A couple times a year we go on trips with our student ministry. For a few of these trips I find myself driving a van full of teenagers. Over the years, I’ve added up some real miles on these vans. Each trip is always unique, but there are certain similarities that repeat over the years. For example, you can always count on a loud and playful atmosphere in the van. It’s part of the fun, actually. Recently, we embarked on our second annual Fall Retreat. On the way home from the retreat, one my students asked me a question about driving a van full of teenagers. She asked something to the effect of, “Do you like it when everyone is loud and singing all the time or does that get annoying?” I smiled and answered, “No, I don’t mind at all.” The more I thought about it, the clearer the irony became–the loud and rather chaotic van noise is actually a beautiful sound. It’s proof of life lived to the full.
We recently had some friends come to our youth group and share an incredible story they’ve been telling. A few years ago they started an organization called Povertees. They make cool t-shirts with pockets they sew on them–then they use the funds from the shirts to help and assist people living on the streets of downtown LA. They’ve been at it a few years now, and they are still making shirts, but there is more going on than just sewing pockets. As their story shares, they believe in ‘life sewn together.’ It wasn’t just about making a shirt or even helping people; instead, it became about hanging out with their friends in LA. They made shirts so their friends could eat; they raised money so opportunities could be created for their friends. This group became about loving people not because they were a project or even because Jesus would love them. Rather, they made trips to LA and created t-shirts because they began living life together. And that is beautiful.
I said goodbye to a friend the other day who is moving out of California. We had this incredible conversation too. It was one of those good, heart to heart, deep outpouring of kindred spirits talks. The kind of dialogue you think only exists in movies where writers meticulously edit over and over again until it’s just right. Well, that might be stretching it, but it was a good conversation nonetheless. My friend reminded me of an important truth I think I had forgotten. “God is always for you,” he said.
I thought more about his statement after we parted ways. God is for you. Ever notice how you live differently when you think differently about God? Theology is never merely theoretical. The truth is, our lives change when our theology influences how we live. Believing God is for us has the power to do just that.
This past Monday was one of those days you just try and survive. It was an onslaught of frustration and stress, like the week just declared war against you. I lived in the tension for the greater part of the day, looking forward to going home and finding refuge in a nice meal and hours of mindless TV watching. But things didn’t turn out like that.