Thursday, July 28, 2016

How to Experience Grace through Blisters...

"When the Lord saw that he was coming to look, God called to him out of the bush, 'Moses, Moses!' Moses said, 'I’m here.' Then the Lord said, 'Don’t come any closer! Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.'”

--Exodus 3:4-5 (CEB)

This past week, nearly 5,000 adults and youth (but mostly youth) came together at Purdue University in Indiana for the 13th Presbyterian Youth Triennium. This was my fourth time attending--I went in 2001 and 2004 as a youth participant, 2013 as an adult delegation leader, and 2016 (this year) as a small group leader. Youth from all over the country (and indeed, many parts of the world) came together to hear God's Word, to play, and to worship as beloved children of God. After this past week, I'm more convinced than ever that this is an event of monumental importance to the Presbyterian Church (not just its youth), and that it changes lives.

Each Triennium has a different theme (2001: Even the stones will shout; 2004: No longer strangers; 2013: I Am; 2016: Go) and the sermons, lessons, even recreation events each day play off of this theme using different passages from Scripture. This year, Friday's scripture was from Exodus 3-4, God's call to Moses to GO to Pharaoh and command him to let God's people GO. 

Puppet Moses leads God's people to the promised land--er, the stage.
I'm sure you can see where we were expected to make the connection to the theme. 

Before the event even started, however, I found myself drawn more to the verses at the top of this post than to the parts that we were "supposed" to focus on. As a small group leader, I had arrived on campus a day and a half early to take part in orientation and preparation, and within hours, my feet had been absolutely DESTROYED by blisters. Purdue is a big campus, Indiana is a hot and humid state, and I had not undertaken the appropriate foot-training for these circumstances. By the first evening and for the rest of the trip, the privilege of taking my shoes off for several hours was the highlight of the end of the day. 

Now, I don't remember previous Trienniums (Triennia?) being QUITE so bad blister-wise, but I do recall the struggle of never having enough band-aids on hand to keep my feet entirely comfortable. In other words, Triennium has never been exactly kind to my soles.

And yet, I keep going back--I can't HELP but go back--because it is so good to my SOUL. During that week in July every three years, Purdue University is holy ground. Sometimes, that can be difficult to remember, between organizing logistics and tracking down wandering kids and making it to events on time and hours of cross-country traveling and planning, and more planning, and even more planning. And in the midst of all that organized chaos, it can be especially tough to slow down enough to recognize the holiness that we're encountering in every moment. 

I think that's why God told Moses to take off his shoes at the burning bush--not because God was concerned with the tidiness of the area around the bush ("What, were you born in a barn, Moses?"), or as a power play ("This is MY BUSH and you will follow MY RULES"), but because Moses needed to take the time to stop in his tracks and really understand--REALLY internalize--the magnitude of where he was: in God's very presence. 

And so, this week, I'm giving thanks for blisters. For the fact that they forced me to slow down and think about where I was. 

To reflect on why I find myself in this place every three years in spite of the anxiety and organization that it takes to get there. 

To take off my shoes when I was on holy ground. 

...Although--full disclosure--I'm definitely grateful for band-aids, too.

Living the message--"Let's Go!"

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