God I don’t even know what I’m going to write about. I just know I need to do this.
I usually wake up around the time I start putting shampoo in my hair. Don’t dare ask me how I get from my bed to the shower without falling or stumbling or cursing because it is truly a mystery to me at 5:00 in the morning. This has been my morning every morning since I got back from Europe. I get to my bed to the shower to the hairdryer to my pantsuit/dress/heels and then I put my makeup on in the garage in my car because that’s the worst lighting and I have no reasoning for that. I drive out of Stillwater by 6:45 and get to highway 33 around 7:08. I don’t know how it ends up taking that long for me to get there but it always happens.
I go to an internship that I have in OKC that is truly one of the richest learning experiences that I have experienced and I am grateful beyond what words can describe. What an incredible, incredible place.
I haven’t had a summer this ordinary and routine since I’ve been in college. Sure, at camp we had a very normal routine, but you must understand that camp comes with interruptions. Interruptions like campers that wake you up at 4 a.m. because they drank six Dr. Peppers the night before and need to go to the nurse. I don’t get taps on my shoulder regularly throughout the night as I sleep on the top bunk anymore. I’m sleeping on the bottom bunk in my own bed in my own room without campers all summer. There’s nights I go to bed at 9:30.
There was one day where a flip was switched.
Before I go on, you must understand that this has happened within June, so I haven’t fully processed it yet and you must understand that this writing is a processing of it. This is how my mind processes things.
This one day the flip was switched.
I don’t remember what day it was. I remember getting back from Europe and knowing something was different in my heart and it was a good thing and then one day I was driving down highway 33 and it just switched.
And I think I figured it out today (June 26, 2016).
There were a couple of moments that were particularly stirring to my inner being that happened while I was overseas and I truly believe it was a preface for this one day that the flip was switched.
One day we went to a town in the Czech Republic called Kutna Hora. There was a cathedral that was used to be a cathedral for the silver miners of Kutna Hora.
There was a painting of a crucifixion that was possibly the least artistic yet most striking portrayal of the death of Christ that I have ever seen. It was incredibly gruesome and not particularly beautiful, yet to me it so correctly portrayed the pain that hung on that cross. It hurt me to look at. It hurt me to look at the suffering that Jesus was put through.
The next moment I had was when we went to Salzburg during our free weekend of travel. We went on a Sound of Music bike tour through the town of Salzburg and then through the countryside next to the alps. We stopped at the oldest nunnery in the world which was perched atop a steep hill (that I for SURE did not bike up) and our tour guide said “rarely, there are times where you can step into the chapel and hear the nuns worshipping.” I stepped inside and when I looked up, massive windows with a pool of warm yellow light were open near the top of the chapel. I am convinced that what I heard coming out of those windows will ring through my head until the day I die. The nuns were worshipping (in German). I had no idea what they were singing and every idea of what they were singing about. Their voices overflowed with adoration and gratefulness and raw intimacy. They were speaking to Jesus, and Jesus bent down to listen in that chapel.
The third moment was the next morning. My friends Carly and Abbey and I decided to take a cable car up to the top of one of the alps. After sifting through a lot of German we didn’t understand and accidentally riding the bus for free when it for sure wasn’t free, we ended up at the cable car station. Which was closed for the month.
So we decided to sit at a cafe instead.
We were the only people at that cafe.
We sat, chairs facing the alp in front of us. The old waiter spoke to us in English in a very thick accent and joked with us, brought candies to us, and pretended to bottle-feed me a Red Bull (which I will admit was surprising and a lot to handle at the moment also I’m laughing really hard typing that).
We sat, sometimes in silence because of exhaustion, with each other for easily an hour and a half. The waiter never brought our check until we had to hunt for him and ask for it. We sat and we were present and we were filled with joy.
The flip switched when I was thinking about my trip while driving down highway 33 at 7:15 in the morning. I was sitting in silence and thinking about the cross that I saw in Kutna Hora. It was so ordinary but so striking to me. It makes me wonder if anybody else saw it through the eyes that I did and felt the pain that I did from it. I saw Jesus on that cross with such a pure sorrow.
A pure sorrow.
Jesus hung on that cross knowing that he was dying for people that would curse His name. He did it anyways. He saw through our sins, our bad thoughts and our bad actions, and saw the dark corner of the reason we were acting out. He saw the hurt and the darkness in our hearts, past the action, but the reason for our actions. He saw the forgotten rooms in our hearts and filled them with His blood to wash it clean. It pained me. His sorrow was so pure and it pained me. It pains me.
I saw a man so familiar with pain on that cross.
Something in me says that the nuns in Salzburg saw that same man filled with a pure sorrow as they were singing with such adoration. I believe that they saw a man that knows pain and desires to weep with us and to wipe away our tears. They see a man and a God and a hope of a world that is so apparently broken. Their voices were filled with a love that filled my lungs with a new song. A praise like that had to be heard in Heaven. I have a feeling the entire Kingdom was watching that moment and weeping in adoration.
The simplicity and purity of being present at the cafe in Salzburg was the final memorable moment I had in Europe for a reason, I believe. I think for all of college and possibly all of my life, I’ve been waiting for the ticket to come. The next thing on the list. Always moving forward and if I ever looked back it was to pick up the pieces to get ahead. I’m not sure how much I’ve been in the present. If so, it was for a short time.
When I got back to Stillwater, I had dinner with a friend that is passionate about yoga. I asked her to explain it to me and she said something like this:
“Yoga is focusing on the present. Focusing on every movement of your body and every movement and feeling that is inside and around you. Being fully present, mind and body.”
On highway 33 that one day, out of nowhere, the strings of my heart were plucked by God.
I began to speak and it was as if Jesus had opened the door of my car and slid into my passenger seat and grabbed my face and made me look into his eyeballs so that he could SEE AND KNOW me. In that moment I heard the nuns. I heard the nuns singing and I understood completely and totally the song of Immanuel that they were singing.
Immanuel. God with us. God not “above us, twirling his finger and making the world happen and brushing his big white beard” but God with us.
As in God seeing and knowing us.
God in our day to day movements and the blinks of our eyes and the twitching of our fingers. God waking me up and carrying me to the shower and helping me wake up like a father carries his daughter out of bed and gently rocks her to wake her up so she can hear Him speak. He is composing the breath that you are taking in right now. Speaking love into the tiny details of your life, whether you notice it or not.
God getting into your passenger seat and driving to work with you.
God in the middle of the most mundane task. In those moments realizing that, when knowing Christ, nothing is ordinary anymore. Having him hold us even through moments that aren’t swimming through a tempestuous sea of struggle.
I’ve had a lot of time to think spending a summer in Stillwater and driving alone two hours, three times a week.
I’ve had a lot of time to look back at my college career and see the work of the Lord in my life and the doors he opened and closed. To see the months of pain and the moments of joy that compensated for it.
I am realizing that if I hadn’t waited for my ticket and looked onto the next thing, I would be absolutely unraveled by what Immanuel, God with us, does in an ordinary day-to-day life.
Immanuel, God with us, is a man familiar with pain. A man filled with a purity in love and loss. A man who cuts the crap, grabs our shoulders and looks into our eyes and sees us. Sees us with the same eyes in the same way that He saw Peter when he denied Him three times. Sees us with the same eyes that saw the woman caught in adultery. Sees us with the same eyes that wept in the garden. He sees us and He knows the forgotten closets of our hearts.
When we recognize that love and that knowing, we open the flood gates. That’s when the nuns sing. He washes us over like a tidal wave, a wave of freedom stripping us down to nothing. How scandalous.
He falls afresh like rain on us,
Bursts the doors and floods the halls
into forgotten rooms inside our hearts.
Immanuel. God with us.