jeremie. life after

It was a weird time, if there ever was any, to go on a missions trip. Over a year ago, when I first heard about the opportunity, it sounded good. I sponsored a child in Port-au-Prince and I was intrigued by the chance to visit him in his native land. I was further motivated by the devastation brought upon by the earthquake that struck two years earlier.

But much can change in a year. In that span, I’ve lost friendships and rekindled old ones. I’ve had to deal with my waning passion for church work and reassess my direction and vision. And somewhere in there plans to visit my sponsor child fell through. On top of all this I was tired of traveling–this would be my fifth trip in two months.

This all hit me the night before I prepared to depart. My life was busy, but worse, I possessed a busier heart and mind. I was wrestling with a raging man inside of me who gave little sense of purpose and offered no rest. What was my reason for going? What did I expect to discover? Would I actually do more harm than good?

An unbelievable calm came over me once I got on that plane. If but for a moment, all the questions were settled. Love was the answer. “As I receive and extend loving grace through Christ at home, I look to receive and extend loving grace in Haiti.” That was what I had stated as my mission–now I just had to go out there and do it.

My time in Jeremie, a small town along the western coast of Haiti, would challenge me on this very front. During the week I was there, I spent five days on a medical team working intake (triage) for our physicians. This required recording patient vitals: blood pressure, temperature, pulse, height, weight, and general diagnosis. It was sad to see the extent of their pain. Some were seriously sick, many were sick simply because they were hungry and malnourished.

Yet in spite of hardship, the Haitians are a strong and resilient people. They’re no stranger to suffering, and perhaps it is because of it they are able to love and embrace life more openly. More simply. They don’t take for granted the small things. And in many ways, I was envious of what many Christians there possess–a purity and passion to their worship. I won’t over-romanticize it, because they have their own flaws and shortcomings, but when I was around them I didn’t worry about how I dressed or how much money I made. I was reminded of how similar we are, how we all need love, healing, redemption and purpose.

It is hard to admit that I have a very small capacity to love. I thought I loved people, but what I had discovered was that my love was limited: based on my own terms, within my bounds or comfort. When the orphans ran up to me and played with my hair, I was afraid I’d get lice. I wanted to keep them at a distance, at a place where I could love them yet still be safe.

That’s the thing about God that trips me out. I think C.S. Lewis had a great quote about this. “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” To not be safe. As many reasons as God has to not love broken, sinful people, He still does. He reaches out and gets dirty. He does so with no guarantee that love will be returned. His love knows no conditions, no reservations, no bounds.

It seems like God is constantly reminding me to look at the bigger picture, to understand His purposes and live life with a kingdom focus. It is difficult, knowing that inside I am divided in many ways. Pursuits of success, comfort, popularity and other desires. You might think that would change after a trip like this, but really, I don’t think it is that easy. I’m being placed back into the very waters I’ve been swimming all my life. Selfishness is what I breathe.

I don’t know what to do with what I’ve experienced and what I’ve witnessed. I guess things like this aren’t meant to be figured out right away; like they say, it takes time. But I just know that I can no longer come before God and say “I didn’t know.” I hope I figure it out. I hate missing out on a good story, especially the one God is trying to tell through my life.

To all my dear friends, family and fellow bloggers–thanks for reading and thanks for your support. Thoughts of you kept me strong during my time away. I covet your prayers as you so remember. It is a broken place, this world, but let us not be counted among the ones who did nothing to fix it. Godspeed in your journey.

Living the Love Story

I read a recent post by Don Miller that talked about love and what it meant for both men and women to be the right people and look for the right things. If you haven’t read it yet, please close this blog and go there instead. Really, it’s a good read.

That entry is what actually inspired this post.

Because it got me to thinking about all the wonderful ladies I’ve met recently and all throughout my life and how society has got me into this twisted idea of what love is, when the truth is finally staring me in the face and telling me otherwise.

Love is…?

Sure, it can be summed up in a famous Bible passage or expressed in a Shakespearean sonnet. But I look at some of those around me and see how they are living their love stories and I begin to understand a little more what it all means. When I go to weddings and see the fresh kindling of emotion. Sure, it involves that. Then I look at my parents and see how love endures. How deep their care and patience is with each other. That is love evolved.

Then I think bout my good friend “Devin” and how he was living his love story. He was single for 28 years. (Twenty-eight years…the Internet, cellular phones, Starbucks and Justin Bieber have all been invented since that time!) Boy meets girl at a church. After a few brief conversations and encounters, he decides he would like to pursue her. So he writes her a letter, declaring his intentions right out in the open. Heart on the table. Hand-written. Probably sealed with a kiss. She says yes. Then on their first date, he tells her, “I am going to be as upfront and honest with you throughout this thing because I don’t want you to think you are dating somebody you are not. I am going to give you every reason to dump me.” Wait, he just did what? Is that irrational confidence? Balls over brains? The most logical man couldn’t explain it. But it’s been four months, and they are going stronger than ever.

Now tell me that’s not a freaking man.

I mean, when I heard that, I was like thanks for raising the bar for every other mortal man in the world. Do I have to bust out my quill pen, and write a French novel in calligraphy for her? Do I just tell her “Hey I’m just going to DO ME, fart around and pick my butt, because I’m going to give you every reason to dump me…?” Say what? Something tells me that she would actually dump me. Like a truck.

But really. What it comes down to is this. A man who said to himself that if she is worth it, if she is the one I should be with, then I am going to let God build it. I’m not going to try to spit any game. Not trying to put my best foot forward. As flawed and imperfect as I am, I’m just going to do my best to lead her and love her. And she’ll know how much I care because it will be real and genuine.

Young bucks out there need to listen up–this is what a real man does. He’s not trying to take advantage of her. He’s not putting in only so that she will put out. No. A real man points her to something and someone bigger than himself. He has her best interests in mind.

A real man would lay down his very life for his woman.

So that’s what I’m praying for myself. God, may You build it. Whoever she is, wherever she is, let it be that we are both running so hard after the kingdom that what binds us together won’t be a mere physical or metaphysical grasping of love, but that it will actually be a romance forged in the depths of the spirit. A love written on our hearts, inscribed in our souls. A love that says I love in spite of, regardless, even though…

That’s the love story I want to be written. But on my own I can’t write it. I’m smart enough to let God take the pen on this one.

And it’ll be one heck of a love story, too.

Naked As We Came

I want to find a girl who I can be naked with.

Not the kind that has me undressed with clothes on the floor but the kind that leaves my soul exposed. Spread out like a frog in science class. You can see every part of me. Not as disturbing, though.

What I really mean is that I want a girl that can make me feel childlike but not childish.

I am reminded of the time I went to the beach to find a two-year-old boy who happened to wriggle out of his swimsuit. He left it all hanging. Butt-naked he ran out across the hot sand, free as could be. He was not aware of his nakedness; I don’t think he cared. He was just in the moment, reveling in the grandness of nature.

My good friend Josh puts it this way. He says that when we are in love, it’s like a state of returning or trying to go back to what we were as children. The state of wide-eyed wonder, unabashed curiosity, and innocence (relatively speaking). Times when we were able to be real and not be so cognizant of social currency–the love that people dispense or withhold based on what value you can give them.

Sure, there is great fear in being real. What scares me is the idea that she will see me for who I am. All of me. The scars, the wounds, the other parts of me I want to hide. We have been trying to cover ourselves up ever since the fall. Whether fig leaves or material objects. Things haven’t changed. And it is magnified with the people we love most.

But I am also reminded of a truth that brings great comfort. There is no currency that could purchase our shame save that of the blood shed by the God-man. He hung on the cross, naked for us. All so that we could be made free and whole and childlike again. It is nothing less than what Jesus calls a rebirth.

I want a girl whom I can love with the abandonment of self. To be willing to swim across the Pacific for her. To make God proud with how I treat His daughter. To protect her, provide for her, and point her to her truest joy in God.

And return back to a time when we were as naked as we came.

All the Little Colors

Sometimes I feel like life is moving too slow, though it is at the same time moving too fast. I’m talking about the big moments in life. Finding that special someone, moving out, getting that big promotion, launching that grand project. I feel like it is easy to pass through life waiting on these things to happen without enjoying the mundane and ordinary that make up the majority of our days. The real life where real moments, memories, and character are forged–it is easy to waste away. It is deceptive; the days can seem to drag out long and slow, but when you begin to add them up you get to wondering how you got so far out into the present.

I might have gotten used to thinking that everyday should offer some sort of fireworks spectacular. Something that would set my days apart, either jump-starting or lighting it up with emotion. Some films and novels would have me believe that. What’s so devastating is that most of my days, in fact, are no different from one another. I wake up, go to work for 9 hours, come back and eat dinner, do chores, read and write (and occasionally, exercise) before turning in to sleep. Then, I wake up the next morning and push repeat.

Yet, it is in this routine of life that I am finding what it means to be devoted to the small things, the little details and attention of life that can make the mundane magnificent and even sacred. It is learning to put every bit of heart into every moment you’ve been given. It is learning to look deeper than the surface, to discover what makes this day’s color sepia as opposed to mahogany. (It is easy to see a contrast between blue and red; it takes a whole other set of eyes to split and define shades.)

I remember contributing an article to an old publication several years ago, when I was just starting my post-graduate journey. As a jobless and poor young adult, I talked about how I felt like Moses when he was relegated to spending 40 years of his life in the desert, doing little more than tending sheep and wishing for a 7-Eleven to open up near his house. My focus was on how Moses eventually made it through that desert period and onto the next stage and calling for his life.

It’s almost five years later and I now revisit that story but with a different perspective. A part of me still feels like I’m in that desert (or have returned there). But this time, instead of looking to just get through it, I am now focusing on my life while being in it. I’m sure Moses learned it this way. Though Scripture is mum on the matter, something tells me that he made the most of his time. That as a careful shepherd he came to know each sheep and its unique features, why this one was missing a patch of wool above its ear or why that one always steered left of the herd. In my mind there is no doubt that he cared for each sheep dearly and studied each one intently. He learned how to be a great leader before he was ever called to be one.

We often look for the big moments and events by which we can mark our lives. It may be rightfully so. But what will we make of the other seemingly ordinary days that come before and after the fireworks? I am learning to see the colors beyond the surface, whether or not the smoke has cleared. And the days shall all be wonderful if we are willing to see them that way.