The Tension of Brokenness and Beauty

I find myself recently surrounded by extremes of love and pain, of fulfillment and need. Every week, it seems, brings another engagement or marriage. Every day, it seems, brings another sad story to my facebook newsfeed, where the broken sit on the dusty digital street, desperate for love or fulfillment or something they are afraid they've lost forever. Every few hours, another conversation with the woman I love... another reminder that I, too, inhabit this dichotomous world; a world filled with the beauty of love, fractured by the lack of love, and held together by the sheer force of Love embodied.

We long for love, but most often dispense a poor conditional substitute. We long to be heard for what we really mean, to be understood and accepted and not judged by our past actions or present impersonal merit. Yet, the first chance we have to speak to each other, we give a status report on those around us, based on past actions or present merit. We base our present actions based on the past shortcomings of others, yet beg to be taken for who we are today, or who we are trying to be tomorrow.

The system is broken. We are broken. It seems we are so preoccupied with our own wounds, we have no time to notice the hurting around us... and we feel alone. We do anything to try to fix what is broken in us, using anything we can get our hands on to stop the bleeding, opening ourselves to others in hopes of rescue.

I praise God that He allows my eyes to be opened to the brokenness around me. It contrasts so completely with the beauty of true love, which shines like the pure radiance of stars in the darkest night sky. Even among the wreckage, amidst the brokenness and turmoil, that love shines like a beacon, astounding you with it's unexpected and welcome brilliance if you are fortunate enough to posess open eyes. It is these moments of luminousity that make the night bearable, until that glad dawn when the eternal Radient Love of God chases the darkness away from every shadowy corner.

Kristen, the woman who has reminded me of the brilliance of newfound love, once told me that I see the world differently, that I see the good in people. She told me I was optimistic when it came to people. I'm realizing just how much of a gift this, and not just when I see love and truth and beauty. I am more greatful for this gift each time I see new brokenness, new pain... because even as the night grows darker, the stars shine brighter and the dawn draws ever closer.

If this is optimism, then may my glass forever be...

Texas Versus Colorado

I'm headed back home for the weekend, for a wedding and to visit family. I am pretty excited about the visiting family and such, but something just doesn't feel right. It feels like something is missing, like someone is missing.

It's my girlfriend. She's in Colorado, has been since Monday. I didn't expect to miss her so much. I guess I've never done this whole "in love" thing before. It's a totally new experience.

Aside from the mushy stuff, I am excited to go back and see how much time has changed everyone. It has only been a little over five months since I've seen everyone, but a lot changes in five months. Hairstyles, heights, voices, attitudes... a lot changes in five months.

I wonder how much I've changed in five months. We never know until we visit our past. The past is like an old jacket. It's always interesting to try it on, and see whether it still fits.

Last time I was on a plane, I was headed home, for a night that would start my first real relationship, as Kristen would be there to pick me up. I honestly wasn't sure she'd show, so I had someone in the "just in case" mode, the person who texted me an hour after Kristen and offered to give me a ride if I still needed one. I thanked her the other day for her procrastination. It was pretty funny.

This time, I will text my girl before I get on the plane, and when I land, and all of that mushy stuff, and I will totally be missing her. What I'm really looking forward to, though, is monday...

She's picking me up from the airport, again. I suppose then, repeating history, we will see how much we have changed.

I'm sorry if this is a little mushy, I'm not used to having a girlfriend, and therefore I'm not used to missing a girlfriend :-P.

Facades: What William Paul Young Taught Me

Facade (n.): 1. the face or front of a building. 2. a showy misrepresentation intended to conceal something unpleasant.

I was privileged and honored to meet William Paul Young, the writer of an amazing and oddly controversial book called The Shack. He came to Central and spoke at both the Contemporary and Third Format services on Saturday, as well as three services on Sunday. I was singing at both services on Saturday, and I was practicing for contemporary, where I was singing the song Closer to Love by Mat Kearney while an HD video of a lady painting went on behind me. As the band was waiting for the video to start, I looked down and saw Paul walking by, looking at me. I knew it was him because I'd never seen him, but he looked like he belonged (as in, not some random older gentleman walking around the stage pre-service).

He had a pretty cool vibe to him. I kinda stumbled on my words, saying "Hey, you're that author dude!" He smiled and confirmed my suspicions, and I told him his book was amazing, and he humbly accepted the compliment. He then sat and watched what we were doing. He is a best selling author, so I'm sure he's heard much better singers than me and much better bands than our band, but he was nothing but complimentary and enthusiastic. In fact, he ended up twittering some pics he took on his iPhone as we were practicing, including this one:

After the pictures, entering the production meeting, he hugged me as I greeted him again. He greets almost everyone with a hug, and a genuine smile on his face. To hear him tell his story, he has had enough with facades, and you can tell in the way he speaks, the way he listens. It is refreshing to be in the room with him. Everyone lights up, and it's amazing. We ask him about the controversy surrounding his book, and he responds with amusement and grace.

See, this book only meant to be printed 15 times at an Office Depot, and only meant to be read by his family and friends. The only problem is, they couldn't keep it to themselves. When no publishing company would print this unknown author's book, they created their own publishing company, because they were convinced that this book was life-changing. Paul gives the whole thing, every bit of fame and notoriety, back to God, going so far as to turn his back to the crowd and turn any applause given to him back to the God he calls "Papa", the God who reaches past his father issues in an unusual way (and a very effective way, according to my girlfriend, a psychology major).

I could say that I learned how to behave when God takes your small life and does big things. I could say that I learned more about how to make those around you feel special and important. I would be happy if these were the most important things I learned.

However, the most important thing I learned came from Paul Young's explanation of how God broke down his walls, how God was able to do these amazing things through him, not after a bible school degree or a seminary degree, but only after he was fully broken. It was only at that complete moment of brokenness that he was able to begin to be completely healed. Now, I'm not sure how complete God's work is in that man, but I will tell you that I talked to a William Paul Young who was genuine, healed, and unafraid (even as protesters line the entrances to parking lots when he speaks).

That spoke to me a lot. The word he used was "facade", in that he kept up a showy misrepresentation of himself, in order to deal with the hurt he had experienced in his life. The pain that it took for God to break through that facade was heart-wrenching, and it still brought tears to the man's eyes. I heard the way he spoke, and I saw the emotion and the transparency in his communication, and it reached me somewhere deep.

For a while now, I've kept up an illusion of openness and transparency, letting certain people see certain sides of me. I have been good at this, strategically putting windows in my walls so that people don't even notice where I'm not letting them go. I think that this is important in life, that we all should have our "inner circle" of close friends, and not just emotionally overload every acquaintance we make.

The thing is, I haven't truly had that "inner circle" in a while. I don't know who to trust, because I feel like if people knew my junk, they wouldn't want me as their friend, let alone their worship leader. I feel woefully inadequate, and undeserving, and weak. I feel like I should be stronger, or to put it the way Paul did, that "I shouldn't have any more junk".

I don't talk about my girlfriend much on here, but I will say that the one thing I am learning most in this relationship is how to trust someone, how to be in a relationship. She once told me that she didn't want to be the only one to need the other in this relationship. I thought that was silly, that we should only "need" Christ and that I didn't "need" anyone, that to "need" was unhealthy in a relationship. What I've learned is that the "need" is healthy when that "need" is a choice, when I don't choose to "need" her out of my own desperation, but out of a desire for a deeper connection. In much the same way as God through Christ, we humble ourselves to that connection, to that relationship, to that "need", as an expression of our affection and love for the other person. It was only after five months, after I'd let her be the one who saw me completely bawl my eyes out over the death of a friend, and talk in circles about my uncertain future, that I understood what it meant to say "I love you." (well, in a "relationship" kind of way)

She's pretty freakin' awesome :).

So I am resolving to be more open, to be more of a communicator and less of a performer. I want to hear the sound of walls coming down (God's love is a pretty mean sledgehammer). I want to let love and tears flow without worrying about how I will look. My story is much too long to tag to the end of this post, but I have had more than sufficient brokenness in my life. I'm ready for healing, for real close friendships, and to learn with my girlfriend how little I know about relationships.

I'm also looking for an inner circle, if you're interested.

The gift of a clear mind

I have taken it for granted. I didn't realize how elegantly simple my life had been, until things got complicated. Now, there were surely issues and crazy arguments and a racing mind filled with thoughts of the future, but none of that was truly pressing or life changing in it's scope. Life was all "lessons" to be learned and "experiences" to be had...

Then reality hit. Over the past two months, I've gone through things I had never gone through before, and it feels like life just started going too fast. A close friend died, other friends and coworkers got laid off, and I've learned that relationships are freakin complicated. There is so much running through my mind right now... memories, questions, and so many thoughts about the future.

Still, I know this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are others who deal with so much more. Seeing Jason's mother cry her eyes out for an entire week, I could only imagine what she was going through, and I praise God that I don't know her pain firsthand. Hearing the strain in friend's voices as they search for a job, or settle for one they wouldn't have considered two years ago, I marvel at how blessed I am to be where I am, and at how easily it could all turn around. If your issues consist of school and work and time management and which friends to invite to your next function, feel infinitely blessed. The gift of a clear mind, a life unfettered and clean, seems to only be appreciated after the fact.

I Don't Want To Sing

This week has been hard. I've never lost this close a friend, never known the impact of a young life cut short the way I am learning now. I remember the way he would rave about the way I led worship, how he loved the music and was ready to go "do battle" after one of our services.

He once told me about a dream he had, that felt so real... about an angel and a demon, sitting by his bedside, arguing over his soul, ready to fight. I wonder if that was a dream, or if it was real?

I had forgotten that we live in enemy territory, that we are strangers in a strange land... and that we have ultimate victory, but the enemy is fierce, and he will take small battles even if he can't win the war.

I wish I could say this made me want to fight. I wish I could give this call out, for everyone to rise up in the strength of Christ and the power of love in this hate-filled world. I wish I could be a leader who was ready to storm the gates of hell with a water pistol, that I could say that the death of my friend had only strengthened my resolve.

I know he would encourage me to fight. I know he would tell me to keep on singing, keep on throwing lyrical bombs at the enemy. He loved a good fight.

I don't know what took him, if it was sickness or complications to surgery or just something wrong in his body that waited until now to show itself... I don't even want to speculate. All I know is that right now, I wish no one were coming through the practice room door in five minutes. I wish I could be left alone in here for a few hours, that if I had to sing, the songs would be songs of lament.

I don't know if I have the strength to sing about victory tonight. That strength is what I will be praying for. Pray for me if you have a chance.

I don't want to sing.