twentybydesign

the life and times of a twenty year old designer

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Dwelling Place

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New post over at Appalachian Ginger for those who haven’t transitioned over yet!

This one is on making a dwelling place, and has a lovely but of poetic flow.

Thanks for joining the journey!

http://t.co/79zQNsulzO

Written by Taylor Webster

October 12, 2014 at 7:03 am

New Blog!

with 2 comments

It’s that time in life! I’ve just moved to Eastern Kentucky and have started a blog to share stories from my time here as a long-term volunteer.

Feel free to check it out over at
http://www.appalachianginger.wordpress.com

I may be posting here with less frequency, so if you want to keep up with stories that’ll be the place.

Thank you all for your support!

Written by Taylor Webster

September 1, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

carpenter’s gospel

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This is the story of a table. It was nearing the end of another summer week. And we had been building this table for probably, I don’t know, a week and a half.

And I was Done. D.O.N.E. DONE. When my boss pulled out the sander and asked me to go over it a third time, I just about gave up.

For context: The table was probably the  most complicated thing we built all summer. The top was 3′ x 8′, the legs and lid were each only 3″ thick, there were no center supports, and a person (possibly several) needed to be able to stand on it. It had to be a level surface on a raked stage. It needed to look like the entire thing was carved from a block of solid marble. And it had to be lightweight enough that a respectable team of human beings could move it into place. And somehow, this complicated carpentry project taught me about God’s love in a way that was pure, tangible, and real. This is the story of a table.


Our TD had designed a brilliant structure of interlocking supports, which was light and strong and took about three times as much prep and layout work as anything we usually build.  The skin was triple-glued in place, and instead of our usual RockHard wood putty, we filled all the staples with Bondo. Which. Is usually used to repair dents in automobiles. This is legit stuff. 

We are built strong. Our composition is no mere happenstance – we are the result of careful planning, and every part of us is designed to fit together perfectly. We are not haphazardly nailed together with the cheapest materials available. Each piece of us is lovingly prepared to serve as part of a greater whole. And with the greatest attention to detail, we are built to be strong enough to support much more than we would appear to be capable of.

No matter how tight and clean our carpentry is, we use staples to ensure the strength of  even on the most neatly interlocking pieces. In order to attach the pieces together, we used a pneumatic staple gun, which ensures a firm bond, but also leaves a tiny scar on the surface. We had a couple hundred staple indentations on the face of this table, and each one was covered with a small glob of a repair putty that is designed to dry strong as steel. 

Scars are part of our composition. The layout and carpentry can be modeled after a perfect and strong design, but the fasteners we use to hold ourselves together often leave scars we’d rather not acknowledge. Our souls are covered in tiny wounds where we have attempted in vain to attach ourselves back together. We are convinced that these marks are of no great significance, and that we can carry on just fine as we are. God takes a different approach. No matter how small the scar, He applies balm to our wounds. Using the strongest, most permanent reconstructive adhesives, He applies more than we need, providing abundance where we had only known deficiency.


And then comes the sanding. The first, roughest pass is simply to remove all of the lumps of Bondo that stand above the smooth surface. This can take several discs of 60 grit sandpaper, the kind designed for aggressive removal. For us, this part took the better part of an afternoon.

After he has healed the wounds on the surface, great and small, acknowledged and ignored, there is still work to be done. We cannot simply say “Well, the holes are filled, I’ll thank you for your time and leave it at that!” There are leftovers, pieces we no longer need, remnants from our healing that our now extraneous. No one leaves a bandage on a would that has been long healed – and yet, somehow we are tempted to hold on to these bandages as proof of our healing, rather than allow the roughness of the sandpaper to liberate us from the memories of our wounds.

I thought, “Well, that’s smooth enough. Dinner time!” But my boss smiled, pulled out the 100 grain sandpaper, and told me we were going to go over it again, for finishing’s sake. 

It is not enough to take the quickest, roughest approach. The minute we consider ourselves finished, we are choosing to distance ourselves from God’s work in our lives. We are far too often tempted to give up. To say that we have learned enough, that we have recieved enough love and grace, that we are healed enough, that we are close enough to that glorious marble table we’ve been built to become. In doing so we sell ourselves short, and rob God of his power in calling us into his family as new creations, healed and whole.

Even as I had reached the end of my rope and nearly worked through my patience, I patted myself on the back for completing the finishing. Well. I thought it was complete. Turns out, there are imperfections the first round of finish sanding doesn’t pick up. It then becomes necessary to go over the piece with a damp cloth to raise up the grain of the wood, and finish sand it again with an even finer grain of sandpaper. So I went over the table. Again

The metaphor came to me as I was nearing the end of the last round of sanding, and it was so beautiful I nearly burst into tears. I don’t often hear direct phrases from God. But this time, between passes with the disc sander, I heard quite clearly “Aren’t you glad this is how I have chosen to work on you?”

It’s true. It’s so, so true.  The prophet and savior who spent his formative years as a carpenter knew how to finish tables to the highest standard. And he is committed to going over us again and again, no matter how many times it takes, carefully raising the grain we didn’t even know was there, and gently sanding off the rougher bits, until we are left with a surface that  bears no blemish. Our deepest wounds, the places which required the most Bondo to fill, are now the strongest parts. 
The beauty of the sanding process is that whether you start off with a hunk of driftwood or a 2×4 from the lumberyard, both will require sanding to become smooth as marble. And whether we are a storm-tossed log or a nearly-finished piece of lumber, God will go over our hearts again, and again, and again until His work in us is complete. I asked a co-worker if it was really necessary to raise the grain and do a last pass with the sander. He said “Right now, you’ve got it pretty smooth. If you raise the grain and go over again, it’ll be like glass.” Here’s to never settling for pretty smooth, and to believing in the one that will make us shine like stars.

In the paint shop, several layers of patient faux marble treatment combined with a few good coats of glossy sealer finished off a table that, under stage lights, is indistinguishable from a smooth marble countertop. 

The final step of the transformation is one we were not able to affect without a bit of theatre magic. But I believe that in this story, though our highest ambition on Earth may indeed be to become a beautiful facsimile of a marble countertop, we will one day be pure and clean, finished and whole. We will know why we were built strong. We will see our imperfections fully healed. We will know why it was worth so much effort to continue the work of finishing us. And we will be perfect images of the One in whose image we are made. This may be the story of a table. But it is also the story of us.

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Hallelujah. And Amen.

Written by Taylor Webster

August 28, 2013 at 8:44 pm

wind and breath

with 2 comments

This afternoon I spent some lovely hours in the afternoon sun, praying, reading, seeking, and resting. I wrote a journal entry that began to sound increasingly share-able as I went on, so I’m giving it a shot at publication. I have a tendency to over edit myself, so it’s a nice change of pace to throw out something I wrote in one shot on paper. I thought about trying to explain it a bit, but my hope is that it speaks for itself. Thoughts and responses and lengthy discourses always appreciated. Much love to all. 

I have been reticent to draw close, for fear my inadequacies will provoke reprimand and I will be punished with greater distance. I am clinging to coattails when I have been offered a full robe. And as I finally begin to draw from the Presence, bringing all the frustrations and baggage and fears and failures that threaten to overwhelm human relationship, I find loving acknowledgement that overwhelms condemnation. A voice that says “I know. Oh my child, I know. This isn’t what I intended. Let me help you begin to seek restoration.”

My first train of thought this afternoon followed the wind. The wind is always with us, and we draw upon it hundreds of times an hour for support and sustenance. And yet. We are often barely aware of its presence, and are rarely inclined to acknowledge the subtle yet vital currents which support each breath of sustaining life. We are thankful for a cool breeze on a hot day, for the moderate, predictable comfort when our air is conditional, fanned, and controlled. We do our best to override nature and create comfortable rhythms. But the great strength and power of the wind is its ability to provide ever-present sustenance and at the same time be utterly surprising.

Working in small, unnoticeable ways, the wind carries pollen, creates habitable environment, brings rain, cloud, providence so subtle to our eyes that it appears coincidence. And yet, we are most aware of the wind when it is forceful, erratic, unexpected, and disruptive. We often only recognize its power when it becomes impossible to act otherwise. We remember dustbowls and hurricanes, yet our thanks for the less violent and more valuable moments is rooted more in expectation than gratitude. The lessons we learn in the maelstrom dissipate into adages of placation and fears of disruption. We cling to the drama and passion of the tempests, never realizing that even in storms of our own making a gentle breath of sustenance draws itself in and out of the center of our body, whether we wish it to or not.

This is truth, pure goodness. For I am never abandoned. Every minute of every day, just as my body unconsciously accepts the gift of breath, so my soul cries out to accept and recognize the gift of Presence. This gift demands a response. It is foolish to see a storm coming and not batten down the hatches, it is impossible to have one’s hair unruffled by breeze or escape the blessing fo seasons, and it is illogical to breathe in without breathing out. How we respond to the wind’s rhythms, both erratic and predictable, is crucial  In breathing out we expel all the fullness that has been gifted to our lungs, trusting implicitly that there will be sufficient oxygen to sustain the next breath. We cannot selfishly hold on to our breath, as though it was ever ours at all. For a moment we are left weak, so that we may receive again the grace of being filled. 

 

Written by Taylor Webster

September 30, 2012 at 9:15 pm

soaked in all the grace that we’ve been given (letter for my friends)

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I have a lot of writing that I need to do for me right now. Memories I need to process, options I need to synthesize, stories that have just begun, and stories that are nearly concluded. . As I’m wading through this time of transition and seeking to process so much for myself, what keeps coming to the forefront of my thoughts is that I’m not who I want to be talking about right now.

I want to be talking about you.

Because right now I want you to hear that I am so proud of you.

Your bravery in seeking what is right in the face of heart-wrenching pain.
Your passion for justice and equality in your workplace, ministry, and home.
Your willingness to step outside of the comfort zones of introversion and extroversion.
Your love for the people who are different from you.
Your courage to ask the hard questions and take unpopular stances.
Your joy in being pursued and recieving love in new ways.
Your humility in asking for help when the way is unclear.
Your remarkable growth since we’ve met.
Your extension of love and friendship, which has challenged and encouraged me beyond what you’ll ever be able to see or feel or know

 

My friend, I love you so much. Know that all of these qualities are reflections of God’s heart and his love, shining through you and illuminating the corners of darkness in this world. You may not see the beauty right now in what you’re doing, the ways in which you are encouraging and inspiring and making a difference. You may be trapped in comparisons, in thinking of all the ways in which you’re not like the people you perceive as strong and brave and talented. You may feel lost, hopeless, emotionally disconnected.

I cannot promise you an easy way out of those places, nor write words that will take away your pain. What I can say is that in the midst of brokenness, death, disappointment, inadequacy, and fear, you are loved.

You are loved.

You are loved by the one who set the stars in motion and knows how many blades of grass there are in the field. You are loved by the one who has known you completely and fully from the moment of your formation, and whose desire to be with you is not dependent on what you have done, but rather on who you are. You are loved by the one who took on human form and suffered in the most extreme, undeserved way, just to be with you.

And who you are, right now, is enough for Him to begin working in you and through you. You don’t have to be effective or efficient or outspoken or smart or strong or talented in any particular way to change someone’s life. You are already important, significant, powerful, blessedly unique, and called into a beautifully loving relationship.

Your story is worth telling. Your heart is worth sharing. I began this post wanting to write your stories, but there are too many from too many of you for me to be able to do them justice in one shot. May I encourage you, in response to the incredible grace we’ve been given, to take your stories and use them to encourage others. Share with those who are going through something you’ve been through, and share with those with whom you seem to have nothing in common.

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.

There is an accuser who speaks lies into our hearts. Often these lies dominate our hearts and twist how we see ourselves and others. But the accuser is not the most powerful. These lies of self-perception are overcome by the beauty of God’s sacrifice and by the power of our testimony to each other. Allow grace to wash over you. Embrace how beautiful you truly are in light of this love. And share the beauty of who you are, in light of the grace and faith you’ve been given, to overcome darkness in the lives of others. For we are more than conquerors though him who loved us.

Amen.

 

This is a call to all the dead and disappointed
The ones who feel like they are done
This is a word to all the ones who feel forgotten
But you are not
Oh you are not

We are soaked in all the grace that we’ve been given
Unchained from all that we have done
Your mercy’s rising like the sun on the horizon
We’re coming home
We’re alive, alive, alive we’re singing
We’re alive, alive, alive and we’re shaken
We’re alive, alive, alive, alive in You

 

Written by Taylor Webster

May 3, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Wedding Season

with 15 comments

Something is happening to my friends. In the last four to six weeks, I’ve seen more than ten updates on Facebook, all advertising the same state of euphoria. [I almost inserted a witty remark akin to “No, I’m not talking about Tebowmania…” then decided I don’t want to be that kind of writer.] It seems that lately the engagement bug is spreading like the plague. And it makes sense. If you want your next step in life after college to be marriage, then you get engaged in December and spend your senior spring planning a lovely summer wedding. Engagement is a validation of the months or years you’ve spent in relationship with this person, working hard to determine whether you are ready to give the whole of your lives to each other. It is a beautiful step in the journey to lifelong relationship and covenant, and I’m truly excited to support some dear friends as they embark on this journey.

Even so, as a lady who has spent the last three and a half years in a state of persistent singleness, all this talk of weddings is at times a bit hard to take. In the spirit of honesty and openness, I’ll confess that initially it brings up all of the old frustrations which stem from a place of jealousy and are reinforced by a persistent societal inferiority. It is frustrating to have desires for oneness, closeness, and companionship left unfulfilled. It is frustrating to go out alone and feel like restaurants, movie theaters, and even grocery stores are not designed to be enjoyed by the single. It is frustrating to pursue close friendship with those who devote so much emotional energy to romantic pursuits that they have little time left for friends. It is frustrating to feel personally and socially incomplete. In short, it is frustrating to know that there is space in your soul for deep union with another and to feel the ache of that space being left untouched, especially as it seems your friends are getting something you’re not.

And then I realize, this is ridiculous. I’m twenty years old. I can’t even buy myself a glass of wine in which to drown my sorrows.  I’m far too young to be a bitter old maid. Because being single does not make me incomplete. My friends who devote so much of themselves to these relationships aren’t trying to hurt me or alienate me. I didn’t blow my one shot at eternal happiness by not dating in college. The whole idea that the purest happiness comes from marriage undermines the truth that the only way to fill that empty space is through genuine union with the heart of Jesus. That ache, that loneliness, that frustration, and that persistent sense that something is missing is more than the desire for a husband, it is the desire for a savior. And the gift of ultimate redemption, of being welcomed into the kingdom as one deeply beloved, is not reserved for the married. As John Newton wrote centuries ago, to the married and unmarried alike:

 The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

Why then, with such a beautiful and permanent promise, do I have any cause for worry or fear? Perhaps it’s because for a while it seems I’ve been told that my husband is out there waiting for me as I wait for him, that I’m absolutely entitled to a lifetime of marital bliss, and that just when I stop looking, that soulmate will come along and take away all of the ache and all of the loneliness.

These promises come from easily-resolved chick flicks, churches reinforcing the American concept of family above all else, fairytales in school, and even the examples of relatives and family friends. Somehow, I just haven’t managed to find many single folks to fill the role of mentor in my life. And while I’m grateful to have received personal and spiritual direction from married folks, I can’t help but feel a piece of my education is missing. Paul writes time and time again about how he thinks that it is better for man to remain single and how those who are married face many difficulties which often make it more challenging to pursue wholehearted service. And yet, it often feels as though all we see are announcements of weddings, celebrations of births, and the creation of a culture in which singleness is more of a disease to be cured than a gift to be valued. 

The body is bigger and more beautiful than any of that. It is not a place for married couples to meet other married couples and raise their kids and talk about their retirement plans. It is not a place for single people to meet other single people and get married so they can raise their kids and talk about their retirement plans. It is where single people and married folks find common ground and enter into life together. Yes, we rejoice at a wedding, but a wedding should plant a seed for deeper engagement with the kingdom and the community, not push the couple into focusing so much on their own relationship and family that they are no longer able to reach out.  And just as we take joy from a wedding, we should also rejoice when a man who is not bound to wife makes a commitment to devote his time, talents, energy and resources in an entirely different but equally valuable way to the contributions of the family man. It hurts our culture to elevate one state of being above all others, whether it is dating or single or thin or old or young or intellectual or artistic. We need everybody. Together. 

So, to my single brothers and sisters, take heart. Not everyone gets married right after college. More importantly, not everyone gets married at all. You are not an empty, unfulfilled, shell of a human being. You have been given a gift in this moment, a lifestyle and perspective that is different and valuable and important to be shared with your single and married friends alike. And, most important of all, you are not alone. The love and completeness you desire is offered freely by the your soul’s redeemer whether you marry or not. The church is more than just a place to meet your husband or wife, it is a place to form deep and authentic relationships with the body which challenge you in spiritual and personal growth. Some of you are called to singleness for a lifetime, others for just a season. But wherever you are, don’t imagine that the married folks are getting off easy, are completely fulfilled, or no longer desire your friendship. Take the hard step of reaching out, engaging with and learning from those who have been given a different gift. Your married friends still need you. And you still need them.

To the church, it’s been too long that we’ve seem marriage preached as the ultimate fulfillment and encouraged pastoral matrimony to the point where single leadership in the faith is hard to come by. I’ve visited at least a dozen churches in the past year, and engaged with half a dozen others through podcasts and blogs. I cannot remember a single church from the bunch that was not led by a married man. There are nearly three times as many books on Amazon written for Christian couples as there are for Christian singles (and even fewer for singles who aren’t trying to find a spouse). Our attitude, our culture, has got to change. Henri Nouwen, one of the most inspiring and encouraging, honest and genuine authors of the faith I’ve encountered, was celibate and single his entire life. The Apostle Paul never married, and yet authored a substantial portion of the New Testament. Many of the saints never married. Are we to assume that there was something wrong with them? Or is it possible that they were simply fulfilling the call of God in their life in the same way those who married young desire to do? Lift up the singles in your congregation, not as oddities, but as treasures. Encourage a life of singleness with the same ferocity you devote to the pursuit of healthy marital relationships. God loves the artist and the businessman, the explorer and the homemaker, and the husband and the monk with equal passion, and has placed a unique calling in each of their hearts with purpose and intention.Who are we to say any of those gifts are of lesser value or need to be replaced by a more socially encouraged gift?

And to my dear friends who are dating, engaged, or married, let me first say that I truly admire, applaud, and respect the path you’re on. It takes incredible devotion and strength of character, honesty and commitment, forgiveness and love, hope and faith to sustain such a close relationship between two people. The journey towards a lifetime of healthy commitment is far from simple or easy. I cannot pretend to understand the joys and sacrifices which comprise your relationship with your beloved. But I would, from my heart, ask you to remember that your beloved is only a part of the fullness of life God has in store for you. Fullness derived from engagement in community in which you have not chosen or been chosen by every member, community comprised of the sorts of folks with whom you would never have elected to spend the rest of your life, but are part of your family nonetheless. Keep a place in your heart for your single friends, even when it seems easier to hang out with other couples or spend most of your time with your spouse. Let your relationship bring you closer to God as you learn new ways to engage His heart together, and then share what you’ve learned with the body. Marriage is a public ceremony for a reason – the covenant is also with the community, and your responsibility to your community is just as important as your duties to your spouse.

In closing, some words from the blog of Andrew Arndt, pastor of Bloom Church in Denver. The original post can be found here

I also tried to draw attention to the fact that Jesus seems to think that marriage is not for everyone (this was the point that got the most response, especially out of our heavily singled crowd).  When the disciples say to him, “In that case, it is better not to be married!”, Jesus doesn’t reply by saying, “Oh no no no, marriage is great and everyone should do it!”  Rather, he says, “You’re right.  But some have been given the call to be married, and those who have should accept.”  This is basically similar to what Paul says in 1 Co 7.  ”Each has his own gift from God…”

So marriage is a high calling

And so is singleness

Both have an indispensable place in the church

My concluding points from all of this reflection were these…

1) Being single is not evidence of some kind of pathology, which is exactly the way we treat it in the modern church.  ”Married” is the normal mode of sexual life, and “single” is abnormal.  So we create “singles ministries” in the hopes of “ministering to the special needs” of single people.  This is exactly backwards from the early church, which understood that singleness was the “normal” mode of life for God’s new people in Christ, since, unlike Judaism, the religion didn’t grow by procreation but by witness and conversion.  You’ve heard it said, “God has no grandchildren”.  And that’s right.  So if you’re single, I said, EMBRACE THE MOMENT.  God may call you to be married, but you ought to carpe diem and give yourself over to the purposes of God in the very rich and marvelous way that Paul commends in 1 Co 7.

Carpe diem indeed, friends. Let’s go change some hearts.

(And for those of you who may not know much about blogging, I can’t tell you the difference a simple comment and willingness to engage makes to us lonely typists out there. Write back if you agree. Write back if you’re angry. Write back if you lost interest halfway through. But anytime you read a blog. Write back.)

Written by Taylor Webster

January 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm

A time to give thanks

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Three years ago this week, a good friend of mine was killed in a car accident. And what I remember most about that October was how bright and perceptible the light was in the darkness of the situation. We all wore yellow as a token of remembrance, and the community that came together was one of the strongest and most beautiful I had ever seen. As the yellow flowers are all over Facebook this week, I am struck with gratitude for how much we have all learned in the last three years, and how many beautiful things have grown out of the darkness. Three years ago it seemed everything in my life had fallen apart. Nothing was any longer constant, dependable, or safe. And I smile to think of how God showed up in that time, took my hand, and started to lead me into something better than all the fear and pain and disappointment I was then experiencing. It’s been quite the journey. There were many times when my stubborn-headed self tried to plow backward into the darkness rather than reaching forward into the light. But when I am walking towards the truth. It is truly beautiful and life-giving. What I am constantly reminded as I look back is that it’s still not about me. After all this time. I am continually reminded, at times gently and at other times rather forcefully, that I am not the central character in the story I am telling. Whenever I realize that my life is being directed towards this truth, I am struck with awe and gratitude that the burdens do not have to be carried alone and that the joys are meant to be shared and multiplied.

I went on a retreat a couple weekends ago. For those of you who have never been, Christian student retreats offer college students a chance to take some time away from the pressures of campus life and spend time connecting with God and sharing in fellowship with each other. Often there’s a bit of a formula involving a combination of large group worship with music, silly icebreakers and games, quiet times of prayer and reflection, a series of talks from a speaker, and free time to just hang out and connect with each other. This retreat was not unusual in that anyone could have perceived it to be a combination of these stock elements. And the cynical side of my heart used to have a very hard time with the idea of a retreat. You go up on the mountain and have an engineered emotional experience that leaves you jumping to your feet at an altar call on Saturday night and slumped in your desk Monday morning with no real intent to change. And if you were disconnected and disengaged, that’s exactly how this weekend could have felt. But again, it wasn’t about me, or how I chose to step outside and analyze what was happening. It was about God, how he moved, and what actually happened.

Saturday night, our speaker talked about the weights that drag us all down and keep us from realizing the life God has in store for us. (He also spoke about the Samaritan Woman at the well, a story which merits a whole ‘nother post of it’s own. Keep your eyes on the blog for that one!) He pinpointed four that, in his experience as a campus minister, he encounters most frequently.

  • Apathy – the feeling that you have fallen asleep on the job. You’re lukewarm about your convictions and prone to not follow through just because you don’t feel like it.
  • Habitual Sin – brushing off as no big deal something that is vitally important to your interactions with God and with the people around you.
  • Gossip/Slander/Grudges – we all love being mad instead of forgiving. This hurts people in ways we cannot imagine.
  • Guilt/Inadequacy/Shame – you are defined by the guilt of something you have done or by something that has been done to you. You feel you’ll never measure up. You’ve been hurt and betrayed more times than you can count, and it seems there’s no reason to keep going.

After calling to our attention what may have been weighing on our hearts, he asked us to write our weights down on a little piece of paper. Then he gave a series of three calls to stand. The first was to anyone in the room who wished to ask God for the grace to cast off these weights. Nearly everyone stood. Everyone wanted to be free. The second call was more personal. He asked those who felt they had gone through life telling everyone they were Christian without fully understanding or committing their whole hearts to stand if they wanted to recommit their life to Jesus. About 30 people, including 10 or so from our fellowship, stood. The third call was to those who had never entered into Christianity before but desired to connect to Jesus on a personal level. Two men stood. One was from our fellowship, a foreign-exchange student who has been coming to join us and asking questions and walking through the Bible with a good friend of mine.

The speaker then called us all take action. For the apathetic to engage and follow through on their commitment to faith. For those trapped in habitual sin to take stock of their actions and stand up against it. For those who gossip and hold grudges to go, whether they were the offender or the offended, to the other and make it right. For those overwhelmed by guilt and shame to find comfort in a savior whose love breaks through walls to rescue the lost and who understands what it means to be betrayed by his closest friends and beaten and killed by the ones he came to save. He asked us to tear our papers into shreds and drop them in the trash at the front of the room. A friend of mine didn’t even wait until he was done speaking, she just marched right up to the front and triumphantly tossed her pieces in the garbage. The whole room cheered in celebration.

As the rest of us made our way towards the front, tears were flowing freely. Some were experiencing this freedom for the first time. I was moved to see so much honest, uninhibited passion from so many people. I was in awe of the wondrous work God was doing in so many hearts right at that moment. And I was thankful in a way I’ll never be able to fully express that the God who has promised good to me will never go back on his promise. The lies and untruths and judgments and condemnations I had accepted as true and placed upon myself were simply no longer of importance.  As the worship team began to play, I was unable to return to my seat. I could do nothing at that moment but fall to my knees and weep for joy at the goodness and power and free flowing grace I was experiencing, not only in my life, but in the lives of others as well. Because God is so much more than a series of rules and values, proofs and principles that can be intellectually understood. He is truth, life, emotion, love, and passion, good in all things, willing to communicate with us in the deepest parts of our souls if we will only take a moment to listen.

After the service, our chapter (of 45 people. Hallelujah!) gathered together to hear the stories of those who had stood to dedicate their lives to this love. As always, I was grateful for stories, especially for the way that stories remind me of God’s power and grace and truthfullness. It is easy to see people stand up at an altar call and assume they’re merely moved by emotion. But that simply wasn’t true. They were all touched by a genuine desire to give their lives to Christ. That was so beautiful. And the more I listened, the more I desired to speak, to share the beautiful and radical revelations I had just experienced. But that night was not the time. Where my instinct would have been to talk, and process, and dissect what had just happened, our leader announced that our time was drawing to a close, and that we were all going to head up to a dance put on by one of the other campuses. This was another radical idea for me. So much good had just happened, and rather than talking about it and rationalizing it and categorizing it, we were just going to go and celebrate. And we danced that night with the joy of a people who had been set free.

But that was not the end. That can never be the end. We cannot simply accept this gift and lock it up and sit on it. We’ve got to share it. Take risks. Do stuff. On Sunday morning the speaker reminded us that if all Intervarsity does is gather to talk and pray and sing songs and feel good about being friends with each other, than we’re just another club on campus. We’re just another clique. And I think we can do better. I know we can do better. I’m seeing seeds planted in our hearts that would be the beginning of something big on our campus if we would only tend to them. I’ll confess I’m scared of what it might mean. But we can’t keep it to ourselves any longer. This love longs to be shared.

This weekend I saw the fruit. I saw the harvest. Some of it was from seeds I had planted intentionally, but much more came from seeds I never knew I was planting, or from seeds others had planted years and years before. What was most striking and caused me to fall to the floor in grateful praise was the knowledge that even in the darkest moments of these past three years, God was able to work circumstances for the good of those who love Him. Because when terrible things happen, people come together. In the moments when I felt dark and purposeless, I was unknowingly still bring hope to someone else. When I was wandering and alone, I was being directed towards purpose and community. The stories I could share are hard for me to believe at times. But it’s truly incredible. So in this season when the leaves are changing and many of our hearts are turned towards remembrance, hold on. Remember the good and the bad. And for all of it, give thanks.

Written by Taylor Webster

October 20, 2011 at 11:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized