While I was in TX for the 50 day outreach, the Lord had a message that He gave me for the people there, and it remained consistent throughout the entire 50 days. He often does that, allowing me to get a feel for what a city is in need of addressing and maybe doesn't even know it. Each city in the past has had a different need and has carried a different "sound" that is specific to them. For the first time, as I was praying for the upcoming outreach in Wisconsin, the Lord gave me the same message that He gave me for Texas...two different cities, in two different states. And I believe it's because He was saying that as we enter into a different season, if the message is important, it stays the same.
So before going to Wisconsin for reviveWISCONSIN, I began praying and asking the Lord what He wanted for the community we were headed to...and He gave it to me in kind of a funny, not so funny lesson. The kind of lesson that He catered specifically to me because I take a little longer to learn and I needed something I could relate to, to get it fully.
The day before I was heading to Wisconsin, I began packing for my trip, the whole time talking to the Lord, in my head, like I usually do...Lord what is your heartbeat for this community? As I finished that thought, I looked up from my suitcase, and my eyes caught a rock lying on my desk. It was the rock I had written on in Texas - the message He had given me there. And I felt in my heart the Lord say, "take the rock to Wisconsin, this is the message for them too."
Now I just need to interject here and say - I'm an over-packer. I'm not proud of it, but I am certainly not convicted enough to do anything about it. Each and every time I pack for a trip, I have a system. Pack, weigh, add more things, weigh, remove a few things, weigh. And so on until an even 50 pounds is achieved. So when the Lord tells an over packer to bring a 2 pound rock in their suitcase - its not a little deal. It probably should be, but it wasn't. I was already at 50 pounds, so now I had to get rid of something. Or some things. Not cool and not easy. It was getting late, I had work yet to do and I was running out of time. So I began bargaining with God...ever do that? Making deals with Him in your head? What's written on the rock is scripture - I'm taking my bible anyway, it's already accounted for in the weight, so I'll just read it from my bible. That'll work, right God? Take the rock. Okay, but what if I just tell them about the rock - that would work, right? I mean, come on, everyone has seen a rock. I could describe it well enough they could get the picture, right? And then read it out of my bible? That seems holier anyway. Right? Take the rock. But they have rocks in Wisconsin, it would be really weird if they didn't. I can find a rock and re-write the scripture on there. No one will know any different. Take the rock. And besides, who packs rocks in their bag?! I'm pretty sure it's not even allowed. Take the rock.
Okay, I get it. Take the rock. So I began to begrudgingly remove things I really wanted to bring. I didn't really need them I'm sure, but I sure did want them. An indecisive person needs a lot of choices after all. I grabbed a sweatshirt and wrapped my rock up, sticking it in the middle of my bag. With a really bad attitude. And it was still overweight. Of course it was, I had just packed a rock! Not just a little, put in your pocket kind of rock. A rock big enough I was pretty sure they wouldn't let me bring in my carry-on and one I might consider using in my landscaping. So I opened my bag back up, took the rock out and set it to the side. At that moment I probably looked a little crazy because I had a "bad attitude stare down" with the rock. The thing that was causing me to get rid of the belongings that I didn't want to get rid of. I began a little chat with God that didn't even get started, because at that exact moment, I heard in my heart - Read the words on the rock.
So I read it. Revelations 2:2-4...
“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first."
And Lord answered all my questions in reading the scripture on that rock. I knew without a doubt, the message was for Wisconsin and really was for me, for all of us. I had to take the rock.
He is pleading for His children to come back to their first love, for us to come sit at the foot of the cross with Him. To remember what we felt when we very first fell in love with Jesus Christ and come back to that. It's a different kind of love than what a religion filled with all kinds of "stuff" looks like. It's more of an empty vessel, with plenty of room for the rock kind of thing. You know, the heart beating fast, can't wait to hear what my Father has for me, overwhelmed by the out pouring of love I feel, in constant communication and with a renewed passion. And certainly not caring what you have to give up - simply resting in His presence.
And I believe that's what the Lord is saying...that nothing will change in our church , our community, our city, our country, or in us, until we ourselves fall back in love with Jesus. It's hard to give love from an empty tank - but when your tank is full to the point of overflowing, the heart of Jesus can't help but spill out onto the people in the streets, in the businesses, outside the walls. But we have to get ourselves back there first. We have to get back to a relationship that gives us butterflies in our tummies, makes our palms sweaty and has us craving just a few more minutes, a few more hours, a few more days with the Lord.
Thinking through the message the Lord was giving me took me back to 10 years ago in the story that I've told before - when the Lord woke me in the middle of the night and called out a name only family and friends use for me. One simple word changed my relationship with the Lord forever. He simply said "Jae" and when He did, like it says in Acts 2:17, "your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams..." - He showed me a vision of dozens of beautiful butterflies filling the room. That was new to me, and more than slightly uncomfortable because I had never experienced anything like that before. But it didn't matter to me in that moment. What did matter, was that I instantly knew the Lord was calling me into a deeper relationship with Him. He took me from a life of religion and moved me into a life of relationship. A renewal of my spirit, a deepening of my faith and a bigger love than I had ever known. And it took "butterflies", not in my tummy, but all around me to get my attention. It struck me in that moment that it was just a week earlier that I had told the Lord I was ready to fully surrender. Everything. I had grown up a Christian, religion was my "thing". I was there when the doors were open. I did all the work it took to be "that Christian" - the really good and faithful one. And totally overpacked. It wasn't until that night when I heard my name called out, that I realized I was missing the most important thing - my first love. And all because my life had been too full.
That night everything changed for me and I began to learn what it looks like to take things I really liked out of my "bag". I had to then and I still have to sacrifice a lot of what fits in my allotted weight limit....not only so I can fit the "rock" of Christ in my life, but also so that I give Him all the space He needs to work in my life. And if I'm paying close attention, I notice that He reminds me constantly - in His whispers to me, in reading scripture, in worship and even in the blue butterfly that shows up and hangs out for just a little bit, as it did yesterday.
That's what the Lord showed me through a rock, an overpacked suitcase and a butterfly. Come back to your first love. Come to the foot of the cross and begin listening to His voice. He's calling each and every one of us to sit with Him, crazy in love. Can you even imagine what would happen if hundreds of believers were crazy in love with the Lord? If they unpacked their bags and made room for Christ?
Living under-packed and totally in love.