A Chance Meeting
Today has been heavy. (Understatement of the century)
This week I am working at Creation Festival with To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit that presents hope and finds help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. I have hosted our booth at countless festivals, and to be honest, Creation is usually one of the less fun events we do. Conversations tend to be short and shallow or argumentative from people upset that we are not a faith-based organization (Creation is a Christian music festival. It tends to be exhausting, as we see so much pain and suffering not only ignored but even provoked through some of the other merchandizers, attendees and speakers. Creation is not all bad, but it is difficult. But somehow, today was different. In the midst of all the regular Creation grandeur, there was an added heaviness to the environment you could sink your teeth into it.
First thing in the morning we were greeted with tragedy, as the news quickly circulated about the Colorado shootings. Our hearts were already heavy with greif for those involved as fellow merchants came to talk with us in mourning for those lost. It was less than an hour after we learned of the shootings that we heard from our organizations’ director that while having a press conference at the shooter’s mother’s home a sticker with our logo was found on the mother’s vehicle. This news changed what seemed to be a tragedy that happened at a movie a few states away and made it personal. The next couple hours one of our team members was helping our director write a blog which you can read here. Needless to repeat, the day started as an emotional whirlwind.
While sitting behind the booth, it was almost as if giving the description of what we do to interested parties was said with deeper words - since the pain of loss was so fresh, our words were said with an honest vulnerability and concern. I think it may be in part because of this that we had some of the hardest conversations today that I have ever had behind the booth. Person after person came to me with heart-wrenching story after another of loss, drug addiction, suicide, betrayal, rejection, sexual abuse…the list goes on. And while some people spill their guts, it’s even more so difficult to see people struggle to share their story - fear so deep it cuts to the heart. These people you just want to reach out to and give a giant bear hug because you’re not sure if anyone else ever has. No matter where the person is at whom we speak with, I hope they leave a little more hopeful than before, even if they only leave with an info card so maybe on one of their darker nights in a time of need they will think of our conversation, know they are loved, and maybe take a step towards help.
We don’t take many breaks, but with the intensity of today, I found myself just needing to walk around and get some fresh air more often than usual. It was during this time that I needed to find peace, to meditate on the hope I have found and freedom I’ve received through Christ from my abuses and addictions. It is amazing to not only see my flaws now and how much I need Christ today, but to see how much he has forgiven me and brought me out where I once was.
When I was 16, a man named Nick Vujicic came to speak at my high school. Nick was born without arms or legs. He travels the world to preach the gospel and has seen nearly 500,000 people come to know Jesus Christ as their one God. He says a lot, but there is no amount of words that could be said to describe the most powerful element of his presence: his smile. Nick’s limbless condition has brought him obvious suffering, leading to severe depression and attempted suicide. As a believer in a God who works great physical miracle and somebody who has seen people healed, he begs God daily for arms and legs. Now at age 29, he still has to be carried onto stage and use a small deformed foot to turn the pages in his Bible; God has not changed his circumstance. Yet even as Nick tells us his story, he smiles. He preaches that by faith in Christ, he is not limited by his circumstance but rather able to live joyfully in the plan for his life that God has ordained. Nick tells us that if God has granted him arms and legs at age 12 when he tried to commit suicide, the entire ministry he has been able to witness as a result of his faithful service in suffering would be non-existent. Without God forcing Nick to trust God with literally every motivation, thought and doubt, there is no way Nick would have the joy the Lord has given him today.
Seeing a man in his circumstance present himself with such vulnerability, honesty, and joy made the 16 year old me actually believe there was hope for myself because maybe even though my problems were big that God was a lot bigger. After the first time I heard Nick speak he invited those who felt compelled to come and talk to him after and give him a hug. I’ll be honest with you, I went up to him there with all my abandonment issues, all my pornography addiction, all my desires to be liked by people I respected, all the shame I carried for not measuring up to whatever bar I expected myself to be at, and I threw myself at him, tears and all. And I’ll tell you this, I’ve never received a hug from my dad. I know God is my father, sometimes I call him Dad but I know it’s not something I’ll get until I see him face to face, but when Nick leaned in and I wrapped my arms tight around him, it was right then that I actually felt like he had given me that hug my dad never gave me.
I bought a dvd of his with a really poor A/V quality, a horrible soundtrack and likely the worst cover art I’ve ever seen (I’m pretty sure the title was in Comic Sans). I have watched and lent out that DVD so many damn times its insane. But I know that when I’m in the well and don’t know how to get out, Nick’s smile will keep me trying.
Nick happened to be speaking today at Creation Festival, on the heaviest day with TWLOHA I may have ever had.
As I thought through my own story so far, there was a lot to be sad and complain about. I could have just sat in my emotion from the day and let it settle, but as I remembered God’s faithfulness and loving pursuit of me despite my circumstances, I changed. I was smiling. I had hope, a light, a reason to keep going, a purpose to now go and help others struggling with abuse and addiction. But before I went back, I had to thank someone.
I went to the artist catering a little before Nick was supposed to get on stage, awkwardly sat on the couch next to him, and told him I needed to share something if he could just take a minute. I shared my story with him and the affect of his hug and his smile. He told me he was sorry my father had never been there. He told me he loved me. He told me to keep going. He gave me the 2nd best hug I’ve ever gotten.
In his sermon shortly after, Nick began telling the Creation attendees how badly he wishes he could have legs, and how he begs God for them. If God could heal, why couldn’t he heal Nick? He gave his extensive list of miracles he’s seen of people healed from various medical issues, but today he added a story to his list; my story. He told the audience he had seen a miracle today, that through of his faithfulness, God had reached into a 16 year olds heart and given him hope, and that God could use a hug from him to express the love of a father.
The crowd cheered. Tears.
And then Nick continued with his point, that God will use you for miracles no matter your circumstance, and you can receive joy in that if you are faithful to Him - even if that means living without limbs.
Back to work I went, with a refreshed heart and new mind. Things were and still are hard. Those people in Colorado are still dead. The murderer’s mother is now dealing with the trauma of the crimes of her son. The people I talked to today still had their friends, family members, or pastors kill themselves. People I talked to today still go to churches that bully or neglect them, or nobody will ever take time to listen to them. I will still never meet my dad. I am unable to fix the most important relationship I’ve ever had. I cannot cover my shame. But God is faithful to forgive, redeem, and able to fill me what what I need to live faithfully to him. I have deep sorrow for the people I encountered today. But I have hope for you. Please stay with us for tomorrow. I don’t have all the answers, but I know where to find some light, and I hope we can follow it together.
I love you.
God loves you.
Your story is important.
You are part of the biggest and best story in all history.
Tomorrow is the first day of Creation Fest Northwest.
I am so lucky to have it in my hometown last year and now again this year. I’m excited to see Newsboys and Chris Tomlin tomorrow night. <3 And then Tenth Avenue North, Toby Mac, Switchfoot, and David Crowder later this week.
Half a week of music glorifying God, here I come. ^.^
Wednesday night Chris Tomlin led worship. He was right after Newsboys, who were good but I don’t like their music as much since they changed lead singers.
In between them my sister and I got coffee from the Land of a Thousand Hills coffee stand, so then we stood in the cool of night, with the stars peaking out, holding hot coffee, worshiping our Creator. Then by the end I had jumped around and danced before my God like a complete idiot. But I was just so full of joy that it didn’t matter what anyone around me thought.
Thursday night was Toby Mac. Even though I don’t listen to his music on a regular basis, I know almost all his songs and was looking forward to him the most, because he and Diverse City are such great performers. And you can tell that they aren’t performing for themselves, but out of love for Him and people. My sister and I got in my car afterwords and were like, wow, we’re exhausted. Because you can’t help but jump and dance along with them. xD
Friday night we saw Francesca Battistelli and Switchfoot. It was a little amusing, but during Francesca we were dying of heat, hiding under our umbrellas. But once the sun went down, we were freezing all throughout Switchfoot’s performance.
Last night we saw Brandon Heath and David Crowder. David Crowder was great. It was one big worship session again. Our arms we exhausted from waving them around by the time they finished. Skillet closed Creation, and while my sister and I both like Skillet, we prefer them on a CD, where we can control the volume. Plus, we didn’t want to freeze like we did the night before, so we left before they came on.
While I was there, I also chose another child through Compassion International to sponsor. Last year, despite the fact the neither of us had a regular source of income at the time, my sister and I decided to sponsor a little girl named Chris from the Philippines together. God was faithful and we’ve both been able to keep our commitment to that. After having God provide work for me last year, I decided to believe He would this next year too, and in addition to Chris, sponsor another little girl named Caroline from Burkina Faso. <3
For me, having a commitment like this is a step of faith. Giving my tithe to my church is not a big deal, because I have that 10 percent. I’m giving because I’ve received a paycheck. And then giving a little more than that every once in awhile is really nothing, because it’s based on what I have. Committing to a child—two children—that’s believing that God is going to provide the money, because right now, I don’t have a source of income that can sustain my commitment. I’m trusting God.