From and To
My TA was getting some addresses for me this week and writing them on envelopes I hoped to have sent out months ago. Yesterday, I also spent a good amount of time addressing some different envelopes now ready to go to the post office. The return address is the same on all of them - my own; with varying levels of ownership, they are all from me. Every envelope is to a different person. I was pondering that in light of a couple significant conversations this week because prepositions are tricky things.
One student came to me quietly and asked if I could have a conversation with their close friend out of a concern that this other student was slipping into a hedonistic nihilism because a sentence akin to "I prayed the prayer, so I'll get into heaven anyways" came from the friend. I was heartbroken for this student because they have bought into the lie that Christianity is about being saved from hell rather than the infinitely more true and joyful life to Jesus - "further up and further in."
There are two versions of the lie: One, you have to follow a list of rules if you become a Christian or God (and other Christians) will judge you. Two, you can hide whatever sins you want as a Christian because there's grace enough to cover them, but other Christians will still judge you if they find out.
I was lamenting this to my friend Cindy on Wednesday evening. "I don't have the words to fight the lies because no one seems to be listening to me; all I can do is live the truth that following Jesus is worth it." There were a couple lies buried in that sentence, and Cindy called them out, assuring me that lots of students actually do listen to me, and that living out that truth is the most powerful way to communicate the message.
Saturday afternoon, I still had a lot of confusion that I needed to process from the past two weeks, and I was so excited to get the chance to debrief my ridiculous life with Morgan across the ocean. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have friends who not only reassure you that you are not insane, but actually affirm God's gifting and calling in your life. "So what do I do to help these kids?" I wanted her advice.
"You can't do anything," she sounded like Bob the Tomato chastising Junior Asparagus. Duh, God is bigger than the boogie man. My role is constant prayer in addition to intentionally living in the truth that my life is better with Jesus at the center instead of as a checkbox or a side dish. Today as I was praying and wondering what that might look like practically this week, I thought of the image from the Desert Wisdom book I read yesterday. It's an illustrated collection of translated sayings of the desert abbas and ammas.
What is my fruit?
I used to be haunted by the story of Jesus going up to the fig tree all leafy and then cursing it when there was no fruit. It wasn't even season! Why would he do that? Based on this abba's saying, I'm convinced it has to do with the tension between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. If you say the right thing but don't live it out, Jesus isn't going to be pleased. If you've got the right actions, the words and understanding are bound to be close by.
My message has to change from the lie that Jesus is your get out of hell free card - salvation from - to match the lifestyle that I inhabit that Jesus meets me here in my brokenness and suffering for salvation to love and intimacy with the Creator of the Universe. So I'm ending without the words to tell you why life is better if you follow Jesus body, heart, and mind - because I'm going to live out some Jesus stuff with a few students strung far along the spectrum of agnosticism to commitment to Jesus who are coming over in twenty minutes to bake cookies and have tea. I hope they'll find fruit among the leaves.