H and I took a much-needed vacation last week. We went to Denver, where we were both registered to attend the Festival of Homiletics. I know, I know. It sounds spectacular, right? Well, it actually was. It was good to get away together—sans laptop and smartphone—and spend a few days in the thin air with the Rockies reminding us that we are small, small, small.
My first night at the Festival of Homiletics began in the morning in Denver at the car rental counter with a rude and grumpy associate who got to me, and I carried her grumpiness with me down the highway for a ways.
That evening, in the hotel restaurant, we met up with online friends and talked — albeit inadvertently— about the car rental lady. Patricia and Dan, David and Lisa, H and me; online friends meeting in real life around plates of shrimp tacos and green chile chili. We talked about people and trolls and how we can turn on each other without even knowing or realizing we are turning on ourselves.
After dinner in the restaurant, we hugged our friends who headed home, and H and I hopped in the car for the opening service of the festival. We went to Bluegrass worship in the Denver Colliseum and my feet hurt because I wore my cute, tall, strappy sandals, even though the festival organizers told us in multiple ways to wear our walking shoes because Denver is a walking town. But I assumed I’d get dropped off at the door.
In the worship service (I am trying hard to call it that), there was Bluegrass music poorly performed (I am snotty here, I know), and sensory overload for me, and there was manspreading from the guy in the seat next to me (doesn’t he see/know/care? I blame him; he’s an adult who has sat in these venues before; he should know better, so I crossed my left leg over my right and let my foot cross over into his personal space. He didn’t notice. Or care.). Two rows ahead of us a woman kept clearing her throat—over and over and over again. The music kept going, and in my head my grandfather was saying, “Why do they keep messing with the hymns?”
In the middle of it all, a thought bubble rose up inside of me and settled right behind my nose or at the back of my throat and it was this: “I don’t want to go to heaven with these people.”
Normally, I would not have considered I had any option other than to think such a terrible thought. I would have run with it — counting all the reasons I am superior to these Bluegrass-singing-manspreading-throat-clearing people. But, for some reason — God, I am guessing — I leaned into that terrible thought of mine.
I saw that it was a terrible thought, and that it felt a lot like what I’d been carrying around after talking to that car rental lady who probably had something going on in her life that was weighing her down. Turning her in on herself, the same way I was slowly turning on my own weary heart and soul.
So, I confessed the wrongness of the thought and pressed in to see where it came from and what it meant. I didn’t get as far as I’d hoped, but it was something. Thanks be to God.
That night, when Sara Miles spoke, she said, “God’s stories are mysteries, meant to undo us so we can be remade.” I was living that sentence, right there in the Denver Colliseum. Senses overloaded. Surrounded by people and music and everything feeling very far outside my comfort zone. Undone, and praying I wasn’t too far gone to be remade.
So I made a deal with me. I will give myself to this experience to see what might come of it. That is the deal I made with myself, in my seat, just before we were sent forth into the night and I stood up, made my way across the manspreader (I whispered, “Excuse me,” to him) and to the end of the aisle, where I looked down just in time to see a mouse scamper right past my sandaled toes.
My friend, Helen will tell you we grow the most when we’re around people and in environments that are different from what we’re used to. I hope she’s right. I imagine I grew at least a smidgen while we were at the festival. Only time will tell.
What I know is that my view of heaven shapes the way I live on earth. It does. If I think my rescue lies in getting swept up into heaven so I can get away from you, then that changes the way I interact (or don’t) with you, right here in Lincoln or in Denver or at the car rental counter, doesn’t it? But, what if Jesus meant it when he instructed us to pray, “…thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”?
What if Jesus was serious about that?
What if the manspreaders and the throat clearers and the Bluegrass music (and here, you can fill in your own different person or thing) make it to heaven, too? And what if heaven is doing its darndest to press its way through the darkness, right in the place where you live? What if being salt and light means leaning in to the dark places right in the center of our very own souls?
What if walking shoes really are the better the option for the journey we are on?
What if God really is counting on us?
Oh friend. I could talk to you a long time about this post… This bit here, this got to me:
” We talked about people and trolls and how we can turn on each other without even knowing or realizing we are turning on ourselves.”
Well that hit me upside my head. Oof.
I appreciate your honesty, and the way you turn me towards Jesus. I hope you had a chance to rest.
Yep. Patricia’s husband, Dan gets the credit for that one. Such an apt description, isn’t it?
So many well-turned phrases and word pictures here that get to the heart of the matter! Thanks for making us think!
Thanks for reading, Jan. 🙂
I would have been fine, probably, until the mouse because I quite like bluegrass; had never even heard of manspreading, before; and spent years of my life living with a throat-clearer, so I’m accustomed. But the mouse! I would’ve cried. You think I’m kidding; I’m not.
I hope I didn’t break a bunch of rules while I was with you. I can be a bit of a redneck. Oh, Dear.
In the scheme of things you write here, I have to be careful to remember that the journey with Jesus is one of loops and that some of us become enlightened in certain areas well before others of us. I get impatient, sometimes, because I feel like other Christians should be where I am, when in truth, even if I’m advanced in a certain area (totally questionable), they are likely advanced in others. I guess it’s like that so we can learn from and nudge one another along. It’s a highly annoying system, imho, but it can work.
Love you and your honesty, here. xxoo
I am SO surprised the mouse didn’t make me pass out. Normally, that would be the reaction I’d anticipate from me when being in such close proximity to a mouse. But, I guess I was farther gone than I knew.
Love your loop analogy. So good. I’ve heard something similar before, and it is very true. We’re on this journey together and God knew we’d need grace to make it.
As for breaking rules, how could that even be possible? You baked cookies!!! <3
Oh! And also? I’M a throat-clearer! So, seriously? What was I thinking?
Patricia W Hunter
Goodness, Deidra – this sure is good…and convicting. I’m not sure I’d be as intuitive and self-aware. Life would be so much easier if I could just stay in my comfort zones with my stuff and “my people”….but then I wouldn’t grow to be much like Jesus, either. Thank you for that reminder.
Comfort zones are so … comfortable, aren’t they? Not much growing room in there, though. 🙂
Your honesty is stunning. This is very courageous writing. Thank you.
Not to throw a book at you but to throw a book you should read NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope and His After You Believe which talk about how we view heaven. Wright talks about the Kingdom being here now. His work helps me want to be a Christian.
Hope you got rest and refreshment…
Can you believe I have never read anything by N. T. Wright? I know! I’ve got to get with the program! Our church did an entire Bible study series using one of Wright’s books, and I missed the entire thing!
Well, I hope you do read his Surprised by Hope which looks at how the popular view of Heaven isn’t so Biblical. Wright really meditates on what the resurrection means.
Flower Patch Farmgirl
This is all so, so good and true. And this >> “And what if heaven is doing its darndest to press its way through the darkness, right in the place where you live?” YES.
I think it might be true. 🙂
New Post: “Reasons Why You’re Not Praying” http://craftymorrison.blogspot.com/
Oh, this is so wonderful. Every word. Every question. Thank you, beautiful Deidra.
Thank YOU! And please thank Dan for such a wonderful insight. While reading the book you wrote with Alana, I so appreciated the way you shared about his encouragement of you and your relationship over the years. So beautiful.
Carol Longenecker Hiestand
Jumping in here to say
1. I appreciated what you wrote here
2 state my claim to fame – that Geof Holsclaw who wrote on The High Calling yesterday is one of my pastors! My son with Pure Charity was impressed I was at your retreat!
It’s a very small world indeed!
Love coming to your space here.
Haha! It IS a small world, isn’t it?
Yeah, we’ve all been in those disappointing situations where our impatience or judgemental spirits or pride leached out. Only difference is that you’ve been candid enough to put it all on the table, Deidra.
We are a grace-needy people, aren’t we …
Indeed we are. Indeed we are.
I often feel out of sorts at “conventions, convocations & gatherings.” But what I wouldn’t have given to hear Sara Miles! You see, of late I’m a “throat clearer, too.” I recently had surgery for lung cancer and the intubation tube may have damaged my vocal cords. I’m awaiting an appointment with an ENT. On my private FB page, I have a Sara Miles quote, “Prayer is one of the deepest forms of relationship with God… and through relationship there can be healing in the absence of cure.” Indeed – I am healed, while awaiting the rest of the cure!
Tamara, we throat-clearers should have our own convention, huh? 🙂
Sara Miles was awesome. I wasn’t familiar with her, but I bought her book, “City of God” at the Festival of Homiletics. Wow! What a beautiful storyteller and parable weaver she is!
Deidra, I like you a lot. You think/write aloud and I resonate. So so easy to be exclusive even in who I want to be in heaven with me…ahh, thankful for mercy and for the grace that gives me a chance to think upon my own inner smallness and hear His wake up call. Keep writing, girl! It helps me and I am sure many others to consider how serious Jesus really IS about what He says!
I am slowly coming around to the revelation that Jesus really IS serious. Not in a fun-stealing way, but in an, “I want the best for you,” way. “For all of you.” He is a master at inclusivity. Just when I think I’ve got inclusivity all wrapped up, Jesus shows me the chink in my armor. Again.
Thank so much for reading and commenting, Tara!
OMIGOSH. I love this so much – and relate way too well. Oh, I feel this, hon. Yeah, I do. Beautiful analysis of how things can just spiral right on down that hill of judgment, pulling up our shirt collars and turning away from our best selves and into self-pity and smoldering stuff. You are a gem, girl. You nailed it. (And SO sorry about the mouse.)
Yeah. The mouse. I don’t even know what to say about that.
Good good stuff here Deidra. Sorry about the bad bluegrass though (we can still be a touch snobby but still love everyone right?) but you drove your point home very well. I’m learning this very thing in my life too. Could God possibly be bigger than my tiny little section of the world? PS The answer is YES.
The other day I was talking to friend about the bad Bluegrass. He told me it wasn’t really Bluegrass if it wasn’t good Bluegrass. Ha!
Created Well @ TheAntiBlog
I always look forward to coming to read about what is on your heart. Thanks so much for sharing! Definitely things to ponder – beautiful how we have the option to sit back and take a look at what’s going on with US and realign with the Lord at any moment!
Thank YOU for taking time to read.
On a different note, I must say I’m intrigued by TheAntiBlog! Is it a website, or something different?
Whoo boy, I have to be careful when I read your posts, I am at work with a little time on my hands and did laugh out loud a little. :). It is so hard to think of Christians not having the exact same wonderful manners and considerations that I have! But, in saying that, I do make a lot of excuses for people too. If someone is driving really slow and coming to a complete stop at a green light, looking both ways, then going through(yup, that really happened to me), maybe it is the first time driving after an accident. Anyways, I TRY to remember WWJD and take a deep cleansing breath and carry on. Thanks for the giggles.
Glad you got a chuckle, Stephanie. I wish I could say I’m as mindful as you, but sometimes I just don’t hit the mark, you know? God’s grace, as the good book says, is sufficient, though. Not that I get a free pass because of grace, and keep on being my judgy self. But, still. Thank God for grace.
My mind instantly went back 30 some years to my first pig roast at a small country church in eastern Kentucky. We were in training for mission with New Tribes and had been invited to a “singun” at a local church. Two middle age ladies got up and without any instruments begin to twang a song out. Their accent was so strong it was hard to understand the words. Being a southern gospel singer myself I was turned off by their singing but could not for the life of me miss the glow on their faces over the one they were singing about. God spoke above the twang and I knew my judgmental heart needed to heed his words. Months late I was invited to sing at something close to that pig roast. I chose to not use any music to enhance my voice or make me seem more professional then those I was singing to. God was starting the process of getting me ready to go to the jungles where for sure they looked, smelled, sang, talked, ate, live a far cry from what I was use to. He wanted me to teach me to see below all that and see a heart needing to be change by the sweet gospel. Their heart need was more important then their cultural need. Because after salvation these people who God had in my future would still smelled, sang, talked, eat mostly the same. It would be their hearts that would change. I would someday walk the streets of heaven with those who became believers. I have never ever forgot the lesson taught to me through those dear ladies. I was, ” undone, and not too far gone to be remade”.
Beautiful post, thanks for putting into words for all to see the work of the Holy Spirit.
We’ve all got something standing between us and someone else, don’t we? Thank God he cares enough to help us work our way through that.
Man, really. Just man. I just want to live next door to you so you can teach me these kinds of things on a daily basis.
Deidra, oh, wow, I am wrestling with your words now. I so needed them. How can I worship God and not try to see the people around me (who might be driving me crazy) through His eyes? Thank you.
Dr. Helen Fagan
Oh I love how you think, write…I just love who you are! Way to press in and grow!