My pastor probably thinks I'm a big fat jerk. Because I sat through his entire message this morning, which was about the freedom from shame, from punishment, death, legalism, hopelessness, etc. that we have in Christ - I sat through that whole wonderfully-prepared message with what Dan's grandmother Opal would call "the stink eye." What a great southern term. I had distaste written all over my face - I'm pretty sure that my lip curled up into a snarl a couple of times. I'm talking flat, sociopath affect and lots of frustrated sighs.
It wasn't because I disagreed, or thought he did a poor job - just the opposite! I'll hop on a SERIOUS soapbox and you'll have to stuff my mouth with old socks to get me to stop talking about our freedom in Christ. When I was an RA at Liberty, I taught for an entire year on the subject! But this morning- there was something different brewing in my heart.
The Fourth of July has long been my favorite holiday. (I'll post an old writing in the "Journals" section about why this is - you should check it out for a funny story involving my grandpa and a long jump pit.) But at some point during the last 365 days I've become unwaveringly convinced that I am going to spend a significant chunk of my life overseas, so this year I'm experiencing wholly new emotions on the 4th.
Here's what was rolling around my heart/mind this morning from 11 to 12 o'clock.
"I'm going to miss this."
When we sang "America the Beautiful," I cried. Cried, singing about fruited plains. (Where does that rank on the lame scale?)
But I'm not insane; it was because I know that one day, I'm going to be living overseas and thinking about how absolutely perfect my green, fertile, spacious backyard was in Alabama, and I will be homesick to death. I know that I'm going to miss the abundance. I'm going to miss Barnes & Noble as much as anything else - abundance of space, abundance of books, abundance of air conditioning and music and coffee, abundance of free time. I will miss driving there in my car, with my gasoline, and my daughter in tow, just because we enjoy it.
I will miss the convenience of fast food. The gloriousness of bringing home a pizza and sitting on the living room floor watching "The Office." I will miss the baby pool days. Sitting outside in my bathing suit with my feet chilling in the yellow inflatable pool. Spending all day watching Madeline splash in clean water, reading magazines that come to my mailbox and planning what to make for dinner.
This, my friends, is the good life.
And today more than most days I'm thankful for it. I'm SO GRATEFUL, for the privilege of starting here. For the unfathomable privilege of having these images, these memories in my quiver. I'm rich, I'm 24 years old and I'm already rich with a lifetime of perfect images, memories, and experiences to sustain me wherever I go.
So that explains the crazy-woman tears during a song sung primarily at 5th grade plays.
Here's what brought on my very terrible case of stink eye. Thinking about how much I LOVE America, only reminded me of why I'm going to leave. I love this country. I'm thankful for it; I believe in it. I'm in the privileged minority of people who get to be born here, and grow up with opportunity and means not afforded to the rest of the world. So why on EARTH would I leave?
I will leave because the God of heaven has stirred in my heart such a passion for the people in another particular part of the world, that I cannot stand to stay.
I will not say "Give me liberty or give me death."
I say "Give me Christ. Give me bondage for His sake. Give me oppression that I may reach the apple of His eye." Because without my unconditional surrender - that's exactly what these people will receive - death.
I WILLINGLY resign my liberties, my "rights," my sense of entitlement. In the Bible, Paul says that he has "become all things to all people" that they may be saved. I will go to these people and become like them in their oppression, become like them in their standard of living, become like them in their need that I might have the honor of introducing them to Jesus - who came to SET THEM FREE.
And when I think of these people that God loves, that He has taught me to love, I don't want to be in the United States anymore. I can't get to them soon enough. And everyone around me in church was 'amen-ing' as the pastor talked about how Christ has set US free, and how blessed WE are, and how WONDERFUL it is to be free from sin and death and aren't WE glad? And in the middle of service I wanted to stand up and scream, "What about THEM?!"
I didn't scream. Instead, stink eye.
So all in all, a very emotional 4th of July service this morning. I was simultaneously overwhelmed with my crazy-love for the precious United States, and reminded why I'm dying to leave. And when I thought about leaving, I was saddened thinking of all the things I will miss about my home. And when I thought of the beautiful things at home, my heart broke again for all those who live without. It was an emotional catch 22 - a vicious cycle that left me crying and snarling and singing hymns all at once.
And so, Pastor Al, if you happen upon this I hope you understand that I LOVED your message this morning and I agree with you wholeheartedly. I weep for the praise of Jesus who set me free. And because I understand something of freedom in Christ, I have to leave here, and take the good news of Jesus where it is not. The stink eye, it's nothing personal.