Sunday, May 4, 2014

Don't Stop the Madness

In the wake of catastrophe, humanity often gathers itself and sends a collective why? in God's direction - forgetting that the Author of faith and salvation is also the author and main character in the story that we're all a part of, and as big as our circumstances seem in the moment, as individuals we're ultimately only a small part of a greater narrative. We're all in the middle of a story that's still being written - and we can't see how the things happening in the current chapter are going to affect the tale later on. Our own parts of the story are important, yes, but they're important because of those who will read them later on.

So indulge me, please, while I tell a story. It starts with a boy. He played soccer for his Virginia high school's team --- until he was nearly killed in a car accident his senior year. Told by doctors that he would never walk again, he picked up a guitar in order to have something to do. Two months later, he walked, but he didn't put down the guitar. 

While attending college in Florida, he got on the nerves of a fellow theater major - constantly spending his spare time perched on a wall somewhere with his guitar, singing songs about Jesus. But when the fellow student hit bottom, he knew whose door to knock on in the middle of the night when he desperately needed someone to pray with. 

They became friends, and each went on to pursue and point others to Christ in his own way - the first as a musician, the second as a pastor. The pastor and his family, through a series of near-ridiculous adventures, finally arrived at a church plant that met in the auditorium of a middle school New York City. The church was passionate about joining God in the renewal of all things, and their members reflected that passion.

Part of that renewal was lived out in community, and that community reached out to an Arkansas girl who was there for the summer, far from home and the comfortably familiar. She was encouraged by their welcome and inspired by the pastor's preaching - she had only begun to grasp God's love six months before, and that summer could have pushed her away again. But instead it drew her closer, filled her when she was empty, inspired her when she was out of ideas, and gave her a safe place to go when it felt like everything was closing in around her. God emptied my hands, filled up my heart, and captured my mind with Him.

A few years later, I heard the musician in concert, and he told the story of the accident that was instrumental in bringing him to where he was, playing music for the glory of God. Months after that, I listened to a podcast of one of the pastor's sermons in which he told about his friendship with the musician and how much that had influenced where he ended up.

Had he not almost died in a car accident in high school, Mike Donehey might never have become the lead singer of Tenth Avenue North. He might never have met Caleb Clardy, and Caleb might never have become a pastor at the Park Slope, Brooklyn parish of Trinity Grace Church. The life group that first reached out to me, then brought me to TGC, might never have existed... there are so many ways that those stories could have been different. But they weren't.

I try not to tell other people's stories - but I feel like this is important. It's important to me, at least, because it reminds me that God has a plan. That plan may include things that I would consider awful, it will definitely include things that I may never understand, and it most certainly has a God-sized effect that goes beyond any scope that I could ever imagine. I am only one of many that Mike and Caleb have shown God's love to --- and it gives me hope, especially when I don't understand and I cry in the darkness and beg God for relief, for an explanation, for something, anything, but this... hope that what He's doing may not actually have anything do with me at all - and faith to pray, please, God, don't stop the madness.

All I hear is what they're selling me
that God is love, He isn't suffering
and what you need's a little faith and prosperity
But, oh my God, I know there's more than this
if you promise pain it can't be meaningless
so make me poor if that's the price for freedom

Don't stop the madness
don't stop the chaos

don't stop the pain surrounding me
don't be afraid, Lord, to break my heart
if it brings me down to my knees, yeah

In a marriage lost
and the cry in the dark
don't stop with your love
And the mother's tear
for the child that starves
don't stop with your love
When we're breaking down
we're falling apart
don't stop with your love
And with new eyes to see
this is your mercy
don't stop with your love
[from Don't Stop the Madness by Tenth Avenue North]

Are there parts of your story that you wished had been different, but later realized happened that way for a reason?

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