it all started last sunday when i walked into church not wanting to be a christian any more. well, lets be honest, it started waaaay before that but for the sake of your time and sanity, i’ll start there. ok, i lied. i’ll back up a little. background: the biggest thing i have learned from being involved in circles is how to be part of the body of christ. i’m still not totally dialed in on what my role or my place is or how we can have the same ends in mind with such seemingly diabolic means, but i’m learning. needless to say, it has been a challenge for me. my identity is in christ not in being a christian but learning how to be part of His church is a process i’m still stumbling through. thanks for baring with me. so, back to sunday. i walked into the center not really knowing why i was there. i was not looking for an “experience” that would change my mind. i didn’t want a stream of tears to fool me into thinking something had changed. i just wanted this to be real. i wanted consistency. i wanted authenticity. i wanted a genuine outpouring of His power and authority that came from death to myself and submission to Him and His will. not a hyped up pep rally to get others to join the Jesus train. i want us to experience the fullness of Christ out of the overflow of our surrender and the consequent emptying of our lives and resources and dreams and expectations. i’ve been burned by more christians more frequently and with far more intensity than any non-christian i’ve ever known. i see christians (myself included) and frankly, we aren’t living up to the example of freedom and authority and authenticity that Jesus set for us. our prize has become souls on the scoreboard of eternity or seats filled or tears shed or holy fist pumps or frequent use of spiritual idioms. no!
our prize is Jesus.
it isn’t what we can get from Him. it isn’t how He can change us. it isn’t the ways He chooses to use us. it is Him. just Him. if Jesus were to never allow us another “experience” with Him on this side of heaven would we still follow Him? i’m not devaluing the times we experience God or neglecting the ways He faithfully and graciously answers prayer but i’m wondering if that is what we desire or if what we desire is simply Him.
so there i was in the back row, slightly distracted as i brewed on the injustices i had recently seen and experienced within the figurative four walls of the church. the sermon spoke directly to what i was wrestling with. if you weren’t there-listen to it online. but for the sake of this blog, it was essentially about how Christ has set a standard of excellence in the use of divine authority that we as the church have on several accounts failed to meet. it was a sobering check to our spirits, begging the question why we follow him-because he is God and worthy of our all or because of the cool things He does and can consequentially do through us? at the end darin apologized to those who had been on the receiving end of the shortcomings of the church. i bawled. i was so broken and honestly kinda frustrated. i felt like i had been on the receiving end of so many burns by people who claim to be passionate lovers and followers of Christ and i know that i myself have been the culprit of burning others. what are we doing? where are we missing the point? i know God met me there and reminded me of the human-ness of the church and myself.
i left for NYC. bright eyed and excited for a change of pace and brief escape from that which was causing so much frustration-it was a much anticipated trip. i took a cab from the airport to the studio i was working at to arrive at what can be described as nothing less than absolute chaos. the reality that the men and women in this room functioned in was one that has become absolutely foreign to me. within the first few minutes of being in that studio i was given a much larger responsibility than i had signed up for and was faced with darkness at its very core. i felt like i was walking among corpses. i don’t know. people void of life. they walked and talked but there was nothing in them. nose bleeds were common among the models who’s cocaine habits seemed to not only be accepted but encouraged. the little rails of white powder might as well have been a ball and chain wrapped around the ankles of their souls. it was a place where people have no value and pleasure is god. the currency for success is measure in “good times” as defined by an ambiguous high or strung out passer by. unfortunately, many aspects of this scene used to be part of my story. if you were to tell the dannah four years ago that i would be raging with high ups in the fashion/beauty industry in an all expense paid trip to NYC you couldn’t have gotten me there fast enough. today and only by the grace of God, you couldn’t have gotten me out of there fast enough. someone asked me if i was “feeling tempted”, knowing this is something i struggled with in the past. and in some ways, yes, i was and in others i wasn’t at all. yes because this is my industry, this was supposed to be my scene. i love doing hair. i wanted to fit it. i wanted to have a good time. and in that atmosphere it felt like a good time was unattainable without getting wasted or strung out. on the other hand, i feel like God gave me the ability to see drug use and the over indulgence in alcohol for what it really is. i always saw those things as a gateway to a good time rather than a self destructive mask to disguise the pain and fear and pride in my heart. i finished the two runway shows and the editorial shoot i had committed to and got on the next flight to LA, two days before i was scheduled to come home. as we taxied the runway before take off i literally felt like i had been punched in the stomach. i really had no idea what had just happened-the trip was a whirlwind of darkness and fear and temptation and loneliness. the flight home was a sweet time of reflection thanking God for protecting me while i was gone, thanking him for bringing me out of the lifestyle i was in bondage to, thanking him for the flawed but faithful community he has allowed me to be part of, thanking him for grace, and thanking him for reminding me what life without him looks like. oh, and i apologized to God. i've got to stop threatening to walk out. i'm His, He's mine, nothing (not even my failures or being at the receiving end of someone else's failures) can change that. thanks, God, for sticking with me.