I stood on a glorified basketball court, with roughly 400 of my peers that were dancing and shouting.
Almost 12 hours of travel behind us.
I knew that being 8,000ft. up in the sky should make me feel like I was closer to God or something. It’s been told that Jesus makes Himself known on the mountain-tops. I figured He wasn’t going to decide to physically come back as I stood there and swayed to the music. But I figured that I should be feeling something. I dared to tell God that I just wasn’t feeling Him. I dared to ask Him where He was.
I came to Estes Park, Colorado with dry bones.
I love Jesus. I claim Him as my One and Only everyday. But I was getting sleepy.
It wasn’t visible to the common eye.
Let me say this, before our views get hazy and the rabbit trails come: there will not be one part to this post. There wasn’t one moment that spun this new era into orbit. It wasn’t just because I was at Cru’s Rocky Mountain Getaway, although that was the tool that I’m glad He used. It was a building of strong God-given layers. A tearing down of my own thin walls.
I forgot too often that while He may be the God of burning bushes, He is also the God of little miracles and tiny things and slow, burning trust that takes days and weeks and months to uncover. –Hannah Brencher
All of our speakers didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t know. Josh McDowell used the same three Greek words that every non-Greek-student-church-kid knows. I knew that I was chosen, as it says in one of Peter’s letters. But we have to be reminded. The truths are nothing to us until we experience them.
Through these truths, and each other, we experienced God.
Saturday night I left yawning. Looking back, I can see how that night left me looking like this prayer written by Flannery O’ Connor:
I don’t want to be doomed to mediocrity in my feeling for Christ. I want to feel. I want to love. Take me, dear Lord, and set me in the direction I am to go.
Last month, I had mono symptoms for four, terribly long weeks. But what I hadn’t noticed was that I was becoming a servant to spiritual mono. It left me tired. I could do the Jesus thing for a few hours, or maybe even a day – but I crawled into my bed and did nothing but hide from healing when it was over. My energy wasn’t fake. It just wasn’t lasting. I wasn’t outside of God’s house. But if His love was a hotel (go with me here), I was settling for a Super 8 kind of peace when I could have been living in a Presidential suite somewhere breathtaking. In other words, satan was excited about my level of exhaustion. Because he knows that I like to run from people when they start to see behind my spiritual filters and that I like to hide from God when He’s calling me out to honesty. The devil loves lukewarm Christians who aren’t living like they believe in the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of them.
God is feeding me and what I’m praying for is an appetite. –Flannery O’Connor
Sunday morning: Marianne Jordan Ellis gave us girls one of the top-three best sex talks I’ve ever heard. She prayed as we closed in our circle tables, with chevron neon patterns and cupcakes in between us, “[Help her know that because of her sin and all of her mistakes] She is not ruined. And You have better for her.” Chills went down my spine.
Sunday afternoon I bought a prayer journal that began to resonate prayers in me that I didn’t know were necessary. My foretaste of Him had came. But I knew at this point that it was just myself getting in the way of what He had next. I had literally threw all my recent sin in the trash can. I’ve written hundreds of handwritten letters – that’s my thing. But I hadn’t finished a whole letter to Him in what felt like years, since I had a pink study Bible and an entirely different style of handwriting. Monday morning, I wrote to Him and said I thought He was mad at me. The words continued to come.
Help me to adore the size of grace. I don’t want it to just be my safety net. I want it to be my walk. Help my brokenness find purpose, because I’ve been distracted and hurt while I answered all the questions correctly.
That same afternoon I just needed to sob into someone’s shoulder. I found a sore substitute for that shoulder in some borrowed headphones and my top bunk.
I know I am learning to wait. I think I am learning to not hold expectations so close to my chest. God didn’t promise to honor my expectations. That would be such a sad, little life. He promised to prune me and love me just as I needed to be pruned and loved. –Hannah Brencher
That night, restoration came. I began to feel awake again. I wasn’t in some spiritual dream. It was a hard afternoon on several fronts, I had wiped a few tears, hummed a few sad songs — it was time to step out of my funk. I know it’s not necessary to feel God to know you’re safe in Him — but I’m glad when He chooses to meet us in things like conversations with friends, conviction through solid speakers, His Presence in sweet worship, and His name celebrated at a rap concert (with heavy sweat and a happy heart displayed below).
Tuesday: Drizzly rain, hot coffee, girl talk, finding the perfect hypothetical engagement ring, dreaming of buying the handwritten Greek Bibles for sale, and silly faces…
Wednesday: our last full day in chilly Colorado. A twinge of sadness. Time spent with new friends. My favorite day.
I sat with good friends during our morning session. We prayed individually and as a group for an hour in what they called a prayer concert, about surrender and by name for one another. We held hands, or laid hands, or clasped our own together – gripping the realness of God in that place and the community around us. If I had to choose one moment that was my favorite in the entire week, it would have been praying over each other during that session and hearing the whispers of everyone else doing the same for one another across the room. It was awkward for everyone at first. That’s why so many walls were forced to fall. Iron sharpens irons that way.
Wednesday afternoon we traveled over an hour to a city to hang out with strangers, ask them a few questions, and talk about a personal relationship with Jesus with them. Wednesday night, I found my song. Authentic worship comes when you recognize the depth of your sin and a sliver of the greatness of God at the same moment. I’m not a hand-raiser by tradition. I sway. That night, I was a swaying-worshiper that couldn’t stop the tears.
Now it was time to pack up, after a sad farewell prayer and a group meeting. Already.
This was the thing itching under our skin as we all discussed coming home: how do we describe this?
So, I guess the bottom line is what we started all this with,
He met us. We experienced God. We experienced God in our reality and our vacation from it.
And if I scan back to the exact moment I pinned that car ride into my diary, I want to eventually be able to recite the words I wrote by heart:
Life, while crazy, demands breaks. And the countryside. And conversations that cut you into two but somehow make you closer as one. And little care for calorie counts. And the promise of stars.
Life, while crazy, is enough just like this. –Hannah Brencher, Monday morning e-mail club
It may have been in the absence or in the presence of reality. It may have been in the realization of our sin or the acceptance of letting it all fade away. It may have been with the windows down, dancing dramatically, or playing Christmas music in June.
But He let us be more aware of Him — whether it was in tears, solitude, brokenness, or hard laughter.
He gave me a much-needed new song.
Now we stand, say goodbye to our see-through spiritual filters, and we get to sing what He whispered to us on the mountain-top.
That moment— the one with the car and the music and the heat and the windows down on the highway— was the strongest sense of “enough” I’ve felt in a long time. There was no wrestling to be better. There were no tiny copper teaspoons. There was no need to wonder what you would have thought of me in that moment. It was just me and the road and my best friend and a break from reality.
It was just me being so content in that moment that I didn’t want to capture it and I didn’t want to filter it. I didn’t want to change a thing about myself. I just wanted to learn to live inside of it. –Hannah Brencher, Monday morning e-mail club