As a dog returns to its vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly. (Proverbs 26:11)
Another Creation Festival has come and gone. And, as always, there is much to process from an emotional and spiritual perspective.
We often talk about “mountaintop experiences” in our faith walks…those times when we are so full of our love for God and His love for us that our cares, worries, problems, agendas, etc. fall away and we have moments of near-perfect focus and clarity. Times when we are so filled with joy that we can’t imagine the often-joyless life we’ve come from–and must return to. For the past 3 years, Creation has been that mountaintop experience for me and the adults and youth that attend from our church. It is a glimpse of the life God promises. It is worship in its highest form.
But we all know that life is lived in the valleys. Where the reality of the world crashes over us, tugs at us, distracts us, discourages us. And where, inevitably, we lose that clarity and focus that was so easily evident on the mountaintop. In the valleys, clarity is gone. There is fog. There is brokenness.
I am blessed, in many ways, to live a pretty insulated life. My family is loving, centered, and healthy. My community has a good quality of life…low crime, good schools, reasonably healthy economy (all things considered). My church is full of loving people who genuinely care about each other. In short, I live in a place where the harsh realities of the world–hunger, poverty, crime, etc.–while certainly not non-existent, are at least, I guess, “avoidable.”
In some ways, though, that “avoidability” can be a problem. Because we live in such an insulated world, we often miss the realities of life that are right at our doorsteps.
At Creation Festival last week, I experienced something I wasn’t looking for. An outpouring of brutally honest emotion from teens with mostly good parents, stable home lives, good grades, solid friendships…all those things that you see on the surface in what appear to be safe, healthy communities.
But you see, despite all the apparent advantages these kids have, they are still broken. Their “junk” is very real. Not just superficial sadness over boyfriend/girlfriend issues or the kind of selfish indulgence we often associate with teens who think they “need” all the newest, fastest, trendiest consumer products. Real, deep, gut-wrenching problems. Pressures associated with drugs, alcohol and sex. Fear of failure. Loneliness. Depression.
To be sure, the mountaintop experience was in the opening of those wounds and dealing with them through love, friendship, tears and prayer. Kids who were hiding behind masks risked everything and shared their deepest hurts with each other. They opened themselves up to, and, I believe, received the healing power of Jesus.
But now, we must return to the valley. The place where those wounds were made and the pressures that created them return. And the question is, will we eat dog vomit? Will we envelop ourselves in the fog? Will the change on the mountaintop endure the depths of the valley?
I have said many times that I believe the blessings God gives us are intended to bless others. If I am indeed blessed by living this safe, comfortable life, how am I to use that to bless others? Will I continue to choke on the vomit of denial, of insulation from hardships, of personal peace and prosperity? Or will I use the blessings I’ve been given to help others find their way through the fog, through the hurt and through the brokenness of the valley?