Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy Leap Year

366 days.  A leap year.  A quadrennial occurrence when our planet cashes in on the overage of time it actually takes for the globe to make one complete revolution around the sun.  Our last leap year was 2012, which means our next will be 2016.  However, today I'm celebrating my own little leap year of sorts.

It was 366 days ago, a full leap year {if you will}, since I walked into River Pointe Church.  366 days since I navigated the campus with the help of a very kind and welcoming guide named Rick.  The first thing Gavin said after being introduced to him was, "that's my Grandpa's name!".  Brynn just smiled a mile and a half wide.  This daughter of mine knew.

With the kids settled into their classrooms, I nestled into a welcoming seat in the 'big church' and before I knew it I was overcome with tears and goosebumps; even in the midst of a lively and exceptionally talented arrangement of worship music.  The energy in the large auditorium sparkled with joy and praise.  This crowd knew.

The pastor walked onto the stage and began his message; the penultimate of a series entitled 'Believe the Amazing'.  His message was about making your faith bigger than your fear.  In the book of Acts, Paul had become overcome by fear.  While Paul never quite expressed this fear, God knew.  He addressed this fear: And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, "Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people." {Acts 18:9-10 ESV}.  God reassured Paul with these words, I am with you.  He brought friends to Paul by way of Aquila and Priscilla; provided a community in which Paul felt comforted and supported as he shared the Good News.  The pastor explained it this way: God never meant for us to be Lone Ranger Christians.  He wants us to do life together.  Together.  In a community.  With others.  Do not be lonely.

God knew, and through Him, this pastor knew.  I was in this church for a reason.

By the end of the service, I had moistened each of the corners of my bulletin with my steady stream of soft tears {it rarely occurs to me to keep tissues in my mom-sized purse}.  I had been enveloped in a gossamer shawl of comfort as I listened and inhaled the beautiful aroma of what was about to become the community in which I would find community.  Friends.  Connections.  Family.  Faith.  Myself.

I walked in to River Pointe a year ago broken.  Crushed.  Lost.  My outward appearance did not genuinely reflect my inward struggle.  I had stuffed my confusion and insecurities and shame into the darkest and deepest place in my soul.  A place I didn't think the light could reach, a place I didn't want the light to reach.  I rolled a big stone in front of that tomb and made a pact with myself to never visit, to never let it escape.  What I didn't realize was that the contents of that crevasse was starting to rot.  Their destructive repercussions became like a noxious gas that dispersed throughout my life.  My parenting, my self esteem, my relationships, my happiness.  All overcome by the wickedness of lies and the overwhelming sense of emptiness in my heart.  I couldn't quite grasp the grandeur of the pit in which I had landed, nor could I quite figure out how to begin the process of climbing back out.  And, perhaps what baffled me the most is how I had not been aware that I was heading into that pit, sinking deeper and deeper as I kept going through life.  My consciousness had not recognized this slow slide into the chasm.

Looking back now, I realize the devil had grabbed hold of me in that way.  The mirage created by the daily goings on of life masked the sinking sand upon which I stood.  The rotted remnants of my deep, dark parts of my soul were no longer contained by the giant stone I'd used to try and forget them.  I had to go there and remove the stone.  I had to roll it away and air out the funk and ugly and brokenness I had hoarded away from the world {and from myself}.

When Mary Magdalene discovered that the tomb of Jesus was empty; the stone having been rolled away; it was because of the supernatural miracle upon which my faith is based.  I, however, am not supernatural in any way, shape, or form; and therefore when I rolled my stone away, my tomb was not empty.  Instead, I was hit with what seemed like a ton of bricks that were pelted toward me a few at a time over a l-o-n-g period of time.  In fact, they're still flying in my direction on a daily basis.  But that's what separates us from the Heavenly Father who raised from the dead.  We are a broken humanity, living in a broken world.  He is not.  My bricks may never stop flying in my general direction.  The bricks that struck Him were by way of human hand; from the outside world, those filled with fear.  Their fear was not bigger than their faith; thus Christ was crucified.  But even in all this, God knew.  He was {and is} with us.

I find myself staring into the tomb of my soul on a daily basis now, willingly accepting the bricks of shame or insecurity or misdirection.  Sure, they hurt; sure there are days when those bricks knock me back a few steps or give me a big goose egg on the head.  Sure I find myself adding more bricks back into that tomb, even after having laid them at the cross.  It's humanity.  We're broken, we're imperfect, we're human.

This past Easter, my pastor, Patrick Kelley, shared a message about putting your trust in God.  I drew parallels to that first message I ever heard him deliver.  I realize now that this 'leap year' has been about having the ability within my soul to replace my fear with faith, to be fully satisfied with knowing that God is with me, regardless of my circumstances--loss, loneliness, aimlessness, shame, confusion, insecurity.  I realize now that the key to everything I have become privy to over the course of the past year has been that even though I may not have always verbalized and acknowledged my fears out loud, God knew.  He knew and He knows and He whispers daily {sometimes hourly}, "do not be afraid, for I am with you.".  He brought me friends and a community when I needed it most, just as He did with Paul in Corinth.  When I stand there, being pelted with the bricks of my past, He is actually standing in front of me; accepting the blunt force of their roughness, protecting me from the sharp edges that threaten to puncture my soul all over again.  He is the One in which I attribute all of the life change I have experienced over this past year, He is the one who packed my parachute for when I took my leap of faith.

I'll be celebrating 'leap year' every single day.

River Pointe Church

baptism day, 4/12/14