This past weekend, I have been in the celebratory cheeriness of a wedding, the somber remembrance of a funeral and a birthday celebration of the ongoing journey of life.
It’s strange to say, but it’s in these moments, rhythms and seasons that I feel closest to God. It is in the summits of celebration and the depths of mourning that the presence of God is exposed the most. These moments aren’t just boring ritual anymore. They point to a richness. There is a richness in the rhythms of life that are undeniably from God.
If only my heart was always aware of that richness…
And then I realize my personal context. In this next year, I may very well be entering into a season of desert. It hasn’t occurred to me until the last few weeks that I am scared to the bone. I am afraid. I am afraid of not being able to find roommates. I am afraid of living alone. I am afraid of going to a new church. I am afraid of being forgotten. I am afraid I am in the wrong place. Everyone looks at me skeptically. They know the prospects in North County may very well kill me. They keep reminding me of this, as if I myself do not know this prospect of social death to the very core of who I am. It is hard to hide it, but right behind this thinly veiled attempt at faith, I am scared.
Will that fear blind me from seeing the richness of God’s presence? Or will it drive me to search for it even harder? Could it really be that God’s call for me to be in North County is not a call of obligation, but really an invitation to know Him? Is it really true that the price to pay for knowing Him is to join Him in His death? And that I could actually join in His sufferings joyfully?
She did. She suffered in ways I cannot fathom, but somehow was joyful, and somehow managed to bless so many people that they kept streaming up to the microphone, refusing to let the emcee close up the sermon(, with jars and jars of garlic. Who ever knew garlic could be so significant?). She knew her life was not her own, but was poured out as an offering to all those around her. (you know a stranger was a good person when you wish you had met her just from watching your friends mourn her absence)
I want to be that. It’s what my students deserve. It’s what North County deserves. I don’t know if my soul will survive this forced (temporary, for sure, and perhaps slightly illusional) solitude and displacement. It feels like death to me. But perhaps it should be that my soul will perish if it is not constantly brought into those very places of displacement and desert, where I am reminded that true life comes from above. It comes from above, and plentifully, to the point where I no longer have to hold onto it with a scarcity mentality and can give it away freely.
This question of survival keeps echoing in my head. Will you come out alive after these next few years, Daniel? Everyone asks me that. I ask myself that. I ask myself if it is worth it.
It is. Only one year of this half-way life of working in North county, but not living there has been worth it already. Seeing followers realize they are leaders. Seeing hearts transformed. Hearing somebody say “we’re not a club, we’re a movement”. Being challenged to pray by the very people I should be challenging to pray. Being called out. Raising up evangelists. Speaking truth. Making some students stop saying “I’m sorry”. Making other students begin to say “I’m sorry”. Witnessing a community partner with God to bring our friends to Christ. Letting God change me.
If I come out alive or dead (in a very shallow and hollow use of that word), I think the risk of not just working, but living here will be worth it. If I learned so much living half-way, how much more would I gain if I fully lived in North County?
love. death. life. The wedding, funeral and birthday seem to all be blurring into this beautiful, rich and redeemed picture of God’s grace. May my eyes be ever open so that I may never lose sight of that picture.