This past summer, after worship with my tribe, Trent encouraged us to all jump in the lake. It was pitch black and freezing and the waves towered over our heads like black ghosts whipping back and forth. I struggled staying above the water at times. My bones were in shock over the temperature and Meredith was making me laugh, and in the midst of panic and sputtering I became overwhelmed at where I was. Just a few years ago I was content with hiding in my room, which was lovingly nicknamed "the cave", contrasting drastically with my current condition: freezing, out of breath, and feeling fully loved in the midst of an ice cold lake, under thousands of stars, treading water alongside people who loved me and genuinely wanted to know me. I never want to tread water alone again.
I think about God, and how every bit of my being is confident that He exists and loves me. And Him loving me shoots life through all of my tree limbs, like instant photosynthesis; receiving diving light, roots planted deep, not just a lone tree but a forest; a tribe of trees rooted and gazing upward. I grew up in the suburbs, alone in a crowded maze of houses, but now I am part of a forest, surrounded be trees that are cheering for me, willing my limbs to grow longer, healing me by placing their palms on my bark, and causing my tree rings to multiply.
If I could pick the biggest change in I've experienced since knowing The Lord, and I'm talking about him being the energy that flows through my limbs and my very breath kind of knowing, it would be that I've fallen in love with people. Some people's stories include coming off of drugs and escaping prostituion, and those blow my mind, but me falling in love with people feels just as miraculous as being able to wake up and breath every day. I used to believe there was power in independence; that the Lord saw me as strong and spiritual when I isolated myself in the name of only knowing and needing him, but it was truly just an act to hide hurt, to hide the fact that I failed at making and keeping relationships, that I was afraid of being known.
In 2013 I went to LEGACY, which allowed me to experience God in the midst of and along side other people. I internally competed with my classmates, becoming bitter when I saw God moving in their life and appearing stagnant in mine. However, slowly throughout that season, I fell in love with people. I didn't have a drastic awakening, but simply observed some of the most loving people in action, and as they moved and breathed out love, the attraction for that kind of lifestyle became overwhelming. I became jealous of their ability to pursue and know people despite behaviors I found inexcusably and irritating. I slowly opened myself up to aspects of the Lord that can only be experienced with his kids. I was taught how to love community. Two years later I found myself working at the ministry that opened me up and taught me to love. However, while working at LEGACY, I became silent. I stopped letting the body of Christ in, even though I knew she could heal me. I went back to keeping things inside, because vulnerability puts you at risk for hurt, even though I knew that opening my mouth would begin the process of healing, to be wrapped in Papa's arms through his kids; his body, his bride. I don't really know what was going on inside, except problems from the previous fall had followed me to Alabama, like unwanted visitors. Rocks were piled up on my heart and my tree limbs had curled inward, keeping relationships to formalities. I would long to have someone pray for me, to word vomit the mess inside. Instead I would punish myself by keeping my mouth shut. Four months later, I heard someone share something at a meeting that hit me in the belly, changing everything in the moment. My friend John asked us if we had ever seen the meat head guys that can lift and throw cars and trains. He said the he felt the Lord showing him that vulnerability is the switch to that kind of power; that vulnerability gives you the strength to throw cars. I wanted to throw cars and move mountains. I left my friends that night knowing that I would have to find courage to somehow spill whats been going on. It took a few more months, but I did.
In July I had a friend pull me to the side, sit me in view of the sunset and lake and a fan blowing our hair, and told me truth I needed to hear. Truth that said while I was lovely and powerful, I was also broken and may be reaching a point where I need help being fixed. Papa is a healer but sometimes you need special people walking you through the dark caves and forests of your mind, the bramble bushes that make up a confusing array of emotions and the roller coaster that happens to be mine. Over the course of the summer my anxiety and destructive coping mechanisms had been increasing at a pretty steady rate.
I felt like a little girl who is overtired but won’t admit it, and instead tantrums and cries and refuses to sleep. Then her Papa, who's a good one, picks her up and firmly gives her what she needs: to go to bed. Tonight, through love I was held strong and given the strength to say, "yes, I need help". Because i wasn't created to have such extreme mood swings. Because I can love Jesus and admit that I might have some psychiatric problems; because its not normal to have an amazing time and then leave and feel like dying. Truth spoken in love is powerful. This was the first of many times I had beautiful people reveal the truth to me. To have someone sympathize with you and try to understand is a treasure. To be welcomed into homes and dinner tables is healing, but sometimes not enough. It took months to finally make some progress, and even in the progress there were still weeks of backwards steps. But any progress is good and all fall my Alabama family loved me thoroughly, enough to propel me forward, enough to receive the help I truly needed.
During the summer, Trent and I were driving to the Legacy house, and I shared with him about the anxiety I struggled with, the irrational fears that weighed me down and kept me from living the full life I desire, and told him that I sometimes felt like God runs out of goodness for me, and won't provide, and how I know my theology is messed up, but it feels that way. We sat in silence for a while, and eventually he broke it by telling my that he loves me, is proud of me and values me. He had prayed and asked God what to say to me, and God told him just to love me; because his love is actually Papa’s love. God loves best through His people.
God has a passion for family, a desire for many becoming one unit, like He has within himself; The Father, Son, and Spirit as One. We, as the body are invited to join that Oneness, to be inside of God and have God inside of us. He is best expressed through families and tribes, groups of people who are crazy about Him and love in a magical way. He is best expressed through families; through people shining out the "Christ in them", the many unique, marked off members making the beautiful girl which is the bride, the body of Christ. A few years ago I met a magical group of people who met and sang and ate and enjoyed the Lord all together. We were all different ages, containing different experiences and passions and portions of the Lord, coming together to create a feast of revelations and expressions of love. I met with this tribe for a little over a year, and every week, Andrew would ask me if I had anything I wanted to share about the Lord. I often didn't say anything; I felt like my words didn't hold much weight and insecurities often kept my mouth shut. After months of being asked every time we met, I became irritated, thinking maybe the Lord was telling him things and I was missing the memo. Finally he pulled me aside and asked me if I knew why he questioned me every week. I told him no and he pulled me close in a Papa way, kissed the top of my head, and said, "Rach, you're full. You carry a beautiful portion of the Lord and I know you always have something to say about him. Every time you choose to keep your mouth closed, you're robbing everyone of the riches inside of you, riches they can't get from anyone else but you."
I hadn't given much thought about the Trinity until lately, how its much more than an egg: the yolk, egg white, and shell. Theres a tribe; a family inside of God. John 17 talks about Christ in God and God in Christ, mutual submission. Love. Peace. Family. The church is another picture of unity, of a Family that is simply One. Husband and Wife is another picture of that oneness. All communities reflect the original one inside of God. Thats why God loves family so much. Thats why I want to love family.
So, collectively, the Body of Christ carries me around in her mouth, like a mother cat carries around her kittens. So often I struggle and then someone picks me up in his or her mouth and carries me (sometimes drags me) along. I'll take it; movement is movement. Mother cat nourishes me and loves me and moves me and sometimes all I can do is just receive. I'm okay with that. Warmth, food, peace, love, movement; what else do we need? All I can to do is receive this cat-love and be vulnerable with people who are willing sit next to me on my roller coasters Being terribly close is hard but it sucks out all infections and replaces them with the potpourri of being fully loved and known. So this winter I went and ate dark chocolate and drank egg nog and had dinner with all of my mother cats and I could smell the potpourri smells stronger than ever.
This past year, every time I would cut tomatoes or avocados, Finny would come over and say, "Ach! you're ruining them!" He would take my hands and guide them, cutting the fruit gently and precisely, a picture of my current position. A family of people guiding my hands, helping to gently cut off the bad, leaving room for the new.