Instantaneously my mind recited the famous words before I even noticed or had a choice. I know that verse better than my grandparents’ middle names. That’s what ran through my mind when Samuel Chez came in and talked about Gospel Clarity with us this past week. I was born and raised in a Gospel-believing family. How could it become any clearer?
Turns out, it wasn’t so much as clarity on facts as it was conviction over having forgotten its truth. Sam Chez systematically broke down the Gospel, a story as solid as a rock in my mind. That rock was fractured with each session and revealed the overwhelming love pouring out its fragments of a story that I had claimed couldn’t possibly have anything more to tell me.
This really came to life when Sam Chez held up two books. One was my story; the revolting, smeared, chaotic words describing a story better off burned. The other, Christ’s; the bestseller on every top ten list in history. Sam Chez took the book covers and switched them. Christ took my sinful dime-a-dozen tale to the cross, destroying it once and for all - to my relief. But then, I inherited Christ’s flawless, beautiful words as my own. Even more astonishing, God opens that book and sees Christ’s perfection, not my mess. He sees Jesus Christ, not me.
Too often I forget how dearly, how precisely how obsessively (in the best way possible) God loves us. Think about it. He created a beautiful world and crafted each unique individual in His own image, an honor I can barely fathom. When we had the audacity to spit in His face and run after our own desires, He did not destroy us in righteous anger. He ran after us with an overwhelming love, after His creation, His image, His child, in an undying pursuit. When it came down to it, He sent His only son to die so He could adopt and claim me as His child, His daughter, His family. He sacrificed His own son. For me. For you. We gloss over those words so carelessly it’s cruel. God wanted us more than anything and He still wants us today. Jesus Christ is the Gospel and God’s love could never be clearer.
Sam Chez, thank you for reminding me that the Gospel is not a once-and-done schtick. It’s a daily journey of sanctification until Christ returns and we are fully restored. Thank you for reminding me and other students that God’s Gospel, God’s love, can never be fully grasped and stored on a shelf. It’s a pulsing, living, passionate story that seeks a place in our hearts every moment of every day.
Imagine climbing into a van with people you just met days ago and traveling fifteen hours away to a mystery destination to do mysterious things. Sounds like something you’d be in to? Then this past week with OneLife would spring your interest. From climbing The Beehive to swimming in freezing cold waters, within three days we grew closer with 39 strangers than some of us are to our best friends.
I have never been much for activities that involved much physical work, but hiking up the mountain called “The Beehive” I felt supported by my new friends and was given strength to keep moving by looking to the Lord for support when I felt scared. There were two ways up this particular mountain, an easier way and a harder called the iron rung trail. We departed from the bottom in small groups which made discussion and growth in community easier as we hiked. The terrain was rugged and difficult to endure, but through encouragement of our peers we succeeded and got to enjoy the beautiful view at the top. We experienced the Atlantic ocean from a whole new height and really got to embrace God’s beauty that He created for us to show love to. We hiked down the back side of the mountain, then ate lunch in our hiking groups which again, allowed for wonderful conversations to flourish as we rested, ate, and skipped rocks on the small, yet beautiful, pond in front of us. We found ourselves talking about everything from the beauty before us, to our most embarrassing moments. This allowed our relationships to grow and for us to feel more comfortable opening up to the group and laugh with one another.
After a long and sweaty hike, a group of strangers turned friends dove into the freezing Maine Atlantic Ocean. We got to play games in the water and shiver together. Through this adventure we learned how strong we are, how similar we all are, and how to celebrate each difference between us. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be as close with my new friends as I currently am if it wasn’t for this surprising camping trip and life-changing hike. It all truly reminded me that whether I’m at the top of the highest mountain, or in the deepest part of the sea, I am a part of God’s wonderful creation, and along with the beauty around, He chose to make me.
This will definitely make me see myself in a new and amazing way moving forward in my education at OneLife. I can look at my own heart with more love and acceptance the way God sees me. I can now open up more and am willing to take risks because I know my creator is beside me whenever I do something new or intimidating.