Choosing Love

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KC Davis, Wesley Leadership Team

The hardest part of any project is to begin.

Starting the first paragraph of an essay, getting up in the early morning hours for a run, or forcing yourself to start a conversation with someone you’ve just met. The results of running or writing or meeting new people can change our lives, but it’s so difficult to take the first step to do the work.

It’s uncomfortable to put ourselves out there, and our beds are so much warmer than outside before the sun is up. The fact remains, though, that any work worth doing is most likely going to take us out of our comfort zone.

During our Table Talks at the NSU Wesley Foundation, we speak a lot about what it means to be a member of the church. Some of us grew up in the church and others are just starting our journey with the church here, at the Wesley.

For some of us, the church was a distant but looming organization that was interacted with only on occasion, and for others it represented a family and a place to search for and discover God as well as define ourselves.

For me, neither of those answers truly fit.

I grew up immersed in some form or another of church. My family ended up changing churches several times throughout my life, I was always a member somewhere. I enjoyed debating with my youth pastor, I loved attending potlucks and youth events with my friends, and I even liked spending time with the older ladies who wanted to hear all about school and what I wanted to be when I grew up.

The problem came when I had to sit alone with God, at the altar or in my seat in the back row and consider a verse we’d learned about cultivating a relationship with God- when I had to confront my own dissatisfaction with that relationship. In those moments I was faced with my anger toward God and my unwillingness to have a relationship at all, let alone put in the work to pull God closer.

Facing this anger seemed daunting. I knew that I couldn’t tell my youth pastor, or my parents…

Anyone.

Even the little old ladies who had loved to hear about my plans to be an Archaeologist would have rebuked me. I knew deep down that if I confessed a resentment toward the God they’d taught me I should love, I’d be met with the obstinate belief that I was the problem, not God or the way we believed.

They wouldn’t understand that anger anyway, because there was something I knew, and God knew, but the ladies and my pastor didn’t: I was gay. And even at a young age I knew the church would ultimately be a very unforgiving place.

Usually, during Table Talk, we conclude that we can’t shy away from the fact that the church it is falling short and that it’s our responsibility to build it back up again. We decide to make our amplification of God’s love louder than other people’s hate and bigotry.  There is an unspoken understanding, however, that things are much more complex than a few people’s commitment to love.

The basis of our conclusion is very true. God’s love is transformative. However, accepting God’s grace and love and deciding to emulate it is hard work. But it’s work worth doing. Love is a choice. It was a choice that, when I was a 13-year-old wanna be Indiana Jones, I didn’t know how to make.

The first step is making our love louder than hate, but the second step is teaching people how to begin the work of choosing love.

And giving them a place where they feel like they can.

Some Thoughts on Knowledge

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Brad Dame, Wesley Leadership Team

There was a period of time through most of high school and the first year or so of college where I watched as many different movies and TV shows as I could, even kept an ongoing list.

As someone who is at least basely interested in working in this medium, why shouldn’t I consume as much of the existing material as I could, in order to gain a foundation of knowledge of these mechanics?

This makes sense on an intellectual level, but I eventually found that I was worse off for this, emotionally and spiritually speaking. As it turns out, stories about people with great depression and/or hatred are not exactly comfort food for the soul, no matter how highly regarded they may be in the critical world. Now I am much more selective and have chosen to mostly watch things that are generally more positive. I bring this up because it opens a conversation about the quantity of knowledge versus the quality of knowledge.

When we get immersed in one particular subject, it’s easy to lose sight of what drew us there to begin with. This applies not just to entertainment, but every field of study, including theology. I’ve known many Christians who can school yours truly on the amount of Bible verses they know, but lack a certain passion for God that I believe is so important to our spiritual walk. It’s easy to get caught up in the knowing and focus less on the feeling, so to speak. Having an encyclopedia-like knowledge of the Bible is not as important as knowing how to use it, because at the end of the day the Word of God is a tool and not a textbook.

This writing is not anti-knowledge, and neither is God anti-knowledge (see Proverbs 1:7, 15:14, 18:15, 20:15, Psalms 119:66, etc., etc.). However, I encourage you take a moment to step back and reflect on why you study what you study, if it makes you happy, and if it brings you closer to God.

If not, why not?

Adjust accordingly.

Thank you.

 

The “Why” of Ministry

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KC Davis, Wesley Leadership Team

I was a rare breed of young churchgoer. My father thrived at Bible college, and while my brother and I were growing up he would frequently whip out his books on Hermeneutics and Bible study techniques.

Names like A.W Tozer and C.S. Lewis graced our bookshelves, and it was understood that if you had a question about something you heard in Sunday school it would most definitely be a lengthy discussion (oftentimes a debate with at least three different translations of the bible on the table and as many concordances to match). When I was little, I longed for the days that I could go to youth group because I knew that it would be more my speed. When I finally made it, I was the kid with a Bible the size of my head, a notebook, and multicolored pens. I was not expecting to struggle there, and was shocked to discover that Christianity wasn’t just intellectual.

For me, the chance to flex my study muscles was the purpose of every week, it was then that I was in my element. I wanted to soak as much up as I could so that someday something would click, and I would be good, “church-y”, or just useful in some way. What I wanted more than anything was a grand and beautiful purpose. I was quickly disappointed. I would take studious notes at youth group, I try to have a spiritual experience during the worship songs, and pray and pray for guidance and the ability to be right and good.

Countless evenings of my youth were spent journaling and praying and overthinking, trying my hardest to flip some switch inside me that would make me “good”. I knew from what I was taught that I was fundamentally wrong (I was a sinner) and that in order to be called by God I had to be better, but try as I might I never could look or act like the image of a Good Christian, like the image of a Christian I was raised with.

As I have grown more and more I realize that my ideas about the church and the point of it all have been internal and focused on myself.  If the point of church is to be intellectual (or to be seen as intellectual) then it isn’t fulfilling or sustainable. The way that a person feels changes with the season. If you didn’t get enough sleep, or forgot to eat breakfast, or didn’t get the chance to talk to your friends or significant other at all that day, then the way you feel about God and the church will be in constant flux. A God whose character is based on how we feel will begin to seem frustratingly distant and inconsistent, when, in reality, it’s us who can’t seem stay put.

Recently, the members of the Wesley Leadership team attended a leadership retreat. One exercise asked us to consider why we commit ourselves to this campus ministry. If I were answering this question in my early teens, I would have said that the reason I serve the Church was to find my purpose and eventually become the kind of person that God could be proud of. Today, my answer is the opposite. I am already the person that God wants me to be, because my value in Her eyes is not contingent on my reading just the right verse or studying just the right subject. The person that I am, the people we all are, are exactly who God wants. I am loved. I am Her child. Accepting this has taught me that what God wants from me, from all of us, is servitude and love.

And we don’t need to be any “perfect” version of ourselves to do that.

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