Monday, July 09, 2012
Our vacation was in the mountains. I enjoyed our time there. We went on some good adventures. Well, as adventurous as you can get with a two year old. It was a struggle for me in some ways. The last time I came I was still a campus minister. I was attending a ministry conference. This year it's just me as mom. No ministry to return to. No ministry conference to attend. I've wrestled with feelings that have caught me by surprise. But what I've discovered beneath the anguish is a longing to be in ministry again. I could not say this a year ago when all I wanted to do was hide in my kitchen and heal my weary heart.
It is significant to me that I'm dreaming again. I have dreams for myself again. I dream of writing. I dream of bringing good news to weary souls. I dream of speaking hope into life stories longing to be free. Ultimately I dream of being a megaphone for Jesus. Letting Him lead and shape and voice a Word that sets captives free. I know what captivity feels like. And freedom is so much sweeter. I want to share the goodness I've found. I want to share the Good One who found me. Ministry may look different in my dreams than it did before, but it is still a calling of my heart.
We've been staying in one of my favorite destinations on earth: Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, in the Great Smoky Mountains. Lake Junaluska is a camp and conference center for the United Methodist Church. The first time I visited I was employed as a summer youth intern for a youth group in Florida. We were on our Sr. High summer youth trip, and I was one of the counselors. We were attending Youth Week at the Lake, a time set apart for young people to grow deeper in their experience of Jesus, surrounded by other young people, engaged in meaningful and fun experiences that nurture their souls. On the last night all the youth walk together to the giant cross at the top of the hill, lit up, looking across the Lake. We shared what the time had meant to us, how God had moved. It was a powerful week. At the closing worship the following morning, they had an altar call. But this altar call was not just for people who wanted to accept Jesus. It was also for those who were feeling the nudge to answer a call to ministry. And when the invitation came, my feet moved. I was a 20 year old college student at the time. It was the beginning of journey that would change my life completely.
Through the years I have returned to the Lake. In the past I would attend a ministry conference while my family would hang out at the pool. Then in the afternoons we would enjoy excursions into the mountains. And at night we would walk to the illuminated cross overlooking the water. Just as the Celtic Christians of ancient Ireland identified holy places in their own landscape, Lake Junaluska is a "thin place" for me. I feel most keenly the presence of God there. I always feel a renewed invitation to follow Jesus. This time it pinged within my soul, stinging as I realized a desire I thought was gone was still very much alive. I miss ministry. I miss it. I don't want to go back to where I was. But I have new hopes for what could be.
What surprised me was the ferocity of desire that I thought had gone. Indeed desire is very much alive. Transformed. Molded to fit a new life. But full and overflowing my heart.
I think of how each of us are made. We are made to live as passionately as the the God who made us. Great Disruptions can cause us to pause, to put a hold on our dreams. But it is only a pause. Though we don't realize it at the time. God is always doing a new thing in us. I think the new thing is the renewal of the core of our desires. He works creatively within our circumstances to bring it to authentic expression, over and over again. He surprises us with resurrected opportunities where we thought vibrant living was over. And so I found that my inner frustration was not such a bad thing in this pilgrimage to the Lake. Indeed it was a good thing, because it pointed me beyond this moment to future moments brimming with possibility. My life isn't over. My adventure has really just begun and everything else was just preparation. That shiny cross on the hill, peering over restless waters, still speaks a greater Word over my life than closed chapters. This is hope.