twentybydesign

the life and times of a twenty year old designer

Posts Tagged ‘life

reckless, scandalous, and out of control

with 5 comments

“Do not worry, because God is in control. He has a plan and a purpose for you. “

I have heard these words (or similar expressions) many times before. I have seen them written on home decorating products and facebook walls and internet ads. I have heard them come from the mouths of people I love, respect, and admire. And when I heard them spoken over a worship gathering I attended recently, I was hit with an overwhelming, essential realization. I wasn’t trying to find fault or be contrary, but the assurance came out of nowhere and hit me squarely in the heart.

I don’t believe God is in control. 

Ok. That is a statement. Breathe in and out with me for a bit. Come on in and sit a while. After that, blow up the comments, debate, engage, encounter, seek. But first, let’s walk through a few steps together.

Here is how I think we (middle and upper class USA culture) understand control. At the center of control is immense power. When we seek to control some aspect of our lives, we are often primarily seeking to exert power over it. We schedule our days to the hilt, seeking power over time and space and people. We plan our futures in month or year or 5-year increments, seeking power over spans of time that contain unforseeable mountains and valleys, praying that we will never “spin out of control.” We organize our relationships in rigid categories and strict expectations, seeking to control our friends, family, and neighbors rather than love them. We look down on those in our lives who have “lost control” or are “out of control” , assuming that their inability to align with our proscribed structures indicates a basic human failure. But our lawn is pristine, our house is in order, our shirts are ironed, our retirement is planned, our property is insured. We. Are. In. Control.

So when we say that God is in control, it is comforting to us. We want to know that there is plan, purpose, and meaning, and that God (like we so desire to be) has all of his ducks in a row and that nothing happens outside of his will. We want a King who is powerful, authoritative, and majestic. We want him to have all the answers, make all the decisions, fight all the battles, and always, always win. But our concept of control is a poor choice to frame our understanding of a God who is love.

There is one who seeks complete control at all times, because he does not understand love. Satan, the fallen angel who sought power over God in heaven and continues to seek power over God on earth, approaches people with a desire for control that is unsurpassed. All of the sins that have plagued the world, lies, fear, addictions – they are all fighting for control of our hearts. And why do we give in to them?

In our fallen nature, we believe we would rather be controlled than loved. We would rather be given a simple, understandable set of rules about the way the world works, and, falling victim to the lie that through understanding the rules we will gain control over the system, instead fall prey to the lie of control and it’s immense power over us. We worship control, praising our own ability to order the universe as we see fit, and every grab for power builds the illusion that we are able, of our own accord, to hold everything together. And when the cracks begin to show and our attempts at perfection fall short, we are left with a gaping awareness that in our thirst we have allowed control to supplant the role of love in our lives.

Love is bigger than control. Love is more powerful than control.

Our lives are spent in a vicious spiral of control seeking – beating our head against the wall and screaming “Why isn’t this going my way!” At times, we feel we have succeeded – we are happy, successful, achieving, well off. In. Control. At other times we feel lost, alone, afraid, and as though everything we held power over has slipped from our grasp. And there are only two exit gates from this spiral. One is the aforementioned way of the Controller. To claim control as our right, power as our inheritance, and ultimately fall slave to the power which seeks to control us.

But there is another way. This way is the way of love. And this way is the way of surrender.

God did not choose to control the world. He chose to love it. In a radical departure from the way any ancient or present culture has or does understand what it means to be God. He made us, completely, from the ground up. He should have been able to claim what artists call “creative control” over his creation, the right to oversee how it is used, what it becomes, who can influence it, and how far it can stray from the original vision.

And then, in love, He set us free, desiring only that our response to this freedom would be to choose to love Him back.

In the absolutely crucial, most pivotal moment of our faith, Jesus could have rewritten the story we know so well. He could have claimed control as King, ruler, sovereign, authority. He could have broken the whips and shattered the cross, taken revenge on the men who sought to do him harm, taken the seat of the empire and seated his disciples in positions of power. That would have been a picture of a God in control. None would have been able to stand against him, and everything would have proceeded in exact accordance with his specific will.

But instead, Jesus chose to surrender. He surrendered his right to control his circumstance. He allowed himself to be consumed by the will of God, to be instrumental in communicating God’s great love for his people, and redeemed a relationship fractured by our desire for control. (In eating from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve sought equality with God, greater control over their circumstance, and power that was only meant to be held by God. This deeply fractured their love relationship with him, their ability to live fully in his presence and to walk in his ways. God has been calling his people back to himself ever since.) 

In surrendering control, Jesus gained a power that control-seekers could never imagine or understand. Jesus is the only human who has ever managed to perfectly exchange control for love. Jesus, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself  by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” And what a glorious deluge he unleashed. 

Because when we begin to understand God’s love, our response becomes so much greater than a simple acquiescence to a higher power’s control. Yes, God is the god who makes order from chaos, life out of destruction, bringer of peace, hope, and healing. And he wants us to choose to be part of his story. To choose to accept a love that refines, cleanses, purifies, makes whole. We love because He first loved us. And through his love, we are able to join him in the work of redeeming his creation.

So we cannot hold the freedom, the choice, the love that he lavishes on us and wishes to express through us in one hand, and tell others to “Relax, God’s in control” in the other. God’s power is so great, his sovereignty so vast, that he can choose to exert his power through love rather than through control – and it is through this love that He is calling us to come home to Him.

In summary. God created us. God loves us. God has immense power and is fully able to alter any circumstance, change any heart, fulfill any dream. But God does not control us. In him we live, and move, and have our being. We acknowledge and fall prostrate before God, from whom all blessings flow. But not because he has bent our necks. Because his love has broken our hearts. His reckless, scandalous, completely nonsensical and entirely out of control love. And no matter how strong the temptation to be controlled by the world may be, we who have known what it is to live in God’s love will constantly be searching to follow His light home, and to invite as many as we can to join the journey with us.

I feel as though I could write for days on this topic, and maybe I will someday. This is an attempt to follow the grace I’ve been given, to start a dialogue, to scratch the surface. Please, engage with me in the parts that  speak love to your heart, the parts that are poorly constructed , the parts that are jarring, the parts that wrestle and debate. How have you experienced God’s love? How has that shaped your concept of God ‘being in control’? 

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Written by Taylor Webster

June 15, 2013 at 12:27 pm

ashen valentines

with 2 comments

On Wednesday, followers of Christ around the world gathered in public meeting places for a time of quiet, stillness, and reflection, preparing for a forty day journey of repentance. Ash-marked foreheads bore witness throughout the day, reminding us that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

On Thursday, an awkwardly American holiday called forth extravagant displays of romantic love, outpourings of friendship, consumption of sweets and celebration of our interconnectedness.

And somehow, experiencing the two one after the other was stunningly harmonious.

Hear me out on this. Nobody ever said love made sense.

Here’s where I’ve been, going in to this week.

A year ago, Wedding Season was a beautiful opportunity for me to open a constructive dialogue on the role of the single soul in the life of the community.  I had no idea at the time how far the journey would take me. I even spent a few months dating near the end of last year. I can absolutely say my perspectives have been challenged to the fullest. I have celebrated some beautiful weddings, grown in friendship with married couples, seen the selfish underpinnings of my own perspectives, walked with dear friends through the seeming valleys of their own singleness, and learned to advocate with greater clarity and understand more personally the deep blessings of vocational singleness. In essence, the struggles I wrote of in Wedding Season have only grown deeper and more complex. But the rewards of engaging deeply have multiplied beyond what I could have expected. 

So, why bring it up again? Is this just my “chew toy,” my pocket subject, my identity-defining different-ness? I’d like to hope not. But lately other things have been making me feel the way my singleness used to make me feel. Sure, some of it’s being excluded from couple-centric dialogue and events, especially with other women. (seriously folks, we all have more in common than boys and babies…) But there’s a lot of things that make it hard for me to relate to other folks. Or for other folks to relate to me, maybe.

I’m the post-grad who still lives and hangs out with college students.

I’m the twenty-two year old managing, leading, designing, and teaching with colleagues who should be my mentors and students who should be my peers.

I’m the bookish, philosophical academic who spends her days in a world of sawdust, paint drips, and welding wire.

I’m the aspiring world changer who faces deep conversational unease in a group larger than two.

I’m the banjo-picking lover of good headphones and multifaceted compositions, at odds with a culture where four chords suffice.

I’m the advocate for radical living who works a 9-5 and has a retirement plan.

In essence. There are things about me that don’t fit. Points of disconnect from the expected. Parts of me that seem especially hard to love, especially to those following any sort of formula. Things I don’t talk about for fear of seeming too different. Actually, it’s scary how good I’ve gotten at not talking about myself. Some folks will tell you I’m a good listener – what that really means is that my own self is so far guarded that it’s easy to create space in the room for someone else’s story. Somewhere along the way I’ve learned that my mess, when shared, will only hurt me (or worse still, whomever I ask to share it with). And so, because of all of these differences and inconsistencies, I’ve almost grown resigned to the idea that i’ll never quite be connected or understood.

Ash Wednesday was beautifully soul-crushing. There, I felt understood all too well. 

What a picture of love. 

To look at us and say “I want you to remember something. I want you to remember who you are and where you came from. You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Sitting in the sanctuary, going through a communal prayer of confession, my own disconnection and unworthiness seemed to ring through the room in rippling echoes. Having just experienced a deep and powerful act of personal reconciliation, my healing heart was still tender, vulnerable and open.

And in response, I was given the gift of being able to look around the campus or across the table, and see a dirty cross distracting me from the face of a friend or loved one, reminding me that no matter what sort of facades we’ve constructed, dust is the summation of our being.  What a powerful common thread. No matter our age or social status or knowledge or power or wealth, we were all raised up from the dust and will someday leave our bodies behind in the dust of this earth. And the great hope we yearn to celebrate on Easter is only powerful in relation to it’s role in lifting us out of ashes, creating beauty from the dust. If we were so very worth loving, Christ’s love for us would have no miraculous or transformative power. 

How powerful, then, to celebrate our love for each other on Valentine’s day?

To take this opportunity to look each other in the eyes and say “I’m thankful that we’re living life together.”
To say “I saw the ashes on your forehead, and I know the darkness in your heart, and I still choose love.”
To say “Let us keep walking together the journey from ashes to ashes.”

Isn’t this all exactly what Christ has said to us?

As a wise, dear friend said to me yesterday, “Sometimes we feel love the best when we are in repentance.” Accepting our own deep brokenness, owning the cry of our souls that rings of desperation, loneliness, and unworthiness, somehow opens the door to forgiveness. As we learn to accept the love we know we don’t deserve, it pours out of our hearts and makes such communal sentimentality as we saw on Thursday possible.

This acknowledgment somehow allowed my lonely, crazy, single, guarded heart to smile yesterday. To taste, and see the goodness overwhelming the bitterness. To see communities connecting in spite of  vast social differences. To hope, in spite of every broken inclination, in a love bigger than my imagination, stronger than marriage and friendship combined, and deeper than the world’s topsoil of ash and dust.

In this time of repentance, may we be compelled to love stronger and deeper than ever before. Thank you all for continuing on the journey with me.

Written by Taylor Webster

February 15, 2013 at 9:15 pm

(re:)min(i)sce

with 2 comments

this poem is probably not about what you think it is about. seriously. it is probably based more on fiction than real life, and more on the past than on current events.  but i still think that maybe it is true. and, if it was about me, it would be where i was, where i am, and where i want to be, all in one.

(re:)min(i)sce

in the quiet hours of darkness
my heart aches for a taste
of what was
of what this

of (re:)min(i)sce

no photographs exist to immortalize
what
was
what this
could
have
been
between you
between me
between us
and the record shows it never happened and i almost believe it except
my heart wanders
(re:)min(i)sce

i cannot promise there will always be
grace
in my heart
for you
like i once did
like there once was

the line between us, once jagged rock, etching deep crevasses longing to be explored
once bursting with life
once standing tall above the shore in bold proclamation
has been softened
by the rage
of a mighty river
into smooth
fine
harmless
cold
stone

and i
i am
i am so
i am so sorry

for coldness is not the metric equivalent of grace
forgiveness is not found in distance
in acceptance
of the smoothing over
of joy
of tension
of anger
of love
into acquaintance
the heart
the heart
the heart does not forget

the heart does not forget
and the great dane in the room will never be invisible
or smoothed over
or forgotten

he must. be loved.

take the smoothness
sterile, clean, pure, simple
cherish it

and drop it. break it. let the giant dog scratch up your hardwood floor and
let the rocks keep all their jagged parts and
share pictures of what doesn’t matter any more because
it is real
and it happened
and it mattered

in the beat up floor, the rock heap, the discarded snapshots of a time gone by
there is still life.
old, dried out bones
still longing for a second chance and that is why
though instinct prefers the smooth

i cannot be so

the contentment and ease of a filed-down stone
will never keep my interest
because
i have seen the life in the great dane scramble
and i have watched it break
and i have helped to break it
and i have encouraged others
to do the same
but still. i remember
i ache
i long
and some clear and jagged day
i will be able to say
with fullness and purpose

i love

Written by Taylor Webster

December 8, 2012 at 11:46 pm

Posted in Poetry

Tagged with , , , , , , , ,

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

tuning the banjo

with one comment

I’ve been trying to play my banjo all weekend. It’s been a few weeks since I really sat down and let loose and played. And while my fingers still remember the chords and the picking patterns, until this afternoon, nothing sounded quite right.

I have a tendency to be a bit proud with my banjo. I was trying to tune it by ear, based off an online tuner that simply dictated the right notes without any sense of feedback, leaving my innate sense of pitch to guess as close as I could. And to be honest, this morning it sounded pretty awful.

This afternoon, I finally used a tuner from the internet that fed through my laptop microphone, precisely analyzing every pitch and letting me know how close I was to the correct note and what steps I needed to take to get all my strings in harmony.

And let me tell you. The little guy sounded incredible.

As I often like to say, I think there’s a lesson in that. As the afternoon progressed, the reminder to “remember to tune your banjo” kept rolling over and over in my head.

I can see places in my life where I’ve been trying to hammer things out based on already established technique and personal proficiency. It is easy to approach a challenge, a problem, or even a celebration and say “Of course! I’ve learned how to do this already. Hand me the instrument and I’ll crank out that tune for you.” This often leads to a firm grasp that threatens to overshadow the delicacies and beauties and quirks of the individual instrument, assuming that what has once worked will always work, and to simply keep hammering even as the instrument groans with a desire to be more fully tuned before such a difficult melody is attempted.

It is much more challenging to approach the instrument with trembling hands and say “Yes. This is something I once knew how to do. I can be part of creating beauty here. The patterns and chords and melody are all familiar to me, and I know what this beautiful instrument should sound like at its best. But before we even start, we have to take time for the strings. We have to check each one, slowly and carefully, and make sure that it rings true, pure, and clear.” So often, in seeking to create and dream, live and hope, challenge and encourage, we skip the tuning step. We forget that it does not matter how many patterns and progressions and theory we know. If the strings have not been tuned, our music will always be devoid of beauty and clarity.

And so, in seeking to continue moving forward, I am reminded that the life patterns and technical proficiencies and skills I have acquired on the journey will mean very little if the strings at the heart of the instrument have fallen out of tune. Slowly and deliberately, I want to retune every string so that it rings true with the heart of the Creator whose song is the only true melody in my soul. I pray that as the tuning draws closer to the intended notes, the song which bursts forth would surpass the dull plodding of answers and routines, muscle memory and technical knowledge, and begin to glow with the bright hope of a sure heart and a resounding joy.

 

Written by Taylor Webster

September 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Tension, Grace, and Trees

with 3 comments

To this day, I remember with beautiful clarity a conversation from a year and a half ago. We were in a coffee shop, I was a complete mess of feelings, and my friend asked me to stand up and try an ankle exercise. Feeling foolish, I obliged.

“Here, try this” she said. “Stand on just one foot, hold yourself up by the strength of your ankle.”
“This is hard to do” I replied, wobbling to keep balance.
“That’s because you’re living in tension.”
“What happens if I put my foot down?”
“I don’t know. Mercy. Grace.”

The grace, love, and understanding I felt in that moment was complete and overwhelming. Since then I have returned to the state of tension many times, but in those moments I find the reminder to accept grace in my own inability to stay perfectly balanced.

Life since graduation has been a life held in tension. Tension between who I have been, who I am, and who I am becoming.

Tension between the inquisitive, often insecure student and the competent, capable professional.

Tension in my heart, aching for the community where I have learned to love so deeply, but can no longer be intimately involved, and breaking for the community in which I long to be embraced but struggle to find footing.

Tension which cries for courage to cross the chasm between comfort and calling.

Tension in friendships when a well-cultivated, attractive, and safe personal distance is impossible to maintain, but the cost and risk of deeply genuine connection carries scarred echoes of past failures.

Tension between trying to living up to expectations and finding a sense of self independent of validation.

Tension between conviction and complacency as I find myself both stirred by the words of those who have gone before me to consider a life far greater than the one I had planned to lead, and at the same time completely unconvinced that my life will ever gracefully follow such a story.

Tension between needing to lead and aching to follow.

Tension between mature and eloquently written insights and youthful inability to verbalize a genuine state of heart.

Tension between being too much and not being enough.

Tension between clinging tight, with a hard heart and clenched fists, and softening, letting go, and opening hands to receive.

Tension on the bridge from chaos to peace.

Tension as I dream of returning to the lush green forests of the East (the place where I felt most truly and deeply at home) but find myself living as a nomad in these parched desert lands.

Tension between truth and convenience.

Tension between the high-achieving, over-motivated self  longing for accolade and advancement, and the heart who sees power made perfect in weakness, finds grace sufficient, and longs to reach out in love.

I am ready to stop trying to stand on one weak ankle.

I am ready to plant both feet.

Because no plant has ever grown, blossomed, and produced fruit without first taking root, firmly entering into a future of complete reliance on the soil. The ground promises to stay steady, no matter what storms and winds, rains and droughts beseige the poor sapling from above.  In order to grow taller, the tree must sink its roots deeper and deeper into the ground. This will not be easy, for the ground is often full of rocks, the tangled mess of the roots of other plants, and the small living creatures trying to dig out their own meager existence. It would seem easier for the poor tree to focus all of its energy on visible, upward growth, and neglect  the unseen roots. But the tree knows that strong roots are the only way to avert complete collapse, and so it continues to trust that the pain is worth the journey, continues to anchor itself ever more firmly, and continues to grow.

The best place for such a young sapling to take root? Love. Love which is not a fleeting feeling, a choice to be retracted, or an impulse to be disregarded, but a commitment stronger than we will every fully understand. May we be together rooted and established firmly in this love. May we look to a hope that sees certainty in a future more beautiful than we could dream or create. And may we have faith that frees us from the burden of trying to live independent of the soil which we so desperately need.

Because it’s time, friends. Time to abandon the tension we hold so dear, plant our feet, and begin to grow.

Written by Taylor Webster

July 5, 2012 at 1:28 am

(Sling)shots, Maturity, and Freedom

with 3 comments

Well, by some suggestions, it’s time to rename this blog. One week ago I turned twenty-one, and was granted some legal benefits on the presumption that with age I had acquired some sort of maturity. I count myself among the few who went twenty-one years without consuming an alcoholic beverage, so it really wasn’t the bar-hopping I was excited for, though I’ve since enjoyed the freedom of a couple mild-mannered nights out with friends. It’s interesting that we equate freedom with the ability to abandon responsibility and self-control. This week was about embracing a different and far greater sort of freedom. Freedom to be bold, to be genuine, to reach out with confidence from a firm foundation, and to leave worry and insecurity far behind.

In our culture, we reserve the responsibility to fight the greatest battles and earn the greatest freedoms for our heroes. The ones who have been born and bred for glory, the ones who are noble in the public eye and live an exemplary life full of easily forgivable sins. But the heroes of our faith were never the prepared ones, the ones who thought they were ready. For that matter, they were not the ones from whom anyone else would have expected greatness. The outcast and exile who was called back to lead his people out of slavery. The youngest son and shepherd who slew the giant and became king. The uneducated fishermen, despised tax collectors, and women with impure pasts who were all among the first to see and spread the news of the coming of the savior. The militant persecutor whose writings to early churches were later codified as scripture. And, not to be forgotten, the son of a carpenter who laid down his life so that we might be set free.

Since writing Wedding Season, I’ve had a flurry of interesting and thoughtful conversations. It’s amazing to see such a simple topic strike a chord in so many people, regardless of faith background. I think the strong response was mainly due to the fact that singleness is rarely addressed in a straightforward manner and with dignity in either religious or secular culture. Regardless of the current, and without waiting for someone more well known or well spoken or well trained to come along, I wrote about it because it needed to be written in a way that only I could write it. I am no hero. I am simply a person who followed a call to reach out with the written word and speak the truth that had brought comfort to my heart.

The Bible tells of how David, eschewing the sword and shield and traditional battle gear, instead picked up the simple slingshot he had been using since boyhood to protect his sheep from lions and bears, and with it struck down the opponent who no other Israelite had dared face. We are often so preoccupied with not having or knowing how to use a sword that we forget the strength of our slingshot. The more time I spend with people, and with God’s family in particular, the more I see that we’ve all been given unique and wonderful gifts that would be of no use to anyone else, and which are absolutely necessary to bring all the fullness of beauty into the world.

The freedom that has come out of this week has been the freedom of learning how to identify and use my slingshot. For so long I’ve been carrying burdens of what I’m not. How I fall short in comparison to other people. How I’ll never be as effective in the areas where I see my friends thriving. How there are certain tools I’ve just never been able to get a handle on and figure out. But pouring so much energy into wishing to be like other people is exactly counter to the idea that there’s been a slingshot in my back pocket all along.

Writing is one of my slingshots. I write better than I speak. Writing allows me to process my feelings and thoughts, and to share them with others in ways I simply can’t in conversation or public speaking. I’ve had some incredible conversations that were sparked off of a blog post, though more often than not when someone mentions the blog in person I’ll sheepishly thank them for reading and not know how to further the conversation. Writing is not a gift everyone possesses. It’s not the most common hobby for folks my age. But God has done some beautiful things through the abilities he has gifted me with and encouraged me to develop since youth.

The other slingshot which finally started to make sense in my life this week is the capacity I’ve always had for deep, honest, respectful, sustained, and loving friendships. There are two women in my life who I cherish deeply and with whom I have had the privilege of sharing life since we were eight years old. There is the friend I hold closer than a sister, who held my hand in my tentative first steps back to God four years ago and who has encouraged me every step of the way ever since. There are those few I’ve had the privilege of walking deeply with in college and who I can see standing beside me if God ever calls me to the altar (I also feel there should be some sort of occasion for single gals to bestow the same honor on their friends that brides bestow upon their bridesmaids. Still brainstorming that…).  And there are those I’m still getting to know but somehow feel as though our souls have been companions for ages.

In all of these relationships, as much as I’ve abused them in the past, elevated them past their natural purpose for good, and burdened hearts with overwhelming expectations, God has been at work. No matter how inadequate, lonely, or unloved I’ve been tempted to feel in the last year, the truth is that He cares so deeply about you and I. He has brought us into each other’s lives and each other’s hearts for a reason. This week I’ve had the freedom to share my heart with some of you, and I pray that if I can ever be an aid or resource that you would not hestitate to ask. This week’s greatest blessings have been the opportunities to help with homework, answer late night phone calls, drop everything and pray on a moment’s notice, offer a listening ear to a troubled heart, and, most of all, to share the faith which holds the center of my heart with a friend whose questions outnumbered my capacity for answers in a dialogue where we both left feeling respected and enriched. The joy in all of these situations has been abundant, and the temptation to respond with a boldly declarative “Amen!” was often too much to resist.

My prayer is for these conversations to continue, for these friendships and this blog to continue to be my slingshot, and for God to open the hearts and minds of my friends to chats about this most important of topics. Two years ago on another blog I put out an open invitation for a chat about God to anyone willing to meet, and recieved some really great responses. I want to throw that out there again, because good conversation is the only way we’ll ever really understand each other. So yes. Let’s talk. Because this love and freedom has my heart on fire, and it’d be selfish to hold out  on the greatest gift I’ve ever been given. I am not a hero. I do not have all the tools or hold all the answers. But I’ve got my slingshot

In the most direct phrasing, this is the love I’m coming to know:

Everlasting. All Consuming. Burning Fire. Glorious One.
Risen Saviour. King Forever. Love Unending. Beautiful One.

This is my God. And until you’ve met Him, these words won’t have much meaning to you. I’ve grown up in church singing hymns and boldly declarative CCM anthems, but until you have a name, a face, an experience to put to those stories, they’re just words coming out of your mouth. Some of the greatest joy in my life right now is coming from being able to see , recognize, have a sense memory of the feelings behind these grand words.

Christianity is not a set of arbitrary rules. It is not a one-step safeguard against eternal damnation. It is not a tool to be used in political arguments or to condemn those who are not like us. It is the acknowledgment that there is a completely powerful, completely good, and therefore completely trustworthy God at work in the world, and that through the grace extended to us in the sacrifice of Jesus we might be brought back into union with this God from whom our nature would separate us. It is the most beautiful instrument of love and restoration the Earth has yet seen. It is a journey towards becoming like the father, extending complete love and forgiveness to those around us, and accepting that a father disciplines those he loves.

If only considered as a religion, it falls short as every human construction inevitably does. When considered as a lifestyle centered around pure, free-flowing grace, it becomes the only foundation worth standing on. All the songs we have heard, stories we have read, and natural beauty we have seen finally clicks into place as our hearts are drawn towards  the author of creation. And, washed free of the fear, shame, and guilt which has been holding us back, we are welcomed to join in the joyous dance of the redeemed. That is a story worth sharing. That is a legacy worth fighting for.

Written by Taylor Webster

February 5, 2012 at 1:13 am