see the divide. I moved on to the next and to the next and with every verse, every attribute, I was more broken for us. I was more broken for me, how far away I was. About a month into the quest, I left for Africa and by the time I was memorizing Jesus’ words in the slums of Kampala I finally saw what I had needed to learn all along:
If I am to follow Jesus, I must live in the margins.
I can no longer accept what everyone around me is telling me. It is impossible to follow Jesus and pledge allegiance anywhere else. I was reading things and thinking of things that I had never thought of before. Simple things such as when Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I had always thought the words stopped there. But this summer, I kept reading and found a command that came after, words that change everything. Why do we pray for our enemies? Well according to Jesus it’s to, “pray that they may become sons of your Father who is in Heaven.” Wait. What? It’s not to so that they may die? We’re not supposed to go blow people up? I’m supposed to pray that my enemies become Christ-followers? When the world is telling to pray for the death of Joseph Kony, or Osama bin Laden, I am suppose to be praying that they become my brothers? When did I miss this in Sunday school?
When I landed in the United States after Africa, I was, as you can imagine, so confused that I really couldn’t see straight. Right after that I left for Colorado and was blessed enough to sit under the teaching of Francis Chan and David Platt and was able to watch God’s heart for the Nations be manifest in an unbelievable and beautiful way among His people. I watched Vision, Christ’s Vision, of the Great Commission actually being fulfilled. I saw Jesus take my friend’s hearts in His hand and break them, only to replace them with His. I heard whispers and murmurs of a Revival so much greater than I could have ever imagined. I felt fire.
The whole time, the Spirit kept writing Jesus’ upon my heart. “When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.” “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.” “Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven.” “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Do I need to keep going? Everyday I got up; I was punched in the face harder than the day before.
I went right from Colorado to California and what awaited me was the most life-changing weekend I could have ever prayed for. I walked onto the campus of the University of San Diego and was greeted by 650 maniacs who are in love with the impossible.
This is where it gets hard to explain. Many people have asked me what the Fourth Estate was and why I was involved with Invisible Children even when it’s not a “Christian” organization. I don’t really have a good answer. The best way I can explain it is on the last day of the conference, my heroes and my friends, Jason Russell and Jedidiah Jenkins made everyone stand up. They told us to stand up and look around at the other people in the room, without saying anything. And as I stood up and made eye contact with the other 650 people in that room, the Spirit said very clearly to me, “this is exactly where you are suppose to be.” I cannot adequately describe the emotions that ran through me in those three minutes.
That weekend I was overcome by Jesus placing the most brilliant minds in the world in front of me. I heard ideas and plans on saving lives that I couldn’t even have thought of in my most wildest dreams. We are all here together. We are all humans. We all have a story and my story would not be the same if it weren’t for my brother and my sister who are living theirs in Uganda. We have to help one another.
Okay, I’m stopping there for a second. These words really aren’t cutting it for me. To pull back and try again it’s simply this: I learned to live this summer.
For the first time in my whole life I am willing to be labeled the lunatic for Christ. I am willing to be spat on and talked about and made fun of. This summer I saw that is impossible to live the life Jesus has described in the Sermon of the Mount and still love the things of this world. It’s impossible to live the way He said and not be a lunatic. Even now as I am sitting here in Starbucks in Fayetteville, AR I know that this is my “home” for the next four years but I also know that I won’t be home until I see Jesus face to face, so why do I continually pretend to be content? Why do I continually pretend to be okay with how everything is going around me?
I guess it is summed up pretty well by the story of my plane flight home from San Diego just a few short weeks ago. I sat next to a nice elderly Canadian couple. I began talking to them but didn’t get very far as they made it extremely clear that they didn’t want to be talking to me. So I left them alone and turned to open the Word and spend time with Jesus. In only moments I was in hysterics as I listened and let the words of Psalm 10 and the Sermon on the Mount drive deep into my heart. I can only imagine what this couple was thinking as they sat next to this 18 year old kid that was barefoot, wearing skinny jeans, had long wild hair and was crying like a little girl. As the plane flight wrapped up and we began to land, I initiated conversation again and got the opportunity to tell them about the Fourth Estate and my heart for the Nations and Jesus. The lady asked me, “are you a missionary?” I fumbled around for the words but eventually ended up saying something along the lines of, “I guess so? I just simply wanna love people, you know? No matter if they’re here in America or in Africa.” She looked me deep in the eyes and said, “The world needs more people like you.”
I am willing to be labeled a lunatic because Christ has saved my life and He has given me the grace to live for something so much bigger than myself. If I am to live for Jesus, I must walk in the margins because even Christ Himself said, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
As a writer I cringe looking back over this post, because there is nothing but green staring back at me. Green meaning, little squiggly lines showing me how many grammatical errors I made writing this post. Most of the time, I would change every sentence. But for today, I am okay with my green little friends because I know that some things cannot be explained by the English language and rules sometimes must be broken. The English language cannot give justice to last three months of my life and the raw Love that Jesus showed me, embraced me with, replaced my heart with, and showed me how to love with.