For the past 5 or 6 months now I have been debating weather or not to start writing a blog. Everyday I would go back and forth between weather or not I had something important to say. Is my voice a lasting one in the sea of a million tweets a minute? Do I have a story to share that is different than others? Do I have something to give that is encouraging and uplifting rather than the counter productive norm?
To be completely honest, I have no idea. However, there is something to be said about the stories we encounter. Every single human being has a uniquely different experience in life. We have the opportunity to control only ourselves and though we desire control over others, we are conﬁned to the limits within our own being. It is a beautiful thing to note that, apart from a loving God, the only consistent thing in each of our lives is well…yourself.
Something happened a couple weeks back that pushed me over the edge of wanting to share my voice. I experienced something so special that I had to write about it. I spent time with a famous people. Not the kind that star in movies or reality t.v. There isn’t someone knocking down their doors to get a quote about how they do their lives or what is next (which is a real shame.) They are famous to one another AND make one another famous. They are writers, artists, business women and men, crafters and creatives. They care about each other in a radical way that shifts paradigms about what it means to be a “friend.” They are family! And they connected in Nashville.
On Friday, I boarded a ﬂight to Tennessee with nothing but a backpack. My heart, a strange combination of excited and nervous. I ﬁddled around on my phone’s Facebook app. scouring the pages for the faces of the people I had remembered, yet clearly forgot. Two years previous, I had boarded a similar ﬂight to visit my friend Jordan and his crew for the ﬁrst time. At that point and time, I fell in love with Nashville and all of these new people I met, thanks to good coffee, stimulating conversation and a fantastic Local Natives Concert. People are really cool. But, this time the trip felt different. Being out of college it is challenging to determine weather or not I matter in the grand scheme of things. It is a continual prayer of mine, not out of pride but out of obedience. Jesus, make me someone who inﬂuences positively and impacts culture to look more like your Kingdom. Isn’t that a part of disciple-making? On Earth as it is in Heaven.
Once on the ﬂight, the joy set in. Marriage is my favorite illustration of Jesus’ love for us. Two becoming one to be sanctiﬁed to look more like Jesus. Growing in community and love as they learn to express true grace. So radical for the children of God. Upon arriving in Tennessee, I quickly learned two things. One, its CMA’s week and two, I didn’t really care, but everyone else did. I boarded an Uber and headed to Bailey and Jordan’s rehearsal dinner.
Interesting side note, my Uber driver happened to be an Egyptian Muslim man who taught Islamic Studies to middle-schoolers in the Nashville Public School System. We had an awesome discussion about what it means to “love your neighbor.” And I had the opportunity to share some of the ideals of the Vineyard Church as we “search for the radical middle.” At the end of the ride, He even allowed me to pray for him in exchange for a booklet on comparative religion. What are the odds?
We pulled in to the park and began the tedious unloading process. Oh wait, I only had my backpack! As I got out of the car, I was greeted by my favorite South African and nearly cried seeing him. It had been too long. Shortly thereafter I put the Facebook perusing to the test, checking names with faces. Took some pictures. Shook some hands. And we went on our way. Next, after an excursion of pre-wedding errands, we ended up in east Nashville at a really nice cocktail bar. It was pretty ritzy with a great atmosphere. One old-fashioned in, and the reminiscing and updating began. This is when the epiphany started. These friends turned family had been together for four years. Through thick and thin. A lot of college people can say this, but I was not one of them (having been a transfer student.) They legitimately loved on a deep level that only scars and wounds would allow. In order to scratch past the surface, these people had to tear into one another with honesty and genuine care. There was a vulnerability that reminded me a lot of Jesus’ disciples. They each had a role that wasn’t acted out, but lived and well respected. Both man and woman together with caring conversation. My favorite thing was how each individual went to bat for the other. Every person, when talking about themselves, spoke with honest humility, but the neighbor in the conversation bragged on their skills like nothing else mattered in the world. These folks have developed a true culture of honor.
Midnight struck and with it the parting of ways, which was a process. Everyone has to say goodbye to one another as if it were the last time they would see one another (a truly dead art). I didn’t mind watching and learning from them as they hugged and shared parting words. It was poetry in motion. Something that I wish I did better in my own life. The groomsmen and I headed off to the new Collins Abode. Brews and boys commenced with a soundtrack of guitars and murmurs of the wedding. The fellas began to encourage Jordan in what was to come. They began to put things on the table about how they perceived their brother and did it because well, that is what they do. They gave out their most encouraging points of progression, speaking truth about how far they had come. It was an honor to be in the room for such a powerful time. Holy Spirit was totally in the room.
Enter Asher. My host, coiffure, entertainment and friend. After a late night of working, the man arrived at Brews and Boys to take me to his home, after a food break at a pseudo shady dive bar called Dino’s. Fortunately, Asher is one of the sincerest and real humans I have ever met. This made conversation easy. He laid out his past 24 months of twists and turns that I accepted and empathized with as hard. We talked about God, we talked about church and The Church, we talked business, we talked beer and we talked life. It was truly refreshing. All I could think was, I just want to love you to the best of my ability while I get to be with you brother. God always makes a way for Himself to be gloriﬁed. What a truly amazing guy.
3 a.m. Face meets pillow. 11 a.m. Face leave pillow. Wedding Day. It took a minute to come to life. 24 years old isn’t 21 and 3 a.m. isn’t midnight. Fact of life, I am getting older. Coming out into the living room, I was reaquatinted with Meagan, the hyper creative (in a good way), who has a heart of gold. We were going to be friends based solely on the fact that she offered to make me coffee. I mean, come on!
We did lunch. We hung out. We relaxed pre-festivities. And then it was 5 p.m. Wedding hour! Arriving at the venue, one thing became clear to me. Someday, when I get married (because I know I am called to marriage), if my wedding turns out half as cool as their wedding, I will feel like I succeeded. Everything was so simply extravagant. Nothing was under or over whelming. It was seriously wonderful! I sat down and enjoyed an abundant spiritual experience.
Usually weddings are about the people getting married. However, when those getting married are so invested in community and the lives of others, that is what becomes reﬂected. Jesus showed His face over these two through the whole ceremony. There were three officiants to do a sermon, communion and the vows. The youth that Bailey and Jordan regularly love on helped with the scripture readings and serving communion. There were well over a hundred people attending. The Church was represented so that Jesus could remind it of how glorious He is once again. And I cried like a baby.
The service ended and the libations began. A lively time of shooting the breeze. I on the other hand was observing the dynamics of the people invited. I was dressed somewhat like a frat boy in a polo and colored shorts and nearly didn't feel cool enough to be invited. Everybody who was there was immersed in lively conversations and it was hard for me to break the boundaries. So I sat back and enjoyed the wine.
Everyone was escorted into the old church where the reception was to take place. This is where everything began to turn into full blown celebration. People were laughing and hollering, sharing tales of weeks passed. The tacos were delicious! The wine was nearly gone. Which means the dance ﬂoor has got to get open. It has been a while since I had seen that much rug cut.
Then the send off song.
Rivers and Roads by The Head and The Heart.
This family, who had been together for four years is growing up. They are moving on to the next journey, each one looking down their own dirt path where it would seem the once familiar paths that constantly intersected are no longer noticeable as to when they will cross again. Each one could never fully repay the other for the amount they had invested in their hearts, nor would they ever be able to put it into words. Memories overlap with tales from different perspectives reminiscing on when none of them knew one another. Now the gridlocked family, complete with brother and sister types, with continual parental care, was tighter than ever. The braided love of their hearts intertwined and beat for one another. And so they circled up. Arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder. The engraved beat of the melody moved them to a sway. Heart beats forced the lyrics forward from a deep guttural sound:
“A year from now we'll all be gone
All our friends will move away and they're going to better places
But our friends will be gone away
Nothing is as it has been and I miss your face like Hell
And I guess it's just as well
But I miss your face like Hell
Been talking 'bout the way things change and my family lives in a different state
And if you don't know what to make of this Then we will not relate
So if you don't know what to make of this Then we will not relate
Rivers and roads Rivers and roads Rivers 'til I reach you”
Invited in, I felt honored and unworthy of such a moment. And that right there became the reason for it all. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul pleads for both a unique purpose and a unity. Each part is specially made with a part to play. And yet, without the part next to it, there is not a sturdy standalone purpose. Now hear this out, I am not saying solidarity and time alone with the Father is not healthy, I am saying that we as the Church are called to community on such a great level that without one another, we falter, fail and otherwise don't work. It takes a body to help each portion recognize its place. It takes a part to know its place to fit in. These famous people are famous for heart, and for being champions of the individual togetherness of the body of Christ. They do such a wonderful job of loving one another well, that it’s hard to fall through the cracks. Then, after all that they do to one another, they realize the importance of the foreign parts that come to be with them (namely me.) Had they not invited me into such an intimate time, who knows how I would have felt. Their mission however has nothing to do with the arrogance of man. They love with the aggression of the Lion and the peace of the Lamb. They are Jesus to those who do not know him. They are young radicals who have something to teach everyone who comes into contact with them, both as individuals and as a family. When you encounter this for yourself, my prayer would be that you shut up and listen. These are the people who are shifting and forming the local church. Not because of individual ideals but because of community practice. My prayer remains that the love of Jesus would be the central focus of His Church and not individuality. Let’s celebrate difference, but recognizing the Father’s heart in whole form, for every tribe tongue and nation. Father, Son and Holy Spirit each play a vital role in life. Because even though it will be rivers and roads ’til they reach one another, the bonding grace, care, hard work and love invested in yesterday solidifies their tomorrow.