In keeping with my #ThrowbackThursday themed post, my latest thoughts have taken me back to the Island of Maui, Hawaii, where my “new life” began.
I moved to Maui in 2009, following my high school graduation and the falling out of the bottom of my Christian religion. Luckily for me I have wonderful relatives who reside on that island and were kind enough to take me in and give me the fresh start I was looking for. Far from everything I had ever known or called “home”, I was free to look at life through new eyes.
And what wonderful eyes those were to look through.
Anyone who has lived on Maui knows what I mean. And if you haven’t, I am sorry. It’s a culture unlike any you will ever know!
You’re never late. Never early.
Casual attire is your new best friend.
Kidnappings and robberies are rare – where would they go?
Everyone is family.
My Grandpa(who lives there) always says that if god lived anywhere, it would be Maui. Nature there begs you to answer the question of where it all came from, and why.
After a slow, and fairly lonely and painful start on Maui, I started to see everything with those new “Island eyes”.
I started to see people as more important than possessions.
Protecting all creation as more precious than ease and comfort.
Myself as part of a larger story than just my own; ultimately I found myself in God’s story.
After a few weeks on the Island I felt like I needed to “piss or get off the pot” in relation to my religion.
I had grown up believing that Christianity was all there was in the way of truth. That of course my god was the real God. I had never questioned it, until the windows to my world were opened up a little bit and the culture of relative truth uprooted my shallow beliefs.
Don’t get me wrong, I was NOT sheltered. Sure, I was home schooled for the majority of my years, but we were not the awkward “Mean Girl” home schooled kids(though we did grow up around some!). I got out. And I also “knew” my religion fairly well. I went to Bible camp almost every year and had received an award certifying I had read through the whole bible and memorized over 800 verses from it. I had gone on several overseas missions trips and would have, hand over heart, pledged my allegiance to the Christian God.
The problem I faced at the ripe age of 18 was that all I “knew” never got past my head. It never wound its way to my heart.
I had never been faced with the choice to follow God’s heart or follow my own. My parents rules were structured largely around following God’s heart, even if my own heart wasn’t in it, and so obviously I followed “God’s heart”. Meaning I obeyed (mostly) the rules. Until I was old enough to choose.
And then I chose to follow my own heart.
That is when the bottom of my Christian religion fell out and all of my ugly came spilling over.
Oh. And it. was. ugly.
When I moved to Maui for my fresh start, I needed to be free of all the guilt I carried with me. Not guilt over all the things I had chosen. I wanted to be free of the guilt I felt to that god I had grown up with that made me feel bad for enjoying my life. If I was going to keep choosing to do what I wanted to do, I wanted to be guilt-free.
So I created a challenge. My own proverbial “fleece”.
I wanted to give God one chance to prove His existence.One.
If He didn’t prove Himself to me then, I felt I could be absolved of all guilt and live a life free to follow my own cravings and desires.* I promised one week to Him. I would fast from all food and pray continually (though I was still working at the time) for Him to ‘reveal Himself’, whatever that looked like.
I just needed to know He was more real than a Sunday school story. That He was real enough to meet me. And I felt that if He was real, than He could meet me.
And so my fleece was laid out. I fasted from food. I prayed. I read my bible, starting with the beginning, not really sure where I would read, just praying that as I was reading He would show me something. Anything.
And somehow, despite my total self-centered, self-righteous, self-worshiping heart, He met me. I can’t explain how, and whenever I try it sounds ridiculous.
Because it IS!
The One, True, Living GOD of all that is reached out to ME, even though my motives were corrupt and my heart full of rebellion. The God who created the miles of soft, warm sand I was reading on. Who made the tall, resilient palm trees that would sway with the wind but never break. Who made the wind!
And I’m not just saying this because I have been ‘taught’ to say this. I haven’t. But I believe it.
I saw with those “Island Eyes” the True God, and, in that moment, I promised myself to Him. As if I was marrying myself to God, I said that I was with Him no matter what. No matter what I would feel later, or what lies would creep into my mind and heart. I was with Him:
For better or for worse.
In sickness or in health.
For richer or for poorer, I was in. I wanted to choose His ways. Because I saw that in them I could find life.
It was there, in those seven days, that my life changed. And if I really wanted to find a moment where my minimalistic, people-centered, nature-loving ideologies came into being, it would have to have been then.
I know the best parts of me come from Him.
And I truly believe the best parts of you do as well.
The biggest question you and I face every day is not paper or plastic. It isn’t deciding how many things that day we should get rid of to boost our minimalistic feelings, or whether to buy organic bananas or regular.
I don’t know the biggest question. I would be freaking genius if I did! But A “biggest question” we each face every day is whether or not, in each of those moments, we are seeing life through our “Island Eyes”. Through God’s eyes. If we can accurately see life around us, we can more accurately be life to those around us.
*disclaimer – I do not believe that if you seek God and do not find Him right away, that you are absolved of guilt.
No man, rebel that he is, can be absolved from the guilt of his rebellion without due punishment. There is no justice without due consequences. And God is just.
Jesus Christ offered up Himself to take your, and my, due punishment. The price for my, and your, rebellion is a life sentence. And life is in blood. When Christ, a non-rebel, gave all of His obedient blood, it was in exchange for all the rebels who would take it.
But you have to take it. Without it, you and I are self-centered, self-righteous, self-motivated rebels, desiring for the universe to serve us. And no one can serve two masters, we cannot serve God and self.