I feel like every time I sit down to blog about a big life experience, I always start out with something along the lines of “there are no words to explain what I have experienced” or something very close to that. I feel like that is a massive cop out and honestly, I’m okay with that. Because the English language can only go so far to express what is so deeply and profoundly engrained into our hearts forever. Truthfully, I don’t know how to adequately explain my semester of being a roadie with Invisible Children. I could try and talk about the world-changing Kony2012 campaign and all the ways that I believe a bunch of rag tag kids changed the world, but I don’t think that would make for a good expression of the last semester for me. (and besides, how many of you would believe me? And does it really matter?) I can only tell you how I believe I fell short and what I learned from those failures. It might be odd but I believe that strength comes from weakness and in the glaring moments of my inadequacy, I learned to overcome (or something along those lines).
I remember the few days after Kony2012 went viral, when we all felt infinite. At last, our hearts and cries had been heard by the world. But that was quickly toppled by a tsunami of criticisms. We dealt with those for a couple of weeks and then just as it seemed like we were going to come out on top, our founder Jason had a meltdown. I remember hearing the news of my friend and feeling my heart shatter into a thousand pieces. Nonetheless, we stayed on tour and I began to grow very bitter towards all of the critics of Kony2012 and what we were doing. My heart grew more and more calloused as one high school kid after another would tell me why they was an expert on the Kony conflict and why we were a scam. I would often stuff my feelings and complain over and over to my team, “why can’t people just do their research? Why is it so hard?”
One morning, about a week or two after we got the news about Jason, I woke early and decided to spend some time with Jesus. I was writing and praying when my weakness hit me. It hit me so hard, that I will truly never be the same. It was as if Jesus opened my eyes and I realized how I’m just like everyone that I had been complaining about.
I’m human. We’re all human and I’m painfully human, at that.
I’ve always known this, or at least I think I have but I’ve never felt it as much as I did that morning. We are all just lost in this huge universe trying to find our way and who am I to get frustrated with people for “not doing their research” on Invisible Children and Kony 2012 when I am the exact same way. I am the first person to hate on TOMS or any other organization that I don’t understand or have heard a rumor or two about their “bad” development (whatever that may mean).
And what I learned is I need grace, desperately. I also need to give it. That is commonly preached in the Church, but never really executed. So how was I suppose to do it when the only way I’ve ever seen grace given was by Jesus Himself? Grace is such a vital and missing piece in our lives. We talk about it and get it tattooed on our wrists in Hebrew, but have we ever really understood it? And that goes for everyone, not just the Church. We are all humans and we all have issues and we need to figure something out about how to give grace. Something. Someway.
Another huge thing I learned was that the world is not the Bible Belt. And that in itself sounds like another “duh, Chris” type thing to say but really. I’ve grown up in Arkansas and even though I’ve been overseas multiple times, all the trips were with a Christian group for Christian reasons. So even that in itself was an extension of the Bible Belt that I have been held in my whole life. Well friends, going to California for a semester (and only 4 and a half months at that) I finally got a glimpse of what life is like without the legalistic grip of religion threating to put a noose around you with one wrong step. And I got to breathe in clean air, with no prejudices and learned new ways of looking at just about everything. I hesitate writing that because I feel like I am opening myself up to some lectures about being careful, but really friends it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It was Jesus giving me the semester of learning to love without expectation and the outside of the lines of what has always fit inside of my “Christianity” and duty.
I can look at my faith now in the terms of “Loving God, Loving People” with nothing else attached. I began to see people in a new light. God tore me apart and let me face adversity for the first time and with that showed me what roll grace needed to play in my life and freed me from the death hold that religion held on me. And when all of it seems to come to a head for me, I retreated to simply being alone with Jesus and praying and reading and seeking Him in the purest way I know or have ever known. And with a result of me being more in love with Jesus than I have ever been in my whole life. I am a recovering legalist and every day falling and being picked back up by Jesus. I am hopelessly falling in love with Him and with people.
The third thing I learned is that decaf coffee serves no purpose. I’ve told that to some people and they have laughed at me, but I’m serious. A huge lesson learned this tour was that there is no point to drink decaf coffee, it does nothing and usually doesn’t taste good either.
I have been home now for about three weeks and have been fumbling over these words ever since the hour I got onto a plane heading out of San Diego. It has been a monstrous task getting back to life here. Thank God for the precious gift of my family and their willingness to hear me screaming my lungs out in frustration and my endless rants of growing up. They are God’s extension of continuing to teach me what grace looks like. I am changing at a rapid pace and my soul is just trying to keep up with my body and my life.
Over all this last semester was perfect. I laughed more than I have ever laughed, cried more than I have ever cried, danced more than I ever danced, and loved more than I have ever loved. It’s just as my friend Lindsey wrote, “what a messy and magnificent season.” I will never be the same because of this journey, but hallelujah that is just the beginning to a constant and ever-growing adventure of falling more and more in love with Jesus and with people.
And I invite you all to join me in this next season of my life as I attempt to document it with stories and poems and tales of a young broken kid learning to dance.
Fayetteville, I'm coming for ya.
Fayetteville, I'm coming for ya.