I wrote these entries in my notebook as I was on the plane. These entries do not really have all that much to do with each other, but I am including them both because, well, I can.
Originally Written December 28, 2011 on the flight from Chicago to Shanghai
Part of me didn’t want to start at the beginning of this notebook. I wanted to start in the middle because I don’t feel like I am at the beginning of this story I am living. I’ve got ten hours left of an over fourteen-hour flight. I think we are somewhere over Northern Canada. It takes me a while for the screen to show where we are and it takes longer for me to be able to read it—as it changes between English and Chinese. My roommate is going to meet us in Bangkok. She is currently on a plane headed to Japan. So far I’ve only watched one movie (Moneyball), and haven’t slept all that much. But it has been four hours, I think. Traveling is weird that way, how your calendar gets all screwed up because you are somehow flying through time (it is currently the 27th at home right now).
My thoughts bounce around. I want to get to Thailand, but the largest part of me would prefer to be home. Although in a weird way, I’m proud of myself for being here. It’s like I am having an out of body experience in my head where I’m cheering myself on somehow. I am root for myself to continue to take risks. I recently was watching a TED talk where the speaker defined courage. She said courage is telling who you are with all of who you are. Or something like that. I have never thought of myself as being courageous. Let’s face it: I am still a wimp. I still play it safe for the most part. I don’t think I will ever be able to jump out of an airplane or anything. But I am doing something.
For a while when I was still holding onto a lot of bitterness toward my latest ex-boyfriend, I saw a man checking out in the Express Lane in front of me in Wal-Mart. He was fat and balding. He looked like a stereotypical middle-aged man who wife probably should leave him because all he does is watch baseball and scratch his beer-belly gut. Maybe that was unfair to him. But I was still carrying all this anger, so it was his fault that he was wearing a Harley Davidson coat and buying Red Bull. Of course it made me think of him. In my anger, I thought about how my ex was going to become this man. I know that’s awful. Go ahead and tell me I’m a horrible person. But I’ve since regained a grasp on grace. I’ve let go of the bitterness I held from his and my last several phone calls. Sometimes I take back a little bitterness, but am quickly reminded that I must let it go. Anyway, since the breakup with him and with all the mental plans of the stories that our life together would tell, I have realized that I have been in the middle of telling my story the entire time. I am not always doing a great job of making it all that epic or anything. But I am trying.
Every morning when I am forced to decide whether or not to stay in the comfort of my warm bed or leave the comforting sheets and blankets, I am being brave. I know. It is a small victory maybe, but it is still a step in the right direction. Donald Miller writes about how he is a tree in the story about a forest. Really, that’s all I am, too. But it is still something that is showing life. It is a story that is much greater than I am. That’s the story I am living. It is a story that ties into a much grander story. I am clay and being molded into something beautiful throughout all of this. Much like the current darkness outside my plane window, soon will come a beautiful destination. But for right now, it is all about the journey.
Originally written on January 11, 2012 on the plane ride from Japan to Dallas
On our last flight, we were about an hour from landing and the pilot comes over the intercom saying, “We will be experiencing some turbulence, but don’t worry, I will still be in control of the place and we will probable land just fine.” I am not sure exactly what he said, but his words did not instill much confidence. I think when I look back on this trip and this past year, that’s been my attitude toward God. The whole time God’s been telling me he is in control but the words don’t sound all that confidence-instilling, so I doubt. Luckily the plane didn’t really even go through that rough of turbulence, and now we are on our longest leg on the journey back home. We fly to Dallas and then to Kansas City, and then either tonight or tomorrow morning I will make the drive to Wichita and stay with my roommate until classes start for the spring semester of college.
Third Wave was a global conference, and no doubt it expanded my worldview. But I think the temptation for me when I hear all these stories about what God is doing in the lives of others and in other countries, I want to look at my ministry. I attend a private Christian university in a pretty semi-wealthy suburb and work with a church who ministers to teens who have, for the most part, only know life in suburbia. It is easy to look at what I’m doing and think that I am barely doing anything for the Kingdom of God. Yet there was a night that we were ministering to the new church plant in the community park.
Our intentional fair had already been going on for an hour when we received word that a small local band had rented out the park to play their music. So we were waiting out their hour-long set in order to finish our intentional fair. I found myself sitting along a fence when a pastor from the Chicago area. He asked me questions about myself and what classes have impacted me the most. We then got started talking about our calls to ministry. His story involves a friendship with someone in his church who did not give up on him. Burned by experiences within the church, there were a few people who stuck by him even when he tried to push them away. Though my story and my call to ministry are quite different, my story likewise involves a youth pastor who came into my life after I had only been in the youth group two years and already went through two youth pastors. Now it wasn’t that we were a horrible group of teens (at least, I hope that wasn’t the case!), but it is hard to find someone who wants to stay in a small town in the middle of nowhere North Dakota. So enters someone who was making a promise to stay for six full years—long enough to watch the group of entering seventh graders graduate. (I was entering high school at this time.) It was his commitment to stay that has profoundly shaped the way that I view ministry.
I remember one of my teens saying to me, “When you graduate college, are you going to leave us?” One thing that teens need is stability. They need people in their lives to say, “I am going to stick with you no matter what you’re going through.” So maybe I am not doing anything that will ever make news and maybe I am not even doing anything all that profound, but I am doing something that will impact lives. I am living in the tension of the mess and beauty—restoration and brokenness—with my teens. That’s what it is like to live in the Kingdom of God. It is only a part, but that doesn’t make it any less important.
I saw a lot of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God during this trip. I also had my eyes opened to ways the Kingdom of God has already been breaking in all around me.
God is good.