…from the ashes of a broken life.
I am crying out this prayer tonight as I reflect over a profoundly impacting weekend.
This time last year I was more exhausted than I have ever been in my life. Wind had burned my face red and my muscles were screaming, sore, and beaten. I rested on the futon of a friend who lived upstairs, and as she made me a dish of pasta I began to unravel the past 48 hours I had just lived through.
Every semester, a group of students from a Missions course at my college go through a weekend-long simulation of what it would be like to be a refugee. Without giving away any details, I will say this: It’s tough, physically, emotionally, spiritually. I went through this simulation last February, and I walked away a completely different person. There were times I thought I couldn’t take one more step, times when my body was screaming with cold and exhaustion, my mind trembling with anger and anxiety, each night fear crept in with the darkness and God felt so far off.
But I made it, and this weekend, another group made it too.
This weekend I got to “watch” the weekend from the position of someone who helped move the simulation along. It was fascinating to me when so many of the same emotions resurfaced, even though I wasn’t experiencing the simulation the same way I was when I was first going through it. I came back to my dorm room when it was all over and I felt the same way I did when I returned the last time; exhausted, in a state of culture-shock, and with a heart bursting with emotions and lessons to process through. Just a few highlights I want to share, a few of the many things that I learned last year but that are now flooding back to me…
~ Life is a vapor, and we are but dust. When I was a refugee, I realized how frail and weightless my life is on the scale of eternity if I don’t fight to live for what matters. After my days on this dusty planet are over, what will I have filled them with? I have a renewed sense of purpose and plea I want my life to cry: to KNOW God, to make Him known, to bend towards the broken and lean into His spirit. Ever growing in faith, I know on a grand scheme my days are like the ashes of the bonfire lighting up a frigid night that blow away with the morning breeze. But I am convinced that it’s where they blow that matter.
~ Suffering produces hope. After this experience (both times), I am reminded of how deep our anchor of hope goes. It plunges to the depths of our stormy hearts, as I roam through the tempests of life I only hold tighter to that hope that holds so surely.
~ The earth groans. All creation groans. I looked around at all the hurting, dirty people around me on this dreary, cold day and my heart moaned and groaned with the pain that comes from facing reality of this world’s despair in such a tangible way. My tired body and dirt-stained clothes were but a mere metaphor of what this mess of life looks like until Christ returns to mend us all and to “straighten this whole mess out,” as my professor who runs this thing always reminds us refugees. I long for his return more than ever when I think about this powerful experience. When I realize how heavy our burden of sin is, I rejoice in the freedom of grace. But this sobering tribulation of this weekend also shows me the gruesomeness of the cross. The cost that made us free was not cheap, nor was it light. The blood was heavy, the night was dark, the nails were thick, the cries were loud, and creation groans today under the weight of sin, and God the Father groaned above His dying son. But somehow He saw that I should be ransomed by the blood, somehow he saw that all of us dirty, helpless wandering refugees were worth the costliness of the cross. The world is dark, but the power of redemption through the cross brings us light and life. I’m enamored by the reality of this light defeating such deep darkness.
~ A more beautiful song will rise from the ashes brokenness. It has been invaluable to experience very real suffering through different trials of my life, but this weekend experience in particular has a way of breaking people of the mindset that life is somehow supposed to be breezy, free, and light. But tribulation is promised of those who (John 16:33) want to live for their Redeemer. Following the Redeemer gives deep purpose and joy in trouble when we soak in our reviving redemption. He is good and faithful, even in the darkest night. I stayed up all night on the Saturday when I was in this simulation, praying for the sun to rise. When the first golden beams made their way over the horizon, I saw hope ride in with the dawn in the most beautiful way I had ever known. “Take heart!” He says. And then gives us a new song to sing.
I could write all night of the journey this profound weekend continues to take me. But I just want to leave you with one last thought, in case any of this has been vague due to my lack of details of what actually happens on the weekend…
There are many times where this life looks like the dusty ashes of brokenness, injustice, and sin — but by the gruesome sacrifice of the perfect Lamb, we have a sure hope that we refugees will not be left in a foreign land for long. I continue to grow into my sense of purpose that God has laid out for me this side of eternity, but not without cries of “Come, Lord Jesus!” in the midst of it. I continue groan with creation, but not without a song of joy that is renewed with every passing day.
thanks Papa C, thanks refugee family, thanks fellow refugees who have gone before me in this crazy experience and for all the people who are going to follow in their footsteps afterwards. Profoundly grateful for the dark nights of this weekend, for they teach us all that our Hope is brighter than the rising sun.
“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge.”
I am also challenged to keep the millions of REAL refugees close to my heart in prayer. Experiencing in a small way what they live through on a daily basis has shown me that my life is. so. easy. But theirs is not, so please join me in prayer for them… until I someday get the chance to meet them where they’re at. On my daily basis I want to drop out of school and plant myself in a real refugee camp to minister the gospel. But I’m continuing to take my zeal, gain knowledge, and prepare for a missional life.