Monday, January 25, 2016

Authentic Unity

Last night I got to be part of something pretty EPIC!  It was a Unity service at my church, involving tons of churches in our city.  It was amazing.  It was historic, and it was the beginning of something EPICALLY AUTHENTICALLY TERRIFIC!   

I have been wondering for the past few months how my heart could change to loving a city so much that I never, ever thought I would live in and love.  I mean....I seriously never thought I would call this place home again.  

Yet, here I am with tears in my eyes because I feel so much more alive in this place than I ever have anywhere in the world, (and we all know I've traveled to a lot of places).  Each time I have traveled I have thought...."yes, maybe this will be the place."  For the time I was there I tried to make the most of it.  I tried to fit in, I tried to understand the culture I was a part of...and I tried to understand why I was there.  It never fit.  I have not once truly felt completely home until now.  I have never truly understood those that have been able to settle down, and just know that such and such town is exactly where they are supposed to be.  I have just never felt it.  

Have you ever tried so hard to be a part of a place, that you convince yourself that it is where you are supposed to be, forever.  I think I had kind of convinced myself of that with Thailand.  I was going strong.  I had started going to a Thai church, I was living life as an ex-pat in a foreign country. I was surrounded by people of all kinds of different cultures.  I was living life.  

But something didn't feel right.  It doesn't mean that good things didn't happen.  I met some pretty amazing friends, I learned more of the Thai language then I would have if I had never been a part of that community, and I learned a culture that was not my own.  But I was lonely, and I didn't truly feel like I belonged.  

The last place I tried to fit into before I left Thailand was an international church.  It was pretty amazing.  People from almost every country you could imagine would meet together and praise God.  It was probably the closest to heaven I had ever gotten to until last night.  

I think as Americans we get kind of cocky in thinking that we are always going to be the ones to start a revolution.  I kind of think that the rest of the world has already beaten us in the unity department.  I guarantee that almost any city in the world where there are ex-pats living have churches of various denominations, various cultures, various races worshiping on any given Sunday together.  I guarantee that we could learn a lesson or two from them as American Christians, but more importantly as the body of Christ.  

I don't claim to be better than anyone else, but my experiences have taught me a lot.  Putting aside my culture and living completely in a culture not my own, stripped me at times of my identity first as an American, second as an American Christian.  I had to let go of all that I knew of God, church, and community.  I had to worship in ways that I was unfamiliar with, and I had to embrace all that Jesus is, with grace and love.  

When we look at differences as things that divide us, when we judge those brothers and sisters instead of loving them for those differences...then we are doing it wrong.  We have to allow our defenses, our preconceived notions about what worship is to vanish.  We have to see Jesus in a new way.  We have to let go of those things that want to divide us, and open the door to reconciliation and hope.  We are united by Jesus.  To be completely authentic in that unity is something that may take a lifetime to master...but I am so happy to be in the midst of it.  I am so happy to be able to experience, be stretched, changed, and understand a love that goes deeper than any I have ever known.  

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