The month of August has been one I haven't quite found the words for. It has felt a bit like being sat between a rock and a hard place but being there willingly because that is exactly where the good wine comes from. Not to say I've been entirely crushed this month but simply confronted. Many of my beliefs as a Christian have received invitation to be molded into something new, and as they are being shaped (and I along with them) I find there no longer remains a place to sit comfortably. Arriving somewhere new requires getting there and getting there requires a journey of sorts. So from between the rock and the hard place, I am well on my way but not there yet.
The month began with a farewell to one home and the returning to another. Home: Amsterdam, Sioux Falls, both, neither. I found aspects of "home" in both but the entirety in neither. A week into August and I was already confronted by my own definition of home. C.S. Lewis says it beautifully, "The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can't supply is proof that Heaven must be our home." While recognizing the beautiful home I have found in both places and many more, I have also come to recognize the reason both can feel so much like home in such different ways is that they are simply a reflection of a particular part of the home we will one day arrive at. I understood in a new way that my belonging is not at all to a place I will find on earth. I understood on a greater level that we are here not that the cities we find ourselves in would serve us but that we might be able to serve the Lord in them. What a privilege to experience a piece of the home to come in the ones I'm given now. But how important it is that the ones I am given now continue to point me back to the one to come. The Lord asked me, "Ashton, would you claim Heaven as your home?". My answer is yes but I'm still learning how.
OBEDIENCE WITHOUT BORDERS
Following the return to Amsterdam, I joined in hosting a gathering at our base. The focus of the gathering was seeing individuals impact the different spheres of society. I began to see a clearer connection between obedience and impact. Moreso, I began to see that full obedience could not happen while still caged in by boundaries. This thought only continued to grow as our team spent a week in Germany for the Western DTS Gathering. It was during this week that my boundaries were called out and canceled. As one of our speakers shared, he commented on the fact that often what we claim to be self-care is really self-preservation. Ouch, right? Gooood stuff though!!! It was these words that woke me up to the reality that my obedience has often been on my own terms. Jesus himself was obedient unto death. What does that mean for us? How often has my obedience only been willing to hear to the point of my boundaries? Of course, there is wisdom, but at the same time, there is sacrifice. Do we trust that the laying down is actually a picking up? In Matthew 16:24 Jesus says to His disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." The cross was not pleasant by any means, but it is His choosing to pick it up that I have been given life. I can only hope we join that others might live as well. It is, by all means, radical and, by the world's standards, foolish. But He is entirely worthy. To be obedient without borders, a risk I am willing to take.
Below I've linked a documentary that highlights a bit of the above thoughts and much more through looking at Middle Eastern Christians living in highly persecuted areas and times. It is intense, it is raw, it is real. I highly recommend taking the time to watch it - allow yourself to be uncomfortable and incredibly challenged by the reality of our brothers and sisters. A second volume recently came out focusing on the growth of the Iranian church. The Kingdom is advancing in insane ways. Let's join the battle in prayer and worship and awareness and involvement.
In sharing all of the above, I do so while still being in the midst of it. I am still very much struggling with the above questions. I am still learning to claim Heaven as my home and how to live a radically obedient life. But like Jacob, I would much rather strive with the Lord and walk away with a limp than miss out on His presence altogether. To be entirely conquered by God, a very strange but quite lovely place to pull our victory from, eh? All I know is that to fight with and live alongside these questions is not only important but it is necessary. All I know is that my yes to being challenged will change the way I love and disciple and live. All I know is that I long for you and for me and for whoever else decides to join us to see Jesus rightly, even when it's a bit painful. I think it's worth it because I think He's worth it. So would you join me in between the rock and the hard place? Good wine requires a decent crushing.