And I didn't mind at all because I was so full of joy! God did something great for me today. He gave me this sense of renewal. I ended this last week feeling completely drained--physically and mentally. I ran around all day yesterday and ended the night on a slightly awkward note--hanging out with an old group of friends for the first time in a while and realizing that they were no longer really my friends and the place that I was in was no longer my scene. It was very disconcerting. Especially since part of me felt a very strong desire to do whatever it took to fit in with that crowd again. That desire didn't win but I hated struggling with it!
I woke up this morning feeling very tired but anticipating the day ahead. I was late for church (as I normally am although it is literally a 4 minute walk from my apartment) but from the moment I got there this morning to the time that I walked home tonight, my day was fantastic. And not fantastic in a loud, "oh my God!" way. A peaceful kind of fantastic.
It began with listening to one of my pastors speak on hearing, recognizing, and listening to the voice of Jesus amidst all the other voices that vie for our attention and allegiance. The sermon was based on the following verses:
"After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” John 10:4-5
I've heard this small passage preached many, many times, and have read it myself even more times but each time honestly always feels new. My pastor really wanted to emphasize that all the other voices we hear--media, advertising, whatever is adamantly seeking our attention apart from God-- are ultimately self-serving voices whereas Jesus' voice is always directing us towards something for our own good. His ending point was that Jesus is the only one who has earned the right to be listened to and he encouraged us to continue to learn the sound of his voice. My description doesn't do it justice, but it was a great sermon that geared me up to do alot of Jesus seeking this week.
An impromptu lunch with my great church community came next. I plan to do a blog post sometime explaining more fully, but for now I just want to say that I am so blessed to be a part of Many People's Church (interesting name right?) or MPC as we fondly call it. It's a pretty small church, less than forty I'd say, and we are the very definition of a "motley crew" but that is part of our beauty as a community! God has really tied my heart to them and I am so grateful!
After lunch, I took myself to see Titanic in 3D. I love that movie and can pretty much recite the whole thing (only as it's playing though). It's such a beautiful story. I've heard so many people downplay it as simply another romance but the beauty of it surpasses Jack and Rose's story (which really is so absolutely beautiful). It is just such a great human tragedy! And it's an excellent movie in general--extremely well written with extremely epic cinematography and visual and sound effects! Even if you're not big on the romance aspect, you cannot deny the brilliance of the rest of the movie and be a sensible human being. I'm sorry, you just can't... I could talk about the Titanic for hours but I will move on. Oh, but one more thing needs to be said--Jack could not have fit on that plank with Rose. Anyone watching closely should've seen that initially when he put her on the plank and tried to get on it too, it toppled over and started to sink. Ok.
After Titanic, I moseyed on down (and by "moseyed" I mean "took the train") to Loyola's campus to attend the final Ecclesia service of the year (Ecclesia is an on campus church service that one of my MPC pastors does at Loyola). A student gave the sermon tonight and he did a great job. This one was based on the John 15 passage where Jesus speaks about being the vine that we, the branches, must remain/abide in. The student did a really good job of explaining and emphasizing the fact that branches don't strive to be nourished or to grow or to bear fruit. The branches don't have to bring the rain (in fact they can't) and they don't have to make themselves look really good and appealing to entice the gardener (God) to come and prune them so that they can bear fruit. All the work is done by God/Jesus. He feeds us and he cultivates fruits in us, all we have to do is remain. It was another message that put my heart in a great place to seek the Lord this week. When the service was done I stuck around a bit to chat with a few people, and was really blessed by those short conversations.
And then I walked home in the rain. Singing this song the entire way:
In short, today God replaced the stress of my week with the peace of a slow day. And in that day he wiped away the discomfort that came from feeling isolation from a group of people and an old way of life and replaced it with a heightened awareness of my belonging to a great new community and of the rightness of the direction my life is taking now. After a time of feeling very overwhelmed by the world and somewhat distant from him, he reminded me that his voice is the only one worth listening to and reassured me that I don't have to strive to make things happen in our relationship or to make my life the way it should be-- he is the one doing the essential work. And in light of all that, I am so ready to take on this new week!