We continued on walking through the landscape noticing the little ways in which it resembled the most beautiful parts that remained of the city. The tall oaks and Douglas firs covered in light, the smell of the beach after the sunset, the warm breeze of a summer afternoon in the Pacific Northwest—so much nature and yet so much space to be in between—so much time to be alone in the splendor of creation and so much time to be with others and to exchange love freely and without fail. This was a world that had begun in the city. Then a voice surrounded me and uttered words like that of a song for what seemed like the first time and yet like a familiar reminder, “Your world’s gradual subsidence, spanning millennia, beneath a shallow sea with eons of deep time, passing mostly in chaotic noise, has been home to micro movements to and fro my father’s dwelling, and don’t you see? Little ghost, it’s never been about the salvation of disembodied souls but of the renewal of the whole earth.” “Where am I?” I asked and silence filled this place.
It was then that I asked my Teacher, “May I let go and try walking on my own? I want to be like the animals, free to run about, to go to the east and the west and play in the horizon with all the rest.” “That’s not all they do,” said the Teacher. I watched them as they were speaking ever so softly during their play. I listened carefully and noticed that they prayed with one another for the eyes of the blind that were still in the city. The Teacher smiled and said it all with his eyes and so it was then that I let go and began to bleed from the base of my feet as my weight pressed me with excruciating force into the grass. But the birds lifted my gaze away from the ground and toward the distant mountain and suddenly hope began to guide me forward as I realized that the further I walked the less it hurt. I looked to my right and my left—scenes of my life playing before my very eyes—times when I had failed to seek harmony and justice and I knew that the animals here represented the very thing that I had missed in my life. I had lived a life that fueled a love for security and prosperity, but in this moment I found peace in knowing my brokenness and could sense that this place was taking the fullness of my story and building upon the good and forgiving the wrong. It wasn’t about punishment like I had feared; it was about my own awareness and forgiveness of my past that projected me on and on toward the great mountain and my body began to become solid. I could no longer see my wounds through my feet. And as I looked back towards the Teacher I saw ten thousand more just like him singing,
“Come forth all of creation!
Lift up your voices in praise
For today one begins to see what was always there.”
Last month I recorded a song I wrote called “Reflection.” It’s been a while since I recorded something apart from Darkpine. It was a lot of fun. I had my friend Jordan record me in one long night. We started mid-afternoon and ended at around 3 in the morning. This is the result: https://jademusic.bandcamp.com/track/reflection
By far the most important thing I have involved myself with during my college education is the group ministry. Joining group has taught me more about God and about who I am than anything else has at SPU. My advice to a freshman would be to get involved in an on-campus ministry. It surrounds you with peers that are passionate about exploring who God is and who they are and provides you with a safe place to pursue those questions. It will grow you in leadership, service, and relationships. It will help you step into the fullness of who God has created you to be and it will help you realize your destiny as a child of God and a citizen of the Kingdom of God. What’s most important to you might just become the way you love others. You might become less concerned with your level of popularity or your material possessions. You might become more aware of the beautiful and tragic qualities of our culture, and in turn learn how to live into some of those qualities and reject the others to more fully live into the Kingdom of Heaven right now because Heaven and Earth were made to overlap. And I know for myself that over these three years of being involved in this ministry, I have developed a confidence in myself that has freed me up to speak my mind with boldness and draw others into a relationship with God through the way I live rather than through forced evangelism.
You might, however, have the majority of your youthful theology crushed by a slow and steady process of studying scripture and coming to terms with the big picture of the Christian story. Your Christian faith will become rooted in a reality that is in the future and yet a present moment in the form of the Church. Your identity as pars pro toto, a part of the whole, will guide your life as a minister. This is indeed a paradox that leaves us in a life of ambiguity. You will cry and you will feel for a time the emptiness of losing your identity in a faith that puts Heaven and Hell next to each other and teaches you that an allegiance to the Christian faith is the only way out of eternal punishment. You will wonder if your faith has any ounce of validity. These are of course the moments that your spirit and your theology must experience and endure, but you will be thankful for them in due course.
Studying scripture and hearing the stories of the people I do ministry with has brought me to a place of asking, “How do we truly live in this middle time between Jesus’ departure and his return and inauguration of God’s new creation?” We are surrounded by brokenness and pain and a multitude of different religions and stories that give us varying perspectives on where this world is going, but I have found that the greatest secret, which stands at the foot of our present reality, is that Christians are grounded not by knowing the absolute truth of this life, but by our hope that the Kingdom of God is surely coming and that the dead will be raised to new life. Thus, it is with this hope that we embrace the brokenness and ambiguity of our lives in the face of Jesus who teaches us to reach out to God in both times of joy and understanding and suffering and uncertainty. You might find that you have new hope, hope that this story is big enough to include everyone. Your purpose in life might no longer be just about recruiting more Christians, as if one’s membership in the Christian church is some prerequisite for being your friend or if the role of the church is merely understood as a purveyor of afterlife options. From my experience, my purpose in life has transformed from a desire to convert everyone around me and into a longing to live into my eschatological hope here and now through the way I love others, celebrate life now and life eternal, and live as a member of the Christian church in continual agitation and questioning of all systems which prevent the flourishing of life.