Eight months ago, I got the opportunity to set aside the distractions of this world, to escape reality and to take the time I desperately need to be still and to seek God. (If you are curious about my walk to Emmaus, you can read about it here.) For the last 10 weeks, I have had the honor to be part a team that led a group of 31 women to experience that same 72 hours cut off from their busy lives and to live out Psalm 46:10 this past weekend. Just as I struggled to express all that God did in the three days of my walk, I find myself struggling to clearly articulate all that I have witnessed over the last 1,584 hours of this journey.
One of the lyrics to a song we sang frequently over the past 10 weeks says, "I've seen miracles just happen, silent prayers get answered and broken hearts become new" and I can honestly say, I saw all the above first hand this past weekend. It has been one of the greatest things I have ever been a part of. However, those stories of miracles, answered prayers and mended hearts are not mine to tell. For me, this weekend was about serving these women and helping to keep distractions at bay and to cultivate an environment where they only had to focus on God's still small whisper, His unconditional love, and His lavish grace. In the midst of my own silent prayers for these women, acts of agape and in hearing their stories, I heard His still small whisper and realized even though this weekend wasn't about me, He was still using this weekend to grow me.
Every Friday night until this past weekend, I spent time with 28 other folks who made up the teaming team for R107. It was on those nights, that I began to see how people who come from different backgrounds, different ages, different denominations, different sides of the railroad tracks, and different ideas and passions could all unite under the common bond of having a willing heart to see the Holy Spirit move and have His way in the lives of His beloved.
For me, I have been tainted in this area, and tend to lean more on my unbelief. I wrestle with believing that Christ followers really can set aside differences and grow together under the common purpose of Jesus Christ. I mean we all say it, but more often than not I have seen the opposite.
There have been a few folks along the way that I have been blessed to know, and that have shown me there are always exceptions to the "rules" But I have yet to feel part of a community that as a whole seems to embrace this ideal with more than words.
I found myself in Ephesians 4:3 on the Friday morning, before leaving for Blackstone. It says "...keep yourselves united by the Holy Spirit, binding yourselves together in peace..." This scripture will forever be engraved on my heart. As a team, we have been coming together, united by the Holy Spirit, to be His hands and feet.
Weeks prior in one of the talks, we heard, "We are called to stay at the table." And that statement too is forever engraved in my heart, right alongside Ephesians 4:3.
In a room in Petersburg, VA on Friday nights where differences were plentiful and on occasion did arise, the feeling of peace never escaped those walls. It was consuming. And I honestly wrestled with whether or not it was worth it to share parts of my story that may illuminate differences and to test if our call to united could withstand whatever surfaced onto the table.
It wasn't until we were in the swing of things and in the middle of the 72 hours in Blackstone, VA that I had a conversation where every word being said felt like a punch in the gut. To be honest, the urge to sprint out of that place and never look back was extremely tempting. But my feet wouldn't move. And no matter what I "wanted" to do, I knew this wasn't about me, and even if I tried to make it so, it couldn't have been---my new friend, knew nothing of my story. She just needed a place to unload, to dump out her hurts and her garbage. I wish I could tell you that I was happy to help her unload it. But with every bag she needed help unloading, it felt as if a sharp edge of glass poked through the bag and cut me on the way down.
As I listened, all that kept repeating in my head was Ephesians 4:3, stay at the table, and be a peacekeeper.
I wanted to inject my thoughts, my beliefs, my story, and to put an end to the conversation but in that moment no matter how much her words hurt, I was just called to listen, to be there for her . . . to stay at the table, and to stay united.
I wish I could tell you it was easy. But it wasn't. And often, in this world it's not. But it is simple---just love.
To be honest, I don't know who knows and doesn't know my story. And I don't know who does and who doesn't agree with my stance on things. But in this life I have chosen to live, one that strives to love like Jesus, to be more like Him, honestly, it doesn't matter. There are people who will love you regardless and there are people who will not. There are people who will choose to stay at the table and there are people who will not. There will be people who hurt you when they realize those differences, there are people who will love you despite those differences, and there are people who will stand in agreement alongside you in those differences. And even though it's hard, and at times it hurts, and no matter how much we want to leave the table, I pray for the boldness always, to set aside our differences, to come together by the Holy Spirit, to bind ourselves in peace, and to show crazy love just like Jesus would.
I don't know if there will be a time to share my story with my new friend. I hope so.
I don't know if she hears my story if she will stay at the table. I hope she does.
I don't know what God is doing in her life, but I know it’s big.
And I do hope that this weekend she saw Jesus face to face, because over the past 10 weeks I have. I have seen people stay at the table. I have seen Ephesians 4:3 lived out and it has given me hope and strength to strive for a life that continually desires to love more like Him.