twentybydesign

the life and times of a twenty year old designer

Afflictions Eclipsed by Glory

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I wrote this about three weeks ago, and was hesitant to post it because I didn’t want to paint a post-mountaintop  experience of a rosy euphoria that didn’t last. My intent tonight was to go back and edit it, but I didn’t want to lose any of the raw joy in attempting to bring everything up to speed.  So. Here’s how it’s been. One month ago I was just arriving in New Mexico, unaware of the love that week would bring into my life. Today I’m writing to you strengthened, encouraged, and excited for a future that’s brighter than any I could have imagined. I’ll be writing soon about the past month, but I’d like to send this out as a teaser. Or maybe it’s the main point. Either way. Get excited. Because what’s best about this story is that it isn’t at all about me. It’s about Him.

Who is this man?

“Hey! How was your spring break?” Hmm. Never had to think harder about how to answer this question. The most succinct answer? Jesus changed my heart and taught me what it means to live in His love for me and for his people. In the right context, this could spark an incredible discussion of faith. But most people don’t talk like that, and good news is hard to declare, especially if you believe it’s got anything to do with Jesus.

Any mention of Jesus is enough to quickly silence a roomful of close friends, or spur them to heated debate. I’ve often wondered just how much these people know of Jesus, and how much of their firmly held opinions and convictions are based on what they have been told by other people. In diving in to an intensive study of the book of Mark this week, I came to the realization that many of us meet Jesus in an odd way. We believe as true what people say about Him rather than looking for ourselves to see who He is.

In manuscripting (dissecting and studying) the first half of the book of Mark at the rate of about 15-30 verses per two hour session, my new friends and I learned a valuable lesson.

He loves us.

This is the love we spend our whole life searching for. It is a love which is constant and unfailing.  A love which pursues relentlessly, working in new and surprising ways, some of which we’ll never understand. A love which calls us out of our lonely, self absorbed shells into a family and community unlike any other. A love which breaks the bonds of old traditions and calls us into a new kingdom. A love which is perhaps best described in song.

I’d like to thank John Mark McMillan for writing these incredible, passionate lyrics.

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, And I realise just how beautiful You are, And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so, Oh how He loves us, How He loves us all Yeah, He loves us, Whoa! how He loves us, Whoa! how He loves us, Whoa! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize, Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes, If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss, And my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,When I think about, the way…

This love eclipses all afflictions, and passionately overwhelms doubt and regret. It is for us all. Each and every one of us. We’ve got to use poetry and music to express it because there’s often no other way. This is who we are and where we were all made to be. This is the fulfillment of every desire and want and ache. Check out https://twentybydesign.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/new-music-monday/ for another piece of music that expresses the journey into powerful love.

I’m looking at everything differently now, standing in this light. Skepticism is being weeded out and replaced by truth. Because this is so true. All of it. It is so real and so fresh and so passionate and so intimate. Often we are caught up in familiarity and miss the incredible beauty and truth behind the stories. What goes on between God and man within the human heart is almost impossible to describe. But it is absolutely and completely beautiful.

So. Who does that make me?

I’ve been finding my identity the same way I’ve been attempting to find out about Jesus – in the words and actions of others. Isn’t that true for all of us? We look to our friends, peers, and mentors for affirmation. Our spirits are crushed when relationships fail, our beliefs wither if they are not supported by our friends, our hearts are cast down by the constant reminders from the world that we are simply not good enough.

I’ve never felt part of a community. I’ve never felt free to fully be myself in an extended family. I’ve partitioned off parts of my identity and given them to individuals, only accessing them through those friendships and struggling to find myself. I took this self-centered, partitioned and separated heart with me for a week. And halfway through the week, it broke down. The most powerful story I can tell you is one that two weeks ago I wouldn’t have believed. I’m always the first one to say “God doesn’t really work like that. He works the ways I’ve seen Him work, and that’s it.” Oh, how wrong I was. Here’s the story.

Fifteen students and three young staff workers from two Colorado university campuses sit around a large square table, studying the story of a woman who had been unclean for twelve years, and who was healed by faith in reaching out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and in telling the whole truth. The leader, struck by the value of telling the whole truth in healing, proceeds to share with the group a personal story of struggle and healing, the likes of which is rarely shared in even the most intimate of circles. He then asks if anyone else wants to tell the whole truth about anything. A few minutes of silence pass, and a quiet, reserved young man begins to speak, sharing a similarly intimate tale of struggle for healing. He finishes, and as one the group rises, goes to him, and lays hands on him and prays. They return to their seats, and a young woman begins to share the struggles of her heart.

From eight in the evening until two in the morning, this group of near-strangers continues to share parts of their heart they had felt compelled to keep hidden, and praying for each other in their struggles. Frequent opportunities to leave the group and go to bed are rejected, no one leaves until everyone who wants to share has been heard. In the midst of sharing so much pain, the overwhelming feeling in the room is not one of despair, but of hope, love, and acceptance. When the community reconvenes in the morning, having shared the secrets they’ve held out of fear of being ostracized, what they find is not increased distance, but increased community. A family. God’s family.

Finding this community was more than I could have hoped for. But God wasn’t done there. Because a day and a half later, I met Him. I can’t describe it. But I finally understood. Faith has been primarily intellectual for me because I’m so afraid to open up my heart. But when I stopped talking and arguing and finally listened, He showed up. And in that moment, I absolutely knew, with all of my heart, that I was loved beyond measure, and that God would never stop working to build a new kingdom in my life. If you’ve had this experience, you’ll recognize it, and if you haven’t my prayer for you is that one day you will. I’d been trying for years to follow Him without letting Him all the way into my heart. And what I learned that day is that the only way to find peace is to let Him in. All. The. Way.

This community, this family, this love, is more than I could have ever expected from a conference. I retreat into myself at conferences, attempting to find the lessons God has for me without any of the messy business of dealing with other people. In sharing things I’d thought no one would ever understand and being met with a profound and suprising love, I’ve been pushed to live into it. I’ve since spent long hours in unfamiliar communities, more focused on how to best serve others than on what I needed out of the situation.

My mind is still plagued by doubt and fear. In that sense I’m no different than I was before. But in those moments of doubt, I have a previously unknowable hope. I have a love which meets me in the darkness and acknowledges my fear, but does not condemn me to stay there. A love which has not diminished since returing to school, but is sustained and growing. It’s hard to tell this story as a transformation, because in trying to access the dark places, the depths to which I’ve sunk in the last few months, I find that they’re no longer there. I look at journal entries from a mere month ago and, while I can recognize those feelings and remember those moments, they no longer feel like a part of me. In short. I’m free.

A brief acknowledgement to all the skeptics out there. It has never been my natural inclination to believe friends who return from conferences claiming life-changing encounters with Jesus. Let me tell you, from a heart that knows the depths of cynicism, that what happened was more real to me than anything I’ve ever experienced. I met Jesus in a way I’d only ever read about. This stuff is real. This has not been the work of a moment, nor can it be solely attributed to one powerful night. God’s been preparing me to enter into His love and His community for a long time. It’s exciting to look at the road behind me as a promise that the road ahead will be equally challenging and marked by a passionate push towards His love.

I could write books about how powerful the last few weeks have been. Perhaps the current state of my heart can best be summed up by a comment from a friend a week or so ago. We hadn’t seen each other since before Mark Camp. She simply looked at me and said “You are full of joy” Yes. Yes I am. It’s the happiest I’ve ever been.

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Written by Taylor Webster

April 12, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Posted in Life of the Spirit

3 Responses

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  1. Hey Taylor,

    I opened up Sigur Rós in a separate window and listened to that while I read this entry. God made your words and the journey of the song sync up powerfully. That story of that specific night brought me to tears. You rock.

    Sincerely,
    Royal

    Royal Langer

    April 12, 2011 at 10:46 pm

  2. Taylor,

    I really felt the need to just worship this morning before leaving for the soup kitchen so I went straight to your blog and was listening through songs you have posted – including this one. That you for being such an incredible support sister.

    Joanna

    delmurofronterizo

    September 14, 2011 at 8:50 am

    • Joanna – Thank you for bringing me back here today as well. It’s funny how easily we forget what He’s taught us. I needed to come back and read about how beautifully He’s worked in and through me in the past. Here’s to many more days where we are stopped in our tracks and called back into worship.
      ❤ Taylor

      twentybydesign

      September 15, 2011 at 12:04 am


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