It's pretty darn cool!
The group was inspired to get together, once a week, at the end of a week-long conference in Kansas City. (check out http://www.ihop.org/ )
We returned from IHOP (or The International House of Prayer) two weeks ago, on fire, submerged in fellowship with like-minded young men and women, on the basis that we are the Body of Christ.
Praying is easy. Having grown up in the church, I find that praying together is probably one of the most easy activities to participate in. It's simple, clear, your roll is cut out and clearly defined.
However, being only into the second week of this fellowship group, I have already found that I'm an oddity amongst believers. Okay, so that sounds pretty darn self-focused... but it really hadn't dawned on me until yesterday that I am weird!
Not just weird, like, "I'm a nerd, kind'a geeky, and an odd duckling," type of weird, but weird on a totally new level!
Most of the group arrived about an hour early to intercede on behalf of those who would come for fellowship, later on in the evening. These are faithful, committed people who, I have found, are deeply committed to prayer on a level that the majority of modern-day Christians are not.
They prayed for an hour. One whole, entire, complete hour... and then some...
Praise GOD for young men and women like this!
Because all but three people in the group had been at the church, praying together, interceding for one another, serenading in the Word, they were, more or less, already in the mood and
comfortable enough to start getting vulnerable with each other.
One of the guys opened the group up with his testimony; How God took his ashes and turned it into beauty. How God took a person who was committed to himself, bringing to a place where he became committed to others, but more importantly, to Christ.
Yeah, okay, so I've heard the 'typical' "I was a druggie and alcoholic" story before, but this was someone real and tangible. Someone I know, or at least, am acquainted with. Someone I get together and fellowship with every week. Someone I drove down to IHOP with.
The next testimony was given by a young woman who, in all honesty, I respect. She has a story of her own, laced with the lonely and broken life of a little girl with an alcoholic father, and worse.
A similar story to the young man's who opened up the group.
Three young people, who all grew up in the church, shared their stories of addiction, religion as apposed to faith and feeling the need to be a savior to others because the love of Jesus wasn't enough. All three told the story of how Christ justified them, and how they are being cleansed through Him.
There were a couple more testimonies, similar to the one's stated above. However, the last one was told by a young man (who, apparently, is either older than I thought, or lived life to it's absolute fullest between preteen-hood and young-adulthood) shared his story of substance abuse, alcohol and over all immorality. He shared how God, almost quite literally, walked into his life, inviting him into the plan Jesus had for him.
As I listened to each story of how God reached in and invited these lovely people to "Follow Him," I wondered if I should share my story...
But after hearing the last, incredible, "beauty from ashes" tale, I decided against it.
What could I have to share with these people, who have lived life. The life I have been told I'm "missing out on."
Honestly, I have never really thought that I've "missed out" on anything in life, save peer pressure, an every-day social life and peer group, and many like-minded people.
I'm home schooled, and quite proud of that small fact, that makes up who I am.
Most home school people, at least those my age, I have found, are either rather lonely, or have the money and recourse's to be knit in to many groups, and keep themselves very active in life. Not to stay I haven't kept active, rather I have not had many things to fill my time, which is a choice our family has made, in order to pay for and insure other things in our life.
What could I have to offer these people, who have lived life, when I have so obviously not. How can I share a testimony that is very not beauty from ashes, but rather a constant search and seeking of Truth, acting on that Truth, falling flat on my face, stumbling, getting back up (or at least trying to), and "just keep walking..."
I don't have some dramatic saga of drugs, excessive drinking or any sort of addiction. To be honest, I find alcohol rather gross tasting and really don't understand what some people find so wonderful about it...
And in no way am I being sarcastic. I truly believe these people will have amazing ministries! Really, truly and honestly! This is something that has been very much impressed upon me - they will have have incredible ministries! Successful ministries.
World changing ministries.
But last night, I felt as though my lack-of-life, or weirdness, if you will, was magnified by about one-hundred. And it was probably just me being weird and overly-sensitive... or was it?
I have never been in the place where these young people are coming from. Never had those experiences. Never known the type of family they grew up in. Heck, I can't even begin to comprehend understanding! And they probably feel the same way about me, understandably.
As I have been thinking about Tuesday night, mulling over everything that happened, a lot of emotions that bubbled over and all the tears, I catch myself wondering "was it worth it?"
I have been asked this question by seemingly like minded people, "is it worth never having dated?" "Is it worth never having smoked or drank?" My response is basically, "well I think wine is gross, and beer is probably worse (I'm too "afraid" to try it though). I have only ever been asked on a date by a non-Christian, who I am committed to not dating. And the stories I have heard about smoking make it sound like an awful experience, and I don't like the health problems that go along with it..." Laughter, and a hearty "you little weirdo" usually follow these short-lived conversations.
These conversations, the type of settings like Tuesday night make me relate to Psalm 73 even more, especially the verses 13-14.
"Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence.
For all day long I have been plagued,
And chastened every morning."
These words are written by psalmist Asaph, who is talking about trust, doubts, envy and faith in God. Yes, faithlessly asking whether the purging of your sins and the cleansing of yourself before God is worth it is doubt. However, doubting, questioning and seeking Truth for yourself is part of owning your faith, as an individual. Therefore, I am not afraid to question when I doubt. When one questions why they are doubting and if there is really something to doubt, they are seeking Truth in its absolute fullest, I believe. It's an ebb and flow of life. Doubt runs into questioning, which runs into seeking, and a seeker nearly always finds what they are looking for, if they are really seeking to find, not merely seeking to doubt...
But I have gotten onto a tangent and conversation which I must save for a later date :)
My parents have held me to the highest standard of purity, morality and personal choices, that they know. They have raised all of us kids in this way. And succeeded quite brilliantly, I must say! But as I sat there, listening to these beautiful stories - unfinished stories - I realized how different my story how, and so how different the ministry, God has laid before me, is.
My life, maybe, instead is a living testimony. A testimony for right now, today, this moment. Not something down the road. Maybe my ministry is simply living, being, breathing, being filled with God's life.
Maybe the call for me isn't to be a huge radical evangelist, but a person who evangelises through day-to-day living... trough a life where weirdness to the US culture is normality for me.
Maybe I've been drafted to be a light by living, as Russ Duritz on The Kid claims, "a chick-less, dog-less looser with a twitch..." Except, in my case, it would be "a hunk-less, twitch-less looser with a dog," and through this "letting my light shine."
God richly bless and keep you!!