Sunday, August 22, 2010

Solitute 2

I drove three hours to a spot that I found on the internet. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going, but I came prepared with fishing gear. I arrived very annoyed because in my three hour car ride, it felt like everyone managed to call or text me and so I didn’t end up with any quiet on the way up. At the lake, there was a sign that said this was an eagle nesting spot. I thought that was pretty neat so I told God that it would be cool if I saw one. I started walking to find a spot but I was still frustrated because I had wanted to go fishing but now I was overloaded with supplies and I was getting eaten alive by bugs. That was when God smiled. He sent a hummingbird to entertain me. I love hummingbirds, they are my second favorite animal. They are so cute and the flit and buzz and they just make me smile. I thanked God for that. As I kept walking along the lake, there was a boat off to my right with passengers that were staring in my direction. I looked back when I realized they were looking over me. They whisper shouted to me that there was an eagle over my head. Sure enough, a baby eagle was in the tree above me! I tried to take a picture but it flew away before I got the chance. God said to me, “I love you. This is our moment, it wasn’t to be shared.”  Again, I thanked him and kept moving so as not to be eaten. I was so excited. I found a spot to set my stuff down, but I kept walking around briskly because the bugs wouldn’t leave me alone. This began to annoy me because I felt like this was a very symbolic time. I am out in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do, and still I am walking quickly. The bugs were a symbol of my busy mind that wasn’t giving me peace and rest.  I was frustrated and wanted to sit down, relax, enjoy fishing, and be able to just soak in God. So, I went back to my car, changed into jeans, coated myself in bugspray and went back. A silly little chipmunk was throwing acorns at me. As I sat down to fish, a huge male eagle skimmed across the water and caught a fish. I was so overwhelmed with God’s love, because he let me see two eagles, just because he can! 

The next day, I went to fish at the dock. I can't remember the last time I successfully fished from shore. I told God it would be cool if I could catch a fish today. I caught three. Nearby, a baby eagle sat watching me and I was convinced he was going to try and steal one of my fish. To be honest, I would have given it to him… I read 1 Corinthians. Later, I saw another male eagle flying and it had a snake in its claws. I watched it eat it! Like I'm not joking. It sat on a tree branch on a tree across the water from me, tore off a piece of snake, cocked it's head back and did that gulp-head-bob thing that birds do because they don't have teeth. That was the best thing ever. I knew God really loved me right then. 

After that, I guess I decided I was done. I wanted to come back and journal and solidify the things I had learned, heard, and felt. I was reading 2 Corinthians 3 when I came upon the verse about, “Our adequacy is from God.” and that challenged me a lot. I don’t allow people to speak into my life and I put myself in positions to do it for other people. I guess I am trying to cover up my insecurities about being competent. I know I am skilled and capable, but I fear that I don’t have value sometimes. I realized that God won’t ask me to do more than I can and in him I am actually adequate. As I roll into my job as an RA this year, I know that I am capable and equipped to do what God has set before me and I know that I am adequate because God is good.


At the beginning of the summer, I assumed that I would leave the  Saturday after my internship ended. The closer I got to that date, the harder it became to think about leaving. Elizabeth also put a little pressure on me to stick around a couple days and I wanted to spend more time with my host family. I realized that there was going to be a gap of time between the end of my internship and school starting. It dawned on me that this would be the last time that I would be responsibility free in my life. After I get married, even if I check out for a few days to be alone, I’ll still be responsible for my wife. I began to feel a nagging thought that I should take a few days to spend time alone. The idea itself annoys me because I like people and being around them. Not being with people feels like choosing to stand in the desert in the middle of the day for no good reason. Why should I subject myself to agony and torture? I have friends, I am a pretty cool guy, why should I choose to be alone? But, I knew that God placed it on my heart to spend a few days alone and I know better than to ignore his calling. It is a 13 hour drive from GA to WI and I set aside 4-5 days to do it. 

I began the first leg of the drive in the late afternoon. I wanted to formally start my solitude so I pulled over at the first place that got my attention; a state park. Upon getting to the gate I realized there was a parking fee and I didn’t feel like paying it so I pulled into a drive to turn around, but it t wasn’t large enough to do a u-turn, so I followed until it ended in a cemetery. I figured God knew that I was going to end up here so I parked and got out. The first set of thoughts were the obvious ones about the brevity of life, priorities, what matters most, the point of my year, the big scheme of things, and so on. As I continued to walk around I began to notice all the graves with couples. Each man’s grave had a date that was about ten years before the women’s dates. I began to think about what I wanted to leave Elizabeth with so that she could eventually move on. Still on my walk, I came across a grave with a married couple who had the wife die in childbirth. I couldn’t imagine anything worse... a series of worst case scenarios began to flood my mind. I started to wonder what would keep me faithful to God if the worst things I could possibly imagine came true. I was pretty annoyed at God for hitting me quickly as I started this journey of solitude. I left that cemetery full of questions and with no real answers. So, I read Matthew.

I headed for Nashville, and was able to connect with Elizabeth’s brother Ben. He was gracious and invited me to a concert with him at RocketTown. A scream-o band playing was named "This Is Hell."  I agreed. Outside, we ran into one of his friends. This guy was covered in tattoos, had gages in his ears, and was smoking a pipe. But when he heard Ben was traveling to New York for a show and I was on my way to WI, he asked if he could pray for our traveling safety. (Talk about judging a book by its cover, I was blown away.) After that, Ben, his friend Ryan, and I went to Qdoba to eat. We chatted awhile about life, love, and fathers and then we parted ways. I don’t know if my time spent with him was particularly meaningful, but I know that sometimes in life, it is just nice to have people around. I drove a little ways outside of Nashville before I parked at a rest stop to sleep for the night. 

 The following day, I drove a couple hours to Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I think it was a real town because I found a Starbucks and I spent the day there. My agenda for the day was to read Romans. By the time I had gotten to Ch. 3, I had already forgot all the great stuff from the first couple chapters so I changed my approach. I went back and began to journal about what I was reading. I came to the overwhelming realization that Romans is an awesome book. I don’t know if I ever really understood before all the treasure that Romans has to offer. The neat thing was, all the questions that I had asked in the cemetery were starting to be answered. Of course there were things there that I already knew, the obvious things. But a lot of what it was was head knowledge turning into heart knowledge. Like the verse about the Spirit testifying with my spirit, totally true!  I think I fell in love with the gospel as I read Romans. Not kidding. I saw Paul wrestle with all these issues and yet, he was free because in the end, God is the one who enacts, maintains, and upholds everything. The fear of falling away isn’t on me because He is holding me to himself. And, I know he will continue to. It was a very freeing moment to me. It was in that all those answers came. The thoughts about what mattered most, what I needed to invest in, and the big scheme of things, etc. all fell away. The answer is, of course, not an epiphany, but also it was an epiphany. The Gospel. I want to help Christians strip off the garbage that clouds their vision and help them ask the question, “What is getting in the way of loving the gospel?” Paul was correcting  and coaching them so that they could appreciate the gospel. I discovered that what I want to leave Elizabeth is a love for the gospel. A legacy where the stability comes from Him, not me. A love that for Him that feeds my love for her. I guess when I realize that everything else is outside of ourselves and we become expendable to his plan, it is easier to follow. I felt so free and not afraid. The other main thing I took away from Romans was that we are to identify with Christ more than just feeling or thinking like him. We aren’t just trying to put ourselves in his shoes. It is way more mystical that that. I realized we are to allow him to be our life. In a sense, I am to be him. His life is my life. It is a much stronger connection that what I thought. 

Tired from so much spirituality, I headed to taco bell before turning in for the night. On the way, my best friend called me and told me he was coming to stay at my house on his way to Chicago and wanted me to be there. I decided that I could do that, so I got up the next morning, read Mark, and drove home. It was interesting to read that Gospel on the other side of all my realizations about God from Romans. Everytime Jesus spoke, I was like, “wow!”

When Alex arrived at my house, I spent time with him, played games, hung out, and when he left on Sunday, so did I. 

Winding Up

I had been downtown the entire week before and sort of lost touch with what was happening back at the church. I was even excluded from the weekly team email. I assumed I wouldn’t have to work that Sunday evening because I hadn’t been a part of any of the planning. During church that morning, however, Emily texted, asking me to help. I was in another town with Michael and Grammy, so I just about to eat lunch, so I couldn't, but I told her I'd get over there as soon as I could. They took me to Chicago’s for lunch which was ironically humorous to me in Atlanta, but it was enjoyable. After that, I headed over to North Point to help set up for the ice cream thank you party for the leaders of the beach trip. Thus beginning my process of closure of the summer. I heard many small group leaders share of their experiences and how great they thought the event was and that was so affirming to all the planning that I had helped with. For instance, one mom attempted to register her son after registration was closed. Their family was going through a really tough time, so Kevin put extra effort into getting him in. He asked for favors, and did a bunch of extra work himself. This student was a problem all week-- misbehaving and sneaking off. The last night, however, he stood up to receive Christ. He wants to stay involved at North Point. One voluntary leader signed on to be a permanent leader after falling in love with the students she was with. For me, all my students still text me on Sundays asking if I am coming. I sat in on small group that Sunday. It was so cool to see the students at church after having them for the week at camp. That first night, the small group leaders didn't follow-up on what had happened during camp, and that shocked me. That's what I was so excited about being back at church together. So after small group the three of us talked about all the things that had happened at camp, and how they could follow-up with their students. I think their group will continue being awesome.

I spent one more week at North Point after the Mission trip, and it was kind of weird. After getting used to the fast paced environment that I been a part of all summer, I felt like it came to an abrupt halt. Monday was weird. Everyone was lethargic and chill and no one was running around planning things. Monday was Clay’s last day, he was headed off to Dallas Theological Seminary to continue working on his doctorate. Him saying goodbyes, filled the air with a somber mood. After that everyone was pretending that they weren’t saying goodbye on Thursday. It was just a weird week. I had already begun to detach through the mission trip knowing it was the last thing on the agenda and the thank you party on Sunday. I was ready to move on and think ahead towards the coming semester. It was almost funny to see everyone ignoring the imminent detachment. 

At the all staff meeting, we shared our experiences from the summer. It was a neat time and they even applauded for us at the end. I was excited about that because I’m pretty sure that Andy looked at me during that time.