When the Road is Hard to Travel

IMG_8334.jpeg

Shoutout to the one and only Daniel Hine for taking such a great photo.

I’m one of those people who has my life super together all the time. Even when I’m doing a million things at once, I still have all my homework, dress up for school, keep up with everything I’m supposed to know. At various different points in my life, I’ve had my whole future completely planned out minus a few insignificant details. First it was college at Stanford and medical school at Johns Hopkins to become a Pediatrician. Then, it became a Pediatrician who worked with kids with intellectual disabilities. After that, I entered into the: I Know I Want to Work with Kids phase… and I still wanted to go to Stanford. That eventually became wanting to run an orphanage and having to find a new dream school. Pretty quickly, I fell in love with New York University. I hastily re-planned my life in my head and threw my heart one hundred percent into this idea of how I imagined my life.

Well, real life happened, and despite the fact that I got into NYU, it’s still insanely expensive to live in New York City. I’m going to end up attending Furman-the school where my dad works, my brother goes, and I grew up. (Honestly, most of my mental block with attending Furman is probably due to my ridiculous competitive mindset with my older brother. What does it say about me if I go to a college that he got into?) I know that I won’t hate Furman as much as I do in my head, but I like the road I imagined so much more than the road I’m actually traveling.

This is all probably a tiny, insignificant example in a world full of much more serious problems than not being able to attend the university I want, but in the much smaller world of Me, it’s one of the biggest deals ever. I want to backtrack and take whatever turn I missed onto NYU Road. No matter how much I want to, though, it’s never going to happen. This is the path I get, whether I want it or not. So, I’m trying to figure out how to really live on this road instead of aimlessly traveling while my head is dreaming of another one.

Sometimes I get really so upset that I don’t quite know what to do, and then I wake up and see my little brothers in the bathroom, thanking God that I won’t be living thousands of miles away from them. I go to school, look around, and find a way to appreciate the fact that I’ll be close to most of the people near me. I participate in conversations, find immense joy in other people. And, I know I wouldn’t experience that on a different road.

One thing all of this had made me consider, though, is all the students who spend four years of their lives doing every little thing possible to get into certain colleges that they’re never guaranteed to attend- the kids who only do all the extra “stuff” because it looks good on college applications. I’d be in a much worse place right now if I didn’t find meaning in all my activities. You shouldn’t be THAT girl if you aren’t THAT girl…because sometimes being THAT girl just isn’t enough to make every detail involved in going to a dream school possible. And, then you’ve spent all of high school doing things you didn’t even like for a result you aren’t happy with. I love all of the extracurricular activities I do and jobs I have. I actually am THAT girl, whether college is a part of the equation or not. So, if the girl who goes to Furman is the girl who got to meet and befriend all these incredible people throughout high school, I know I can find a way to live with that.

I’m a very firm believer that we all get the exact experiences we were meant to have. We don’t have to like them, and we can be heartbroken over them too. But, I think it’s important to embrace them- embrace the experiences and whatever emotions they create. We have to fully open ourselves up to every aspect of the human experience, grief and disappointment included, finding a way to fall in love with all of it.

So, when the road is hard to travel, when you missed a turn you desperately wanted to take, try to walk in daily sufficient grace. It’s hard sometimes to wake up and accept yourself, the life you’re living, but if you can somehow find a way to survive in this daily love for life, it becomes so much easier. Instead of thinking about all the “what ifs,” you tell yourself, “today is enough.” You appreciate, you breathe, and you find peace in not being able to understand.

I think that, maybe, we aren’t supposed to love the idea of where our roads lead more than we’re supposed to love where we are at any given moment. I used to think about college all the time- about New York, about my whole life after high school. Now, it hurts my heart a little if I spend too much time thinking about all of that, so I don’t. I think about right now. I think about how lucky I am every time one of my friends gives me a ride, offers to pay for my coffee, makes me laugh. I think about falling in love with each day, instead of the parts of life that are still uncertain. And, I think that if we can all, somehow, fall in love with each little step along the road, we’ll find a way to end up loving the whole road, too.

All the love in the world,

Shannon

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Journeys

Hey, friends. As this year comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about journeys, and looking back, I’ve started to realize how heartbreaking the destination mindset really is. I used to be all about the destination: winning, making perfect grades, being in the perfect place spiritually. I had reached the destination of who I was, and I pretty much only cared about reaching other necessary destinations. Even though I’m still a bit high strung (though no longer quite as strung out on perfectionism), I can feel myself beginning to let go a little more, in small ways, all the time.

One of my most loved lessons this year has been that authenticity is always more important than an appearance. Spiritually and in every aspect of life, it matters infinitely more that we are genuine in where we are in our journeys than that we have reached a certain destination in that journey. I like the idea that God never really cares whether or not we reach a certain point, the idea that there is not one goal we must reach to obtain entrance to heaven, God’s favor, or any other kind of reward. It’s not about staying in one place; it’s about sincerity to whatever truth you’re currently experiencing. I think God cares a lot more about all of us than to limit us to the same journey or even the same destination. Please don’t let yourself end your journey just because you have reached somewhere comfortable and familiar. Keep going, keep growing. You have to keep walking in order to walk in love.

The coming of a new year always brings nostalgic thoughts about one journey ending and another beginning. Sometimes there are other, bigger, moments that define where one story starts and another ends, and sometimes, because it happens so gradually, we don’t really notice the change until long after it has occurred. I think that parts of me change day to day, while some things remain from my childhood that I can’t seem to shake. So, this is very sincerely me, right at this very moment. If one day I no longer find these beliefs to define me, that’s okay, and I don’t need to apologize for once thinking something I disagree with. Life is supposed to change our minds.

I believe that little brothers are the most special kind of angel there is, and I believe that long hair is really quite attractive on boys. God is a lot less needy than I am. I believe that societal conventions control way too much of our happiness; New Year’s resolutions are pointless. Messy rooms are perfectly okay. The world would be a much better place if the people who went to church every Sunday served the least of these instead, and I believe that people can actually change the world. Being smart should never be more important than being kind. I believe that all people are good. Sometimes I don’t know how I believe that, but I do. I believe it with every single bit of my soul. The arts matter because they give a voice to the voiceless. Practicing genuine friendship is more important than reading my Bible. I believe that leggings are pants and books can influence your life. Coffee and salted caramel are my happy places; school supplies are my love language. Sometimes you’ve just got to let go of all the rules and be free. Education is important, but it is certainly not the most important. Grace isn’t something I can define in words; grace is embodied by certain people. And, every gray area should be covered with grace. I believe that babies and small children have the power to remind us of our humanity. God’s love is unconditional, really unconditional. Gap years are totally underrated. I believe that the best friends I have ever had never expect me to stay the same, and they don’t need to be at the same place I am to travel the road alongside me. Football players are home; old friends are sunshine. Bare feet make me feel alive. I believe that tolerance and compassion are qualities of fearless people. Anything that makes you bold, open minded, or kind is one hundred percent worth it. I want to have a big, compassionate life, and nothing is going to stop me because big heartedness isn’t something that can be limited. (Don’t ever find a reason to limit your big heart.)

So that’s me, right now, as one year ends and another starts. By this time next year, none of us will be the same. I hope that you live out such great adventures this year, and I hope your experiences teach you how to change with your journey. Thanks for being a part of mine; I wouldn’t be the same without you. And, I hope that, at some point, our journeys bring us together again.

Shannon

IMG_0058.JPG

Freedom in the Journey

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Come Taste the Grace

In the past year, I have grown into a person I never imagined, and I have found more joy than I ever thought possible. I’ve abandoned traditionalism, embraced freedom, discovered how to be brave, and opened my mind. I am anti-CHILL. I am standing on the side of love. I am making room at my table. Sometimes, it’s really hard to be this new girl with new opinions and new beliefs. When my family wakes up on Sunday mornings to go to church, I don’t quite know how to explain to my little brother that I no longer experience moments of faith sitting on a pew being told what to believe. When I see groups of my former best friends, my heart aches at the memory of places I once called home becoming places I no longer felt welcome. But, more often than not, I’m completely in love with this way of doing life. I love the acceptance, the friendship, and the unending grace that I experience. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever known.

A few weeks ago, some of my friends went on a mission trip, and one of them brought sermon notes back for me to read. I was quickly reminded of just how badly I needed to change my perspective.  (Note: some of these aren’t direct quotations from the speaker but direct quotes of the paraphrase I read in the notes.)

“Be more broken about where their soul will be for eternity than how much they’ve eaten today.”

“God has called us to be missionaries and evangelists.”

“Become friends to win people to Christ.”

“Find like-minded people.” “Friends who don’t do church on Wednesday nights will try and pull you away from your like-minded Christian friends because they are blind to the truth we have seen.”

I don’t think I’ve ever been more disturbed at a group of statements… It is more important to feed the hungry than it is to assume you know the destination of their souls. It is more important to be a loving friend than an evangelist, and it is more important to cultivate genuine friendships that to use relationship as leverage to win souls. It is more important to embrace all members of the human race with open arms than it is to huddle exclusively with those who believe as you.

There's so much love that there isn't even room for my face...or maybe it's just all the muscle.

There’s so much love that there isn’t even room for my face…or maybe it’s just all the muscle.

Meet two of my absolute favorite people in the whole world, Rob and Daniel. They’re pretty much nothing like me, and I’m still amazed at how they continually fill me up with love with the smallest gestures. Short messages with the words “You gonna make it?” and a flower emoji followed by “Flowers for you” just cover my life with this feeling of being genuinely loved. They have tough love when I need to hear it, jokes when I need to laugh, and this never ending acceptance of all the parts of me that still blows me away. I can almost taste how much grace I feel around them. They might get agitated with me every now and then, but somehow they continue to listen to my overreactions, put up with my overbearing mothering, give me space to be whoever I need to be.

I’m overjoyed that I opened myself up to learning from them instead of remaining in my former state of caring condescension. They’ve taught me that maybe the mission trip speaker doesn’t have it all figured out. Maybe I should bake brownies and tell people they’re amazing instead of telling them they need to be saved. Maybe I should strive to be remembered as someone who tried to love everyone a little bigger instead of someone who tried to force religion. Maybe my friendships should mean something so much more than a way to win souls. Maybe like-minded people hinder us more than they help us… Maybe love and friendship and grace and all those wonderful things that make life worth living, maybe they’re the things that matter most. Maybe, just maybe, we don’t truly understand grace until we’ve been welcomed at a table of people who we’ve never welcomed, a table where we’re forced to see how truly amazing these people unlike ourselves are.

Rob and Dano tell me all the time that they’re not as great as I think they are, and they’re right. They’re so much greater. Thanks for helping me make it, guys. Thanks for reminding me that loving is more important than being right; thanks for welcoming me at your table. And, thanks for showing me the depth of grace.

As we end this season of rest, vacation, and relaxation, I hope you remember to feed the hungry simply because compassion draws you to alleviate suffering. May you find a different-minded person who you grow to love, and may you experience the joy of a friendship that has no underlying motivation. I hope you have the courage to embrace your own perspective, whether it’s the perspective you were taught as a child or the perspective you used to look down upon. I hope you discover that there are moments much more important than the moments you will spend sitting in church, the moments in which you live out the example of Jesus rather than listen to it. More than anything else, I hope you find grace. Maybe you’ll find it in how much Jesus loved us, or maybe you’ll find it somewhere else- each new day beginning or a couple of people you never expected. I just hope you find it, and I hope that you never stop uncovering it’s depth.

Come to the table. Come taste the grace.

-Shannon

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hey, High Schooler

ehs

Just please remember this one thing for me. Your version of anything does not have to look like anyone else’s version. You do you. Okay?

Hey, sweet freshman. Take a big, deep breath. I cannot even tell you how many smiling faces would love to meet you and how many incredible teachers are going to look out for you. In a couple years, you’ll more than likely be ready to graduate and leave, if you aren’t already. And, truly, that is more than okay. Just remember that the smiling faces are here to get you through.

Hey, super genius future valedictorian. It took me a long time to realize this, but take the hard classes. You know, the ones that kind of scare of you, the ones you’re worried will bring down your GPA? You probably won’t be number one anymore… but you will be more prepared for life after high school. You’re not going to make a 100 in AP Chemistry; take it anyway. It’s the right decision. I promise.

Hey, Christian student. Please remember that your faith is not dependent upon whether you go to FCA or CHILL. Christian friends are great, but they’re usually the worst about pressuring you to make your actions and beliefs look a certain way. Make friends with people who don’t really believe what you do. They’re not horrible influences; they can actually be some of the greatest people you meet. Remember, if your faith doesn’t look like the other Christians are telling you it should, THAT’S OKAY. (It’s actually a whole lot more than okay.)

Hey, precious angel boy of fall. You are one of my favorite people to ever exist, simply because football players have been my home throughout high school. Do me a favor and remember that you’re more than the heartthrob who turns out to be a jerk. Even if that is you, you can be something more than that. Every football player I know is. Be kindhearted and caring and genuine like them. I’ve learned that saying this doesn’t make it any easier to believe, but I’m going to say it anyway: dropping passes, missing tackles, and getting hurt are okay. Those things don’t, and they never will, define you.

Hey, tired procrastinator. I feel for you. I really do. We all know it’s not smart to read The Scarlet Letter in one night when you had a month to do it. (Yet, we all do it anyway.) You will survive all of your late nights only to continually follow the same pattern of homework behavior. I’m not necessarily advocating procrastination, but no matter what teachers and parents tell you, it’s totally fine. If you can do it in one night, go you! I hope you get some sleep soon, though, and believe me, you will learn to love the teachers who force you to turn things in a little at a time.

Hey, sad and confused classmate of a student who died. I hope you never have to experience this part of high school. But, my class did. I don’t really know what to tell you except that I hope your student body comes together like mine did. Talk to each other about it. Cry together. Notice the way the whole school overflows with love from all possible sources. It’s hard, and I’m so sorry. Some things will never be the same again; things as simple as seeing the number 51. Don’t be afraid to embrace the love and friendship. Don’t be afraid to feel. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to let it change you. Let yourself grow, and remember your friend each time you love a classmate a little bigger because of him or her.

Hey, responsible and dedicated kid who always has the notes and homework. Some nights it will be beyond frustrating to wake up at 2:00 am to a text message asking for lecture notes that a friend lost. Wake up and send them anyway. Some mornings nothing will be more irritating than getting a call asking to copy your homework in first period. Let everyone copy it anyway. Some evenings you’re going to want to stress-cry as you try to get your own work done while ten other people need help with theirs. Help them anyway. One day, you’ll look back and smile at all the times you did work for the whole group and typed out your notes to send to a friend. It’s a wonderful legacy to leave behind.

Hey, incredibly entertaining class clown. On behalf of students everywhere, I want to thank you. Thank you for sacrificing a teacher’s high opinion of you so that you can provide comic relief to the masses. Thank you for making classrooms a place of joy and laughter. Thank you for always being the one to find a way to bring everyone together, even if it’s just for a small moment of shared delight in a joke. Don’t ever stop.

Hey, high schooler. It’s crazy difficult to live in this space between adulthood and still being a kid, but I’ve found that accepting it as a temporary home helps. It’s a good place to unpack, and it’s a good place to experience life alongside people who understand. Find friends who constantly fill you up with encouragement, honesty, and simple reassurances that there’s someone who understands. I promise they’re out there, probably hiding in people you’d never see yourself loving to pieces. That’s where I found most of mine.

Be an encourager, a friendly face to the people who don’t see a lot of them. The goal is for high school to be somewhere in between the best and worst times of your life. Try to do things that pull people more toward the best than the worst. I know it takes more effort, but having real relationships with your classmates is infinitely better than having surface level, synthetic friendships. You won’t be able to invest in quite as many people, but the real investment is more than worth it. People are so wonderful and worth knowing, and I can’t stress how important it is to have people you can go to for more than the latest gossip or a question about the homework. You’re going to need people you can call crying, people who let you vent, people who see all of your rough edges and love you anyway.

It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to accidentally look dumb in front of everyone. It’s okay to value your own needs, and it’s okay to value the needs of others. It’s okay to completely stress out, and it’s okay to learn how to relax. It’s okay to apologize when you mess up, and it’s okay to accept apologies without considering whether or not forgiveness is deserved. It’s really all okay, and I hope you find that you are able to rest in that knowledge. I hope you give yourself days to catch up on REM sleep. I hope you find at least one aspect of high school that you’ll miss when it’s over- a person, a book, a sport, a feeling. I hope you experience growth. I hope you let any regrets you may have change you for the better, and I hope you never forget that you are capable, brave, and significant. I hope you set goals that will make you excited to leave and make friends that will make you sad to go. I hope you learn at least one thing from a teacher that you will carry with you forever. I hope you take a step toward becoming someone of whom you would be proud. I hope you discover places you can find peace, hope, joy, and love, even if that’s something that changes later on in life. I hope you make room for differences. I hope, with all of my heart, that in each season of your life (but especially throughout high school), you have someone who is willing to listen to your jokes, cheer for you, pick up the phone at all hours of the night, send you homework, and help you make it. And, if you are ever in need of one of those people, I hope you come find me.

-Shannon

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Village

I have such a love-hate relationship with spring football. Forcing myself to sit around in ninety degree heat, waiting in a pool of sunscreen grease for someone to need something is not exactly what I would call “fun.” Most days, a whole lot of sass surfaces because I just can’t deal with picking up another water bottle caked with dirt or taping a wrist that should have been taped in the training room… And then I pick up the bottles and tape the wrists anyway. My sassy alter ego finds something else to do, and I smile at all the players, happy to do anything they need because, well, I really do love them. They make me laugh. They melt my heart with their kindness. They cover me with all these forms of love every time I need it. They’re my people. At least during football season, we’re in life together, and we help each other make it.

They are all my favorite people, and some of them are my dearest friends. We get through homework and AP exams together. We help each other through insecurities, seasons of sadness, and things no one else seems to understand. We rarely know how to fix each other’s problems, but we listen, finding a way to love each other through it all. I couldn’t make it without them.

After all, it takes a village- a village of people you choose, people who choose you, and people you were born into. It takes countless people to make you who you are, and then it takes some more people to remake you into someone new. I would be a completely different person without my village. It’s not that I think my parents couldn’t have raised me completely on their own, but it has taken a lot of other people to make me understand so many of the lessons my parents have taught me.

Fortunately, our parents can’t teach us everything, so we get to develop these beautiful relationships with all kinds of people. We get to experience life alongside different people, and the village grows.

Andrew’s friendship helps me survive plays, and we have become neighbors, friends, family.

Madelyn and I spend hours working through brokenness, and she moves into my village and I hers.

Fish talks about life, about being bold, and his words become permanently etched on the walls of my home, my heart.

Michael comes in my room every morning so that I can do his hair, and whether he likes it or not, that nug is in my village. (He’s not allowed to leave. Ever.)

Rebecca is…well she’s pretty much everything-my friend, my sister, my happy place.

Hollis and Paige pass through my village often, sometimes staying longer than others, but always overflowing with gentleness and love.

Noah’s my best friend, and he’s the whole village at once, my go-to person when I can’t have everyone. (Thanks, love. You’re the absolute best.)

Asia and Chasity make my village fun, and they accept every part of me in a way no one else does.

Anna lives on the outskirts, not present everyday but never too far out of reach when I need her to make me laugh or tell me something bluntly.

DGreen left for a while, but he’s back now. He encourages my rebellious behavior, and I appreciate that so much.

Sarah Margaret is the cutest thing in the whole world, and I’m keeping her forever, simply because my entire existence is better when she’s around.

Daniel and I just help each other make it, no matter what, and I know we always have a home in each other’s village when we need it.

My village is made up of all my people- the ones who move in next door and the strangers who just pass through. My life has been uniquely impacted by each of them; my identity and beliefs all contain little pieces of all the people who have been a part of my life: a desire to serve from my dad, a contentedness with being there for people by sitting from my mom, an aching to play difficult characters from Owen, a habit of calling people “fam” from Mark, a love of quiet but constant friendship from Daniel, a need to practice true friendship from Madelyn, an open mind from Noah, an attempt to befriend and encourage from Rebecca, a passion for impacting the lives of others from Camille, a way to maintain friendship despite distance from Genesis, Kristine, and Christine, an acceptance for all people from everyone I’ve ever met.

We all need a village. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be human; we wouldn’t be empathetic, compassionate, extraordinary creatures. I hope your village grows each day, and I hope it is a place that never ceases to grow in acceptance. I hope it’s a place of love, a place of grace when brokenness hinders that love. I hope it is a welcoming place, a place of countless differences, a place where opinions and beliefs are questioned by those passing through. I hope it is a place of joy and laughter, and I hope it’s a land of rest and peace. I hope it allows friendship to overcome all differences. I hope your village, in each season of life, is made up of the people you need most. I hope you are graciously able to let go of people who are called to leave, people whose presence is needed in someone else’s village. I hope you have the pleasure of knowing some of the incredible people in my village. And, I hope your people love you as well as mine love me.

Shannon

  

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Church People

Recently, people have read some of my writings and interpreted them as being extremely negative toward “church people.” I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of church practices, but you guys, I love church people so much I don’t even know how to explain the ways they’ve radically changed and influenced the person I am today. My parents are church people: I was in church and Sunday School every week growing up. Then, I got older, and I was free to stay at home instead if that’s what I wanted to do. I love my parents, and I love that they taught me to go to church…because more often than not, I still show up on Sunday mornings.

One of my most treasured friends plays the piano at her church. She prays for me, and she taught me how to really love people. She also told me once that church people would break my heart in the deepest ways. I have found that statement to hold quite a bit of truth, but church people wouldn’t break my heart if I didn’t love them. Hearts only break in the presence of compassion and love. Besides, I have also found that church people like her will care for your heart in the deepest ways instead.

My boyfriend and his family are church people, and I completely adore them. His grandparents invite me to Sunday lunch and have such kind conversations with me. His aunts and uncles are some of the absolute sweetest people I’ve ever met. His parents constantly cook for me and let me spend my evenings on their couch. His sister makes me laugh, and she’s always supportive. How could you not love church people like that?

I have another friend through community theater who is one of the pastors at a local church. He had a conversation with me about the last blog I wrote, and he shared some advice about loving other people. Basically, once you begin to abandon your hatred and choose love, it becomes very easy to hate those who haven’t abandoned hatred. He encouraged me to simply keep loving everyone, and I have never been so thankful to know someone understood how I felt.

Along the journey of becoming dedicated to love, I have found that I now have a much easier time loving the outcasts than I do the Pharisees. (It’s not that I hate any of the religious people I know. It’s just that it takes more effort for me to actively love some of them.)  Loving people unlike myself is easy. It’s loving people who are exactly what I used to be that I find difficult. I don’t get frustrated with my friends who drink and smoke. I get frustrated with my friends who don’t approve of drinking and smoking, and I think it’s rather ironic that I’ve never been one to drink and smoke. But, I have absolutely been one to disapprove of those activities.

I’m really good at not motivating my compassion with evangelism, but I’m also really good at withholding my compassion from people when I don’t think they’ve been genuinely loving. And, I haven’t quite found a way to overcome that. I love my friends from CHILL, but I still get so upset and frustrated with them that it’s hard for me to be nice. I have to take deep breaths, close my eyes, and ask God for grace every time I do something for them in class. I know I need to find a way for my love to manifest itself more easily. I know I need to love church people more completely when I disagree with them… because love shouldn’t be conditional, limited, or secretly lying beneath the surface.

I’m not going to stop passionately fighting for what I believe; I just need to make sure I’m fighting compassionately as well. I might disagree with a lot of church people about a lot of things, but disagreement should leave room for love. Church people are wonderful, kind, dedicated, generous people. There are church people at my table, and my life wouldn’t be the same without them. (Hello, Shannon, this is reality where you, yes you, are, indeed, a church person.)  I hope that each day, I can make more room-room for loving differences in opinion, room for growth in love, room for people who aren’t like me, and room for people who are like the girl I used to be… because we can only be truly loving people when we love ALL people.

1 Corinthians 16:23-24,
Shannon

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

By Any Other Name

A couple months ago, I sat in a youth service about a summer mission trip. The guest speaker talked about missions, and he went on to say, “If you’re a Christian, your sole purpose in life is to win souls for the sake of Jesus Christ.” He then told us that there was no greater purpose than that. And, it makes me incredibly sad to think that anyone believes their ultimate purpose is to simply “win souls.”

This may sound shocking coming from the girl who wants to live in Africa, but the idea of being a missionary makes me sick to my stomach. Missions tends to turn compassion into evangelism, and they aren’t the same thing. You shouldn’t be kind to people because you’re trying to win a soul. You shouldn’t help someone so that you have an excuse to tell him or her about your religion. You should simply exercise compassion for the sake of compassion. Kindness motivated by anything but a desire to love another person isn’t genuine. Motivating love with an invitation to church, a call for salvation, or an opportunity to spread your own beliefs diminishes the whole point of love.

You can’t motivate kindness with evangelism and call it love. When I was a CHILL leader, I was in charge of the love team, and somehow, every act of love became an advertisement. We handed out Dum-Dums at lunch one day, and instead of mentioning CHILL, I decided I just wanted to offer the candy.  I asked one girl if she would like one, and it broke my heart that her first response was, “What do I have to do?”

It has become such a habit of ours to only express kindness in an effort to achieve something for ourselves. I was talking to my sweet boyfriend last night, and I asked if he could remember the last time his church did something nice in the community without mentioning Jesus, the church, or anything associated with religion. He said he couldn’t remember.

When you’re told your purpose is to win souls, kindness just for the sake of being kind no longer exists. Kindness becomes an advertising tool, the most effective form of propaganda modern society has ever utilized. We become kind in an effort to produce a desired outcome, which in Christianity’s case, is a won soul.

It’s a common belief that the most loving thing you can do for someone is introduce them to the cross, help them gain eternal life, and all those other church cliches. But, I think that love and furthering a religion are two completely different things. Both can exist without the other. It’s not loving to categorize people into saved and lost. It’s not loving to assume you know what others need. It’s not loving to want people to be more like you instead of accepting them and their beliefs exactly the way they are.

There is so much more to life than winning souls. It bothers me to think about all the Christians who have settled for a purpose far smaller than they are capable. I have to believe that we are capable of far greater things than conversions, salvations, and won souls. Maybe, your purpose is to create art-art that spreads joy or facilitates human connection. Maybe, your purpose is to coach little league or defend the wrongly accused. Maybe, it’s to teach history, sell clothes, or raise children… Maybe, inside each of these pursuits is the opportunity for greatness-an opportunity to spark passion and make life a more enjoyable experience for someone else.

We shouldn’t allow religion to make us less than we were created to be. If we diminish our purpose to something as small as winning souls, what’s the point in compassion and love? That purpose can be accomplished through force, violence, and dehumanization. I think that there are far greater things than accepting Christ and coercing others to do the same.

If we, as Christians, are loving for the sake of Christ, that would imply that Christ loved for the sake of whom? Himself? I can’t believe that Jesus was that arrogant and selfish. I think He loved for the sake of the person in front of him. And, I think that if I love for the sake of anything other than the human being in front of me, I’m not really loving at all. I find infinitely more beauty in loving for the sake of love than loving for the sake of Jesus.

Whether we like it or not, not all people really need Jesus specifically. I think there are certain things we all need, but I think we all experience those things differently. I happen to find all of those things in Christ and my relationship with Him- rest, peace, acceptance, grace, and love. But, the form Jesus takes in my life doesn’t have to be the form He takes in the lives of others. Deciding to recognize those elements as something other than Christ doesn’t make them any less of what I know as Jesus. It doesn’t work that way. Names are just names, and if you find rest in a cup of coffee, I’m so glad that you have found rest. If you find peace in silence, I’m so glad you know how to find your peace. If you find acceptance in your best friend, I’m so glad someone has let you feel accepted. If you find grace in each new day beginning, I am overjoyed that you have experienced grace. If you find love in the game of football, I’m so happy you know what love feels like.

You see, it doesn’t matter that I think whatever peace you feel in silence is the presence of God. It’s not my job to win your soul for my side of semantics. It doesn’t matter what I call it, and it doesn’t matter what you call it. But, it does matter that we strive to help one another experience it. We have to find a way to believe what we have in common is far more important than the ways we differ.   I think that my purpose is to spread love, not Jesus, but love, in whatever form the person in front of me needs.

I hope you start to live for whatever you’re passionate about. I hope you let go of any need you have to win souls and spread the love of Christ, replacing it with the desire to use your passion to make the world a better place and spread love. Just love, with the understanding that not everyone believes as you. I hope you learn to accept other beliefs without any underlying desire to change those beliefs. I hope you show and experience compassion that only exists for the sake of love. I hope you stop settling for smaller, and I hope you never forget that you are greater. I hope that you find what I know as Jesus, whether we call it the same thing or not. And, I hope, as always, that you are welcomed at new tables and find more room for others at your own.this-beautiful-random-act-of-kindness-was-photographed-give-this-awesome-guy-a-like-for-caring

1 Corinthians 16:23-24,
Shannon

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment