I got an email a few days ago from Leighton Tebay and he asked me about my year on SoD: What did I like? Why? What didn’t I like? Why? It’s a tough question (well, four questions actually, right?) but I’m going to try my best to answer it. It’s bizarre that I didn’t really take time before to contemplate something as important as this.
Probably one of the hugest things about SoD for me was living in community. Thirty people living closerthanthis for six months was something I thought was going to be a really big challenge. It was a challenge at times but more than that it was one of the greatest blessings and learning experiences ever. I got to see what real church is all about. All week we were together: talking, sharing, praying…and just being real. You can’t live with people all the time and hide who you really are. People saw who I really am and wrapped their arms around me and loved me. There was safety to be real and honest with people because I knew there would be nothing but love and grace extended to me. Support. Encouragement. Vulnerability. Honesty. These are a few things that are key to a healthy church seeking after the heart of God, and these are all things that were present on SoD.
On Sundays it was thankfully not required or expected of us that we go to “church”. I went to an institutional church maybe 2 times within 3 months. I felt no need or desire to go, because I had church every day of the week. When I did go to “church” I didn’t walk away feeling filled or even uplifted really: I walked away thinking, “I miss everyone from SoD.” Growing up in a modern institutional church, people would constantly preach at me about church being a body and not a building. It’s something we all know with our heads but I wonder how many people actually know it with their heart. Head knowledge doesn’t get us very far does it? Knowing with your head that something isn’t right generally results in a passive acceptance of circumstances because, “Heck, that’s just the way things are. It may not be the way it’s supposed to be but there’s really no way of it being any different.” Knowing with your heart that something isn’t right results in a passionate cry for change because, “This isn’t the way things are supposed to be! And if this isn’t what was intended, then there has to be a way for what was intended to come alive.”
There are times when life deals us a hand of hard and cruel cards. Sometimes we end up holding cards that….put simply, they suck. And we are left with two choices in our time of trouble: to seek God or to seek ourselves. High school found me seeking myself a lot. I carried a lot of excess baggage and pain that God never intended for me to carry. Self-Pity was one of my best friends for far too many years. On SoD, God spoke through so many of the speakers who came to share their experiences with us. I was able to let go of so many things that I hung onto for so long, and I realized that I had to make a choice to either seek God or to seek myself in life. God healed my broken spirit and gave me new life and new hope.
Someone can believe in something with everything inside of them and then preach at me until they are blue in the face, but until I actually experience (through the Holy Spirit’s work on my heart) what it is they’re talking about their words will mean nothing to me. One thing that was repeatedly pounded into my head my entire life is that, “God is good.” Right. Ok, I know that. But I didn’t know that. I had been told that and my head knew it, but my heart didn’t.
The School of Discipleship’s hope is that when you finish the year you will have a deeper understanding of God, yourself, and the world. When I was on SoD, God showed me a part of how good he really is. And I could try to explain what I know, but unless your heart has seen God’s goodness, my words will mean nothing. I now know God’s faithfulness. I know his strength in my weakness. God has shown me that he really does speak to people. He’s graced me with a bit of understanding of his relentless pursuit of us. And I’ve realized that there is nothing I can do to reveal these truths to anyone: it is God and God alone who reveals truth to peoples’ hearts. I also understand myself better now. God showed me my identity in him, not the world. He revealed my life’s purpose to me: to love. Simple as that, and now it makes sense. I understand the world better and that all any given person in the world is searching for is love.
SoD is part of Canadian Mennonite University. I’ll admit that I have a Mennonite heritage: I eat summa borscht, cottage cheese perogies and farmer sausage, and I can speak low-German. I don’t have a problem associating myself with being a Mennonite in terms of cultural implications, but I shy away from associating myself with the Mennonite Church. My heritage has nothing to do with my personal relationship with God. My relationship with God is not dependant upon what my ancestors did or did not do; what they did or did not believe. There were times when people would hear I was from Canadian Mennonite University and then they automatically assumed they knew something about me: people know things about Mennonites. But…no….you don’t know me. I’m a Mennonite that dances. “Yikes, what kind of a Mennonite are you??” I’m one that doesn’t hold loyalties to any one particular denomination of the institutional church. Rather, I hold loyalty to God.
So there’s a glimpse at my year on SoD. There are many more things I could say, but readers’ attention spans are only so big (as are the attention spans of writers : )