Friday, March 28, 2014

The GodHead

A couple of days ago, I talked about how what the world needs to see from us more than anything is how we go to God. How we personally, intimately, passionately take our hearts to God and have that moment of faith when we believe in Him to hear us, to hold us, and to heal us.

Last night, I kind of got to eat my own words.

About this time every year, our creative arts team gets to work on Stations of the Cross, a self-guided Easter experience to prepare our community's hearts for the risen Christ. It's a Holy Week experience, and personally, I love it. It's exactly the kind of quiet moment of passion that I need to kind of recenter my life. I am blessed to be a part of the team that makes this experience possible.

And each year, I come up with something interactive and to varying levels of profound, something I believe will tug at the persons in attendance, if they should choose to really engage with it. (Funny story: Last year for "Jesus prays in the garden," I came up with the idea of sharing a bitter cup with those going through the experience. Not knowing I was behind that one, a lady shared with me her experience of the experience and said, "It was really good. But at the first one, I didn't really do it." And I was like what? Why? And she said, "Well, you were supposed to drink a cup of bitter water and think about Jesus while He was praying, but I don't really like bitter things so I didn't do it." I hope you're laughing right now. It took her saying the words out loud to realize that that was kind of the point of the whole thing.)

The way this usually happens is that I think about the scene which I am trying to portray. I think about the angles involved, about the different parties and the different parts of the stories, about the things going on that we may or may not realize in the moment. And usually, something just comes to me. I grasp onto a concept and start putting it together, and when it's all done...I imagine myself going through the experience and try to figure out if the finished concept speaks to me in the way that I hope it would. If not, I tweak.

Whenever I hit a stumbling block, I think about what God has to say through this moment. I think about the overarching story that contains this little narrative, about the bigger picture of what is going on.

Above all, I try to bring it back to redemption. I try to make my experiences self-contained, so that I bring a person to their spiritual emptiness and fill them up again with some powerful truth of God. The model works.

This year, however, it wasn't working. I'm working on a scene for which I have already done one concept in a prior year, so the pressure is really on to come up with something fresh, something new. And my heart cries...something deeper. Not that the first go of it was bad, but I was hoping to come upon something more personal and powerful this year. The flesh side of it came to me almost immediately. 

The human side of it that knew exactly what was going on in that moment was easy to hold onto. It was easy to translate into my present life, without losing sight that there had to be a Jesus in there somewhere. The woman who anticipates going through this experience knew right away how she would come at it from her own heart, from her own life. So for the past two weeks, she's been trying to figure out what the redemption in all of it is.

What does God say? What kind of nice little bow can I put on this package? The deeper truth of this little snippet of Christ's life is....what? I know how to invite people into the moment. Now, how do I get them out of it? For weeks, I have wrestled with this question. For weeks, I have come up empty.

As I laid in bed last night, thinking about this Station of the Cross, thinking about what I already knew about it, trying desperately to figure out what God was speaking over it, all of a sudden, my question changed. I stopped asking so much about what God thinks. I trusted He'd bring me back to that. I stopped asking how do I fix it. It's not my job to fix it. I stopped asking how to make this a powerful, but feel-good experience because suddenly, I felt no obligation to wrap things up. Rather, I asked myself one powerful question.

Once I'm there, when I engage myself in this moment, what do I need to find there?

My heart has really held onto what my flesh already knew about this experience. My spirit has been engaged in the human side of this from the very start. I knew I was onto the right thing, and I believe that if people will let themselves honestly engage with it, they will find it deeply meaningful. I was just hoping I could pull it back into God and make it meaningfully meaningful. When I asked myself what I needed to find, I immediately got it. Clear as day. An image in my head and the peace in my heart that says it's going to be right on.

It's different than the way I've gone at it in previous years. It's different than the way I normally do it. Why? Because I can't promise redemption. I'm not sure it's inherent. The points are there, but it's going to be up to our guests to draw their own lines. As I set to work on pulling this together, it is my prayer that people will open their hearts and give themselves the space and the grace to truly experience this. I believe this moment will change someone's life. 

It's also different because this time, I start with my heart. I start with the woman who needs to hear it. I start with the girl who will, honestly, probably cry at this moment (if she doesn't run it over and over in her head enough times beforehand to feel like she's already had this moment). I start with the thing that binds us together, which is not God's truth but rather the raw heart of a man looking for God's truth. I start with our brokenness because it's the one place we all have together. That's different for me, but I think it's going to be blessed.

To be sure, this is what I just said, two days ago, that we need to be doing in ministry. Formal or informal. To be sure, this is what I believe I could do better in my own ministry many times. It's easy to know the answers of God with your head. But the power comes from the heart. Everyone's looking for that heart-level engagement with God, and those of us who would share Him with the world need to be willing to engage our own hearts in the process if we ever hope to make the God of the heart a tangible presence among us. 

So this year, it's my heart. And I'm excited. And I am humbled. And I am so blessed to be doing this another year.

You'll notice that I haven't mentioned what I'm doing, or even what my scene is. That's quite on purpose. The team that puts these things together for our community is fabulous, and regardless of what I do or don't do with my space, this is our work. I will not single myself out by placing more emphasis on one of ten. That diminishes what those I serve with are doing. However, I believed this was an important heart story to share in the midst of ministry, and so I have shared where my heart is at in the creative and ministry process as Easter draws near. And I also know that we are not the only congregation putting together an experience like this, so I will extend that if you're working on Stations of the Cross for your own community and are looking for ideas, feel free to email me (address on the contact page) and I'm happy to bounce some things around with you. Just not in this public space.

Lest someone forget this is all about God.

Stations of the Cross at TurningPoint Church is free and open to the public. Come take part in this self-guided Easter experience Wednesday, April 16 through Friday, April 18 from 2-8 p.m. 

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