how do I put this into words

Bare with me.

Sunday I had one of those life-coming-full-circle moments, and it hit me like a crashing wave. And the tears came.

As you have walked beside me through the years, you too, will remember – three years ago exactly, I was a Fall Intern at an international disaster relief organization. I moved into a house with eight others I did not know, ages ranging 18 – 31. We traveled – in the U.S. some, and then a month in both the Philippines and China. And the group dynamics were toxic. Disastrously poor leadership, back-biting and lack of respect within the group, and incomprehensible immaturity. My faith, only of a different denominational background, was viewed as lesser, or not as true as theirs. I lost my hair in huge handfuls, with every shower I took. Five bald patches due to stress-induced alopecia areata. My soul felt trampled. My naturally expressive self was suppressed. I left this time so wounded by fellow Christians, bitter, and yet feeling closer to God, clinging to God desperately. But it would take me years to heal from this experience.

BUT. But…I also learned how to build a water filter during this time. And this cool experience sparked something in me and served as the catalyst that led me to WaterPartners, now Water.org.

Fast forward to now. This past Sunday morning, I sat in church – the place I now call my church, with the people, this community, that have slowly earned my trust and love over the past two years in Kansas City. My friend Josh, a pastor, was talking about water – the crisis, those in need, our ability to be a solution – as a part of Advent Conspiracy [see video below], a neat movement the whole church is participating in for these four weeks leading up to Christmas. The whole church is raising money to support Water.org’s programs in rural Haiti [their goal is $30,000!!], which are in great need of funding.

How do I explain this? I was just so overwhelmed…that exactly three years ago, I was so hurt and torn down by my fellow believers. If I had known what I was getting into, there no way would I have done that internship. But God led me to it and through it, grew me and opened me up in so many new ways, put a new direction and passion in me for the water issue, and led me to where I am today…something I could have never dreamed of, or planned. And now, exactly three years later, I sit in a room with fellow believers, of people who know me and love me, who can be a part of honest dialogue, who are sharing with me in this passion and willingness to take action around water…

And no doubt the ripple affect from this! Getting the church community in on coming alongside those in need of clean water and sanitation in Haiti – the education about what it takes to make this possible, awareness about the water crisis and how it affects people all over the world differently, but in very serious ways, relationship-building, being a part of something bigger, together, using our wealth and resources for something good and long-lasting…

And then today, of course, in the hours of a break I take from writing this post, according the that Beautiful Timing, Rob Bell has an article about Advent in Relevant [excerpt]:

“Why does Advent mean so much to me?

Because cynicism is the new religion of our world. Whatever it is, this religion teaches that it isn’t as good as it seems. It will let you down. It will betray you.

That institution? That church? That politician? That authority figure? They’ll all let you down.

Whatever you do, don’t get your hopes up. Whatever you think it is, whatever it appears to be, it will burn you, just give it time.

Advent confronts this corrosion of the heart with the insistence that God has not abandoned the world, hope is real and something is coming.

Advent charges into the temple of cynicism with a whip of hope, overturning the tables of despair, driving out the priests of that jaded cult, announcing there’s a new day and it’s not like the one that came before it.

“The not yet will be worth it,” Advent whispers in the dark.

Old man Simeon stands in the temple, holding the Christ child, rejoicing that now he can die because what he’d been waiting for actually arrived.

And so each December (though Advent starts the last Sunday of November this year), we enter into a season of waiting, expecting, longing. Spirit meets us in the ache.

We ask God to enter into the deepest places of cynicism, bitterness and hardness where we have stopped believing that tomorrow can be better than today.

We open up. We soften up. We turn our hearts in the direction of that day. That day when the baby cries His first cry and we, surrounded by shepherds and angels and everybody in between, celebrate that sound in time that brings our Spirits what we’ve been longing for.”

And so things come full-circle. Thank you Lord. And thank you, dear friends and family, for walking beside me.

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5 Comments on “how do I put this into words

  1. Erin,
    You are amazing. I’m glad you haven’t given up on us and that you never gave up on God.

    Peace,
    Shawn

  2. Thanks for writing this. Thanks for your example of not giving up on God – and even other Christians. I would choose to walk beside you in disillusionment and heartbreak 100 times before I’d walk beside a lot of others doing “okay.” I wish we could be together more to celebrate Advent, but this is a lovely start. Love to you, my dear dear friend.

  3. Erin, I loved reading this! So amazing to look back on something…that at the time, seemed confusing and painful…but now, it all makes sense! That’s God’s “master plan”, I guess :). “God led me to it and through it, grew me and opened me up in so many new ways, put a new direction and passion in me”…AMAZING that an experience can come full circle and have a positive effect on your life in so many ways.

  4. God is up to something. It is overwhelming to wake up and realize that we might be in on it. That when we asked to be used, He actually took us up on the offer.

    There is joy in that. There is also joy in the way He lets us work alongside each other. The way the Scriptures come to life in the midst of a community. Suddenly these Bible characters are facing the very situations we face. Fear of being a leader. Fear of being alone. Fear of being betrayed. The desire to speak up on behalf of the downtrodden. The joy that God is actually giving us the desires of our hearts. The beauty of needing a Body in order to accomplish these desires. The hope in knowing that no matter what happens — flood, famine, or fire — we have nothing to fear because we will always have each other, with Christ there among us.

    I am learning that this “I can do all things through Christ” idea is not a cool scripture for athletes to wear on their wristbands. It is for people praying that a bunch of people suffering from consumerism will hear about a bunch of people suffering from thirst, and that we would respond.

    But here is what I really want to say to you:

    So much of worship throughout the Scriptures is about remembering, i.e. remember your God who delivered you from slavery, remember how God helped you cross the river, remember that the grave is empty… remember SO THAT you will know this same God is very much alive right now, and even when He is silent, He is delivering.

    And I think you had a moment of remembering that God has delivered/is delivering you. What a gift of grace that is experienced during worship — the gift of remembering who we were, and who we’ve become. What we were up against, and how we were brought through it. And how He really does use all things for good.

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