Ownership

This has been a season of change for me but also for my church family. Since January 1st, I’ve started at a new gym, joined a new community group, moved to a new home, purchased a new car, hired a new personal trainer, and even gotten a new desk at work.

Meanwhile, our church has achieved a major goal of moving to a new facility. We’re no longer in our “parent’s” (wells Branch MUD’s) Rec Center and have our own “Apartment” in the facility that used to be the Roost!

It was so amazing to worship together for the first time last Sunday in a space we don’t have to set up and tear down each week.

I’m going to be honest, though, I really took a moment to appreciate the wall. Now it’s not really a big deal, just the wall that leads into the bathrooms, so it’s a little silly I cared to go take a peak.

But that’s the wall I painted when we had the serve day last Saturday. And, at the price of paint on my favorite tennis shoes (no one told me we’d be painting), I guess I kinda feel like it’s “my” wall.

Isn’t there something powerful about ownership? I remember my first computer. I was still in high school but wanted my own computer so I could take it in my room. My parents didn’t pay a cent; all $1200 for the computer, bag, and other accessories came out of my account.

I remember when it came in the mail. I’d purchased a Gateway (yes, I’m 30 now…) and, when the box covered in cow print arrived, I was like a delighted child on Christmas. I relished every moment of pulling out all the “goodies” in the box, even getting excited about the boot CD, of which I had no idea the purpose, because it was mine.

A similar experience came when I bought my first car. My parents agreed to match my investment dollar for dollar so I purchased a used, red Saturn for about $4k. Again, it was my car so I took great care of it and drove it with pride.

Now that our church has a home, I feel that same sense of ownership. I’m not just a member of the church, I’m a part-owner of the mission.

There are three ways I’ve taken ownership.

Six months ago our pastors asked for us to give financially to help make this facility a reality. I prayed and I gave. It made me an owner.

More recently, there have been opportunities to go get our hands dirty actually preparing the space for occupancy. I wasn’t there every time but I went when I could. It made me an owner.

On May 20th, we have our grand opening. I’m telling everyone I know about it and can’t wait to help pack the house. It’s making me an owner.

Every organization consists of two groups. 80% are members; they show up. But 20% are owners. They get involved, make things happen, and take responsibility.

I know I’ll see you on the 20th but are you a member or an owner? Will you show up or will you be bringing people with you?

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Hope

Getting away and processing is imperative to keeping a healthy mindset, especially in the wake of personal loss. More than just time off work, time away from the thoughts and opinions of others; time to think my own thoughts and experience my own emotions.

Friday morning, as I headed out of town for a weekend of camping, I felt God tell me to shut off my phone. As soon as I reached Camp (because GPS), I set my phone on airplane mode and left it that way till I came home today.

There were several times I wanted to turn it back on but I stuck to my commitment and eventually settled in to life without constant contact. It’s amazing how refreshing that can be.

Today as I was catching up on all the texts, emails, and phone calls I missed, I discovered why God had wanted me to take that break. A firestorm of emails about the defendant in my father’s accident arrived in my inbox at once. Apparently much discussion took place on Friday and God knew it would have been a distraction from what He had for me this weekend.

Evidently Jack, the driver who’s truck made an untimely collision with my father, was arrested and released for violation of his pre-trial agreements. Specifically, it appears he failed a drug test for the use of marijuana.

Everyone processes grief differently but I’ve never felt any anger or animosity toward Jack, only sadness for the life he’s lived and the future he lost in a moment. It’s certainly not because I’m perfect, but because I’m forgiven, that I can have this attitude.

On this email chain are all the victims families and it’s clear that some don’t have the same compassion. Some choose words that seem to indicate they feel Jack got into his truck that morning on a hunt to see who he could kill.

(One email on a previous message said that letting Jack drive is “like giving a mass murderer access to his weapon of choice.”)

How such anger is present eludes me; we all have heard the same difficult information about Jack’s childhood and the pain in his life. It seems obvious to me that Jack was operating from a place of hurt that I could never imagine.

As I read through the emails this morning, my heart aches for these other victims. I wish they could find the freedom I’ve discovered in forgiveness. Holding on to bitterness is like drinking poison hoping it kills the other person.

Then I opened up the court documents that were provided to us. As I read over the information my eyes fell on “Age: 21” and started crying.

Jack’s age is not new information to me; I’ve know since the beginning that he was 20 at the time of the accident. Today my heart broke at the realization that he’ll soon be behind bars, probably for the rest of his life.

Sometimes I wish I could be angry at Jack, just for a little while, and let this random act of tragedy be his fault. But I can’t; by God’s grace, the only emotions I can feel are remorse for the loss of his future and hope that God can redeem his remaining years. I hurt for the pain such a young man has already endured and wish he’d had someone like my dad in his life.

But if Jack is not to blame, who is?

Can I blame his boss for sending him home? No, he was just protecting his other employees from Jack possibly causing an accident on the job site.

Can I blame the police departments for “failing to prevent the accident” once warned? No, they responded to the best of their ability.

Can I blame the man who hurt Jack, resulting in the medications Jack took on the day of the crash? No, he was likely wounded himself by someone else.

At the end of all reasoning, it comes back to the pain of living in a world marred by sin. Hurt people hurt people who hurt people and no one makes it through life unscathed.

The only confidence for the future any of us have access to is in receiving the forgiveness purchased on the cross and then live as best we can reaching others with that hope.

Shaken

As far as car accidents go, mine really wasn’t that bad.

img_1823It was a straight collision with no spin, ricochet, or ancillary damage. Because the airbag deployed, even though I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and the accident was at highway speeds, I remained in the vehicle, sustaining only minor injuries.

While both cars ended up being towed, both drivers were able to walk away from the accident.

The crash was also a financial inconvenience, not a catastrophe. The timing worked out such that I was able to borrow my brother’s car while he was on a job in Canada, meaning I had no expenses for a rental. My full-coverage insurance meant my medical bills are being paid by USAA.

img_1826I purchased a newer version of the same car (with some newer security features, such as emergency braking) and, when the insurance payment arrived, was able to pay off the car the following month.

Physically and financially, I couldn’t have planned this accident better if I had been allowed to write the story. What left me so shaken was the emotional aftermath of the accident.

Two weeks, to the day, before the anniversary of dad’s wreck, I am sitting in shock smelling the airbag’s residue fill my car, slowly realizing what just happened. Flashes of the moments before would play though my mind on loop over the next several days, leaking into my nightmares. Each time, I’d will myself to stop but there’d still be the crash, like the unavoidable ending to a horror movie, unchanged through many viewings.

Questions flood my mind but they all come back to the same though: Why am I alive?

Dad wore his seatbelt; I didn’t.
Dad was actively serving others; I sulking and thinking about myself.
Dad was struck by another vehicle; I struck someone else.
Dad was focused and attentive, doing everything he could to prevent the accident; I was distracted and numb, driving through life in the cloud that has grown thicker and thicker since his crash.

Dad was dead; I was alive.

How is that fair?

Undeniably, God has carried me through the accident and the traumatic weeks that followed. He provided friends to come and care for me, a ride to work, my brother’s car, money that seemed to come from nowhere…

While I was intellectually honest enough to know that these gifts came from God, I was done with Him. Trusting God hurt, and I didn’t want to be part of His story anymore.

Fighting to maintain a positive and together appearance, I did everything in my power to keep people from even knowing the accident occurred. Unfortunately, the more I fought to appear fine, the more my pain continued to grow worse instead of better. I started having insufferable migraines and moments of diziness so intense I thought I’d vomit.

Four weeks after the accident, I told my community group about the pain I was in; most of them did not even know I’d been in a crash. Still the pain continued till it seemed I couldn’t endure any longer. Breaking through another wall of pride, I went forward for payer on a Sunday morning.

In that act of surrender, God moved. Immediately, as Tony prayed, I could feel most of the pain leave my body and in the weeks that followed my recovery has continued (today was my 5th day without painkillers). This healing should be cause for joy but instead made me more bitter; why couldn’t God just heal me sooner instead of allowing me to suffer?

I can see now that both the wreck and the weeks that followed, God was fighting for my attention; He wanted to wake me up to the pain that I have continued to endure in silence. He had to crack my meticulously polished armor to reveal that I wasn’t ok and my heart was still bleeding.

Today Chris was preaching from Acts about how the early church shared what they had and met each other’s needs. He made a sidebar comment about having to drop your pride enough to admit you have needs before anyone can meet them. That thought lingered with me as I wandered about after the service; wanting to talk but not knowing what to say.

How do I articulate my need? What can anyone do to help? Financially, I am fine. There is nothing I need that God hasn’t provided. My physical needs are as met as well, especially since my finances allow me to pay for the services I don’t have time or desire to do myself (e.g. cooking).

Nothing anyone could say or do would soothe the true pain I feel and it hurts too much to face that head on by talking. I’d rather stay busy; lost in my work and anything else I can do to keep from facing the reality of what’s happened. Even just a long weekend is enough space to allow the emotions I am running from to close in on me, threatening to pull me under.

Not only am I at a loss for how to reach out to others; I don’t know what to ask of God, or even if I want His input.  I don’t want a God that carries me through trials; I want a God who protects me from them. Unfortunately, I don’t get my own personal Jesus; none of us do.

The God of the Bible walked with Noah saving animals during a flood, Moses rescuing Israelites through a desert, Paul shepherding a budding church while in a prison, and Jesus saving the world hanging on a cross. He’s a God of sustaining (and using) His people though pain, not letting them avoid it altogether.

God is asking me to trust Him, to be venerable and share my pain with Him and others. But I don’t know what to ask and, when I am honest, I don’t really know if I want Him to be the one to answer anyway. I doubt His love and I wonder why I continue to have so much faith in a God who seemed more interested in the story He was telling with my life than me, the main character of that story.

I cannot deny He is real and powerful nor can I deny He loves me personally. Every day this week has been a new reminder that He is personal and intentional with me. I want to ignore each miracle and yet they are so pervasive that they cannot be denied.

God is romancing me, wanting me to dance with Him again. I don’t know if I’m ready to step on the dance floor but I am starting to be ready to show up to the ball.