Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Questions and Answers

       I will never forget the night I first talked to George.  It was early in the semester, on a Sunday night around 1 A.M., so I guess it would have technically been Monday morning, then.  I was doing my laundry and decided that while I was waiting for it to be done, I might as well take advantage of the waiting and study for an upcoming geology quiz.  But instead of sitting in the laundry room, I relocated to the room across the basement with all of the vending machines, on account of two abnormally loud chatty girls.  It’s funny how small changes like this can be so vital in how your life plays out.  So there I am sitting on the floor, listening to Andrew Belle when George walks carrying Jimmy Johns.  I only slightly knew George and that was only because he lived three doors down from me on my hall.  He got to the vending machine and punched the buttons to get his drink.  When he turned around, he spotted me immediately and greeted me warmly.  See the thing about George is that he’s genuinely and authentically friendly.  I don’t know many people like that, so when I greeted me as he did, I was almost taken aback.  Nonetheless, I returned the favor immediately, greatly anticipating his sincere hello.  It was the normal dialogue, you know, the “how are you?” “good man, how are you?” and so on and so forth, however with George, that kind of talk is always different than with other people, it’s bona fide, it’s meaningful.  Even as the semester spanned out, even these small “catch-up” talks with George meant more to me than the majority of other conversations I would have with people.  But that night, instead of saying the usual, hello goodbye, he sat down next to me on the floor in the basement of Humphreys.  What followed was a talk that really did set the course for the rest of my semester, possibly leading me to where I am now with taking the spring semester off to tour with Invisible Children.
            In the hour or so that followed, George and I began to pick away at the monotonous questions that most people ask while talking for the first real.  Before either of us knew it we were talking about why we were at the UofA and I was telling him about my bout with my ankle years ago that allowed Jesus to finally get a grip on my life.  We talked about how there must be a reason for everything and why we didn’t really believe in coincidences.  And somehow we started to talk about the questions we had with life, with the world, with why things are the way they are and so on and so forth.  I remember him clearly saying, “you know, Chris, I guess there are just many questions to be answered and many answers to be questioned.”  We talked about how every morning when we get up, we are faced with a day full of questions that are begging to be answered and on the same page, so many answers that are waiting to be questioned. 
            That talk not only set in motion motivation for the rest of the semester, it also gave me a friend in George and because of getting to know George, I also got to know and come to deeply love the rest of the guys on my hall.
            A couple of nights before I packed up and left Fayetteville for the year, my friend Connor asked me, “so, was it worth it? Was this semester worth it?”  And as I look back over my four months, I relive moments of great triumph, like the night I met George, and great sorrow, like the night we heard that Westboro would picket Garrett Uekman’s funeral.  I vividly recall the first week of school when I awkwardly walked around campus in a freshman gaze, staring wide-eyed at every new adventure around every turn.  This semester was full of long hours in the library, mindlessly studying Geology and others in that same chair, full of dancing as Steinbeck’s words of Salina’s Valley and ‘timshel’ rang a new symphony for humanity in my soul.   It was also a couple months of learning to love people.  Until this year I could easily escape the eyes of everyone by simply retreating to my house in the middle of the woods and shutting my door to the world… but not this year. I had no choice but to embrace everyone at any time of the day and finally let my little perfect Christian bubble be popped.  I got to witness people throwing their lives away and others gaining them.  I was blessed enough to meet and learn from laborers who were giving up everything to share Christ with students around them.  I experienced healing and community in the Church in a way that I never thought would be possible.  My heart’s desire for the Nations to know Christ grew as my heart for individuals grew as well.  So much so that when I would sit and study or read, I would look over and see someone studying who looked unhappy and before I knew it, I was getting emotional over this person I didn’t know.  Maybe I just sound like a baby?  But I’m okay with that, because I honestly think that this semester was the time in my life when I learned to feel and to feel deeply, at that.  I gained and I lost, I laughed and I cried.  I walked and I ran, and I danced.  And then I danced some more.  But more than anything, I learned to question and to seek answers.  Every single day of this last four months has held something different for me; whether that was attempting with all of my might to share the Gospel with everyone I talked to in some way, shape, or form or having to discipline myself to not wait to study until the night before a big test.  But as I saw what it meant to answer questions, I saw in the same paintbrush stroke, my restlessness. I had to move.  I needed to move. 
            For far too long, I have stayed in the same place, going through the motions.  I have been in Arkansas for too long.  Although I have been growing and learning, by the grace of God, I came face to face with the truth that it is time for me to move and roam and to answer some questions that I couldn’t ever hope to answer by staying in Fayetteville.  So God opened up the opportunity to be a roadie with Invisible Children and to travel the country and to tell thousands and thousands of students about injustice in the world. 
            The night before my friend George left school, we sat in the 6th floor study room and went back over our previous semester.  We reminisced about the first time we talked in the basement of Humphreys many months before and went over our experiences since.  It’s funny to see how much someone can grow up in four months.   We talked for a while and finally came to the topic of me leaving for my adventure with IC.  He sat musing and with a smile remarked, “This semester your desk was the University of Arkansas, but next semester your desk is the youth of America. What are you going to do with it?”  The words hit me right in the chest, because I hadn’t even thought about it like that.  “Can’t wait to hear about the questions you answer and the answers you question,” he went on to say and left my head spinning with excitement for the journey I had ahead of me.  The night went on and the conversation turned spiritual, leaving me talking about being in front of Jesus one day, being in front of my Soul’s Desire.  And that’s when he said, “I guess that’s when the world’s biggest question will be answered.”  And he’s right.  When I’m in front of Jesus, everything will make sense and everything will be answered.  All of my questions about injustice and hell and everything in between will be set right, and I will finally be satisfied.  But until then, I will pursue the mountains, seeking to know Christ and to make Him known.  To answer and to question.   To love and to hurt.  To grow and learn.
            So was this semester worth it?  Yes. Undoubtedly yes.

Friday, December 9, 2011

with liberty bound together,

            I remember so clearly that moment when I was standing in the IDP camp in Gulu, Uganda when I had the thought, the thought that would define the course of my life.  I remember the exact place I was standing, what I was wearing, what I was holding when I thought it. 
“I have to do something. I can’t just let it all happen anymore.”
My heart hasn’t forgotten that hot and humid day in June and when I returned back to the States, Jesus immediately let me start pursuing justice and hence, fulfilling the promise I made to myself.  It’s humorous to look back now and wallow over the memories of when my friend Luke first told me about Invisible Children.  He was so excited and kept saying how we needed to help, needed to show the film, and so on and so forth.  Well, I finally bought into his dream after returning from Uganda for the first time and started working with others, putting on benefit concerts to raise money for this non-profit that was working tirelessly to end the longest running war in Africa.  As the years went on and I returned back to Africa again, my heart became more and more bonded to the cause and this last summer I was invited to attend the Fourth Estate; a justice conference held by Invisible Children in San Diego.  Over those four days I sat and listened to the world’s most passionate activists and caught the infectious dream of a world alive with peace.  Jesus did something to my heart sitting in the auditorium of USD and even now as I try to adequately describe it all with words, I find myself at a loss.  It was deep and profound, so much so that when I was on the plane flight home, I wrote in my journal that I felt more alive than I ever had in my whole life. 
When I started to follow Jesus with my whole life, He gave me a heart to tell everyone about Him.  A desire to see people come to know Him, but He also gave me a desperate plea for justice.  My vision and my heart’s eternal and final cry is for the Great Commission to be fulfilled and hopefully, by the grace of God, I will be able to help serve that dream come true by going to reach the unreached soon.  But for this moment, He has placed me in Fayetteville, Arkansas to glorify Him.  And my earnest prayer is that this last semester, I was able to do just that.  I’ve met some incredible people and been able to invest in phenomenal relationships.  He has blessed me with the most amazing group of guys to call my family, d-wing in Humphreys hall and some other friends who have there to laugh with me, cry with me, pray with me, and live with me.  I have fallen in love with this campus and the wonderful human beings who walk next to me. A group of monumental world changers who aren’t afraid to dance on Dickson in banana suits and who are willing to risk everything just so children in Uganda, who they have never met, may have a chance to live.  I have learned so much about what it means to love and to live astonished. 
A couple of months ago the idea of being a roadie with Invisible Children crept into my mind and wouldn’t leave.  A roadie is someone who goes on tour, in a van, around the United States showing an Invisible Children film at different high schools and colleges to not only raise awareness but let people get involved.  My life has been so deeply affected by these roadies and I knew that if I were one then I would have the chance to radically challenge the youth of America to see that the world is bigger than them, that the world is bigger than America.  Being a roadie is a unique position where you can do justice day in and day out.  So I applied.
This last month I have been in prayer and others have been praying for me on whether or not I should go be a roadie with Invisible Children or stay here in Fayetteville.  I can honestly say that from the beginning of the process I have had a strange and divine peace about the entire thing.  Throughout all of the interviews and even the phone call telling me whether I was going to be a roadie or not, I had no anxiety.   I knew that if Jesus wanted me to stay here in Fayetteville next semester and continue to labor with the specific people I have come to love, then I would indeed stay here.  I also knew that if He wanted me to travel and be a roadie, then I would go. 
Next week when all of the students from the University of Arkansas leave for Christmas break, I will be moving out of my dorm for the year.  I will be preparing to leave Arkansas and arrive in San Diego January 9th to begin this new chapter in my life of being a roadie with Invisible Children. 
My heart is torn.  Since I found out and have started to tell people, it has been an almost painful thing walking throughout campus and thinking I won’t be here in the Spring.  It has been astronomically hard to walk up and down my dorm hallway and know that I won’t be here to deepen my friendship with those guys even further.  I don’t really understand the timing of it all but to give a little background, I am planning to study Arabic here at the University and once I start, I cannot take a break.  So if I were to stay here and start Arabic then I wouldn’t be able to be a roadie with Invisible Children until I graduate and I am very prayerful that by that time, the Lord will have given me the green light to go to the unreached.  So the fact that this was my one chance and the fact that I got accepted is Jesus saying as clear as day to me that it’s time to go.  It time to jump. 
It’s time to leave and travel and learn to love and learn to follow and to grow even further in my understanding of what it means to dance in joy and sorrow.  I will be able to share my plea for justice with thousands of students and try with all of my might to let them catch the dream of our liberty being bound with the liberty of children in Uganda, of the man in the slums of Mumbai, and the widow in Beijing. 
My heart is full and ready to go, to follow Jesus where He has me going and to experience Him in a way that I never have before.  To pursue justice and tell everyone about the Grace that has found me and given me breath.  I am at last, risking the ocean.

 with liberty bound together,