"Pain is awful, but love makes it endurable and even worthwhile. The tragedy of our lives occurs when we let pain overshadow love, which, ironically, only produces more pain. Love always guided Jesus when he faced suffering; sometimes love even compelled him to choose suffering. What's your posture toward pain? A church that loves the Lord and those around us more than it fears pain will inevitably bear beautiful bruises for Jesus."
-Essen Daley, Tabernacle Presbyterian Church
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross..."
This week was our first Young Life club at Waynesboro High School. I got the absolute privilege of sharing my heart in front of the biggest group we've ever had at a single WHS club (my estimate was around 120). Everything about club is designed to lead up to the 10-15 minutes at the end that one of the leaders gets to speak truth about Jesus Christ. The games, the skits, the way leaders make absolute fools of themselves are all with the mindset of dying to ourselves and done for the sake of the gospel.
"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
Club is truly a party! An effort to show kids that Jesus is fun and desires exciting, adventurous lives for each of us. Because it was the first club of a new school year, I knew that there would be a lot of unfamiliar faces- there were the usual new faces in the crowd as well as an incredible number of freshmen joining us for the first time. So we decided as a team that it would be a good idea for me to be up front at some point before I got up to give the talk (it is not unusual for kids to think I'm just another high schooler because of my short stature)-- and thus I was also given the opportunity to lead the first set of (fast, upbeat) songs with my teammate Wil.
I. Love. Leading. Music. I do not have a great voice like my teammates, Nichole and Wil, and I am not gifted with the ability to play guitar like they are (nor do I have a desire to learn), but for some reason leading songs brings me a great sense of joy and purpose during club. I was really nervous to give the club talk that night, with so many new faces, and having never given the "intro" talk before, but when I stood in front of the room at the end of the night, all of my nerves were wiped away and I was able to give almost the exact talk I wanted to give. (And I do not take one bit of credit for that!) I felt like the Holy Spirit gave me words and the courage to say them with strength and excitement. I felt like God met me in that room and kids got a sweet first impression of the intense, extravagant love He has for them. I walked away feeling really encouraged!
After club I realized I was in pain, somewhere in the course of Don't Stop Believing, Party in the USA, and You Belong With Me, I had managed to clap so furiously that I left the club room in a sort of pain and with a sense of numbness that I'd never felt before in my left hand-- my palm to be more exact.
The next afternoon, I was at work washing my hands when I realized that the entire left side of my palm- from my thumb over- was an incredible shade of purple and I still had a numb sensation from my thumb and pointer finger up my arm. I still don't know exactly what I did, and the bruise on my thumb and palm is taking its sweet time subsiding, but I do know the pain was inflicted while jumping up and down on a chair on a stage, singing my heart out, clapping as hard as my hands would allow in an effort to set the stage as well as I was able for the club talk that night.
And it was worth it!
This morning in church, Essen talked about the "beautiful bruises" that we have the opportunity to acquire when we suffer and sacrifice for the sake of the gospel-- the wounds of love. My bruise from clapping is such a silly example of such a profound concept. But it honestly brought me great joy every time I looked down to see that purple palm because it reminded me of the joyful abandon I felt in front of a room full of kids who were about to hear the beginning of the greatest love story of all time.
"Finally, let no one cause me trouble,
for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus."
So, is our God worth it? Is he worth the bruises we are nearly promised in this life? Are we willing to shed tears that will bring about a day when there are no more tears? Are we willing to carry each other's burdens in this life?
"Carry each other's burdens,
and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
This life is painful! But is our goal-- our purpose-- the pain itself or the love that makes the pain worthwhile? I want to be about love!! But I spend so much of my time focused on the painful parts of my life. How different could my outlook on life be if I saw it through the joy of love instead of the misery of pain? God is faithful and while he doesn't promise a comfortable life, he does promise to never leave us to go it alone.
"Because God has said,
'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'
So we say with confidence,
'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?'"
"O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be."
-"O Love That Will Not Let Me Go"
"We love because he first loved us."
1 John 4:19
And I love you!