Breaking the silence.

It’s amazing what can happen when you cut the silence.

Right now, I am sitting on an eerily quiet plane with hundreds of people contorted into economy seats just hoping for a few hours of sleep. I’m hoping, too. To prove it, I’m wearing my first-ever eye mask, courtesy of British Airways. It’s giving me a happy little black hole to attempt to sleep in, covering up the Russell Crowe flick that’s flickering on a dozen tiny screens around me.

As I sit with a paper pillow bunched between my cheek and the headrest, a plastic-wrapped blanket padding my knee that’s balanced precariously on the armrest, I think about how I am so close to sleep I can taste it. I can taste it like I still taste that lemon ginger crunch grossness I had for dinner, despite washing it down with a good ol’ cup of British tea. I’m so close I can feel those wavy lines in my brain. You know the ones. I don’t dare move – the balance is so delicate that if it’s disrupted, there’s probably no recovery.

I’m wondering if this eye mask is going to leave an elastic crease in my hair, which is going to have to make it through meeting my new British peeps tomorrow. Then I wonder – if the answer is in fact yes, will that make me look like a pirate?

I wonder if we’ll all look like pirates.

“BLAAAAAAGGGGGAAH!!!!”

Whoa.

I’m pretty sure any attempts at succumbing to the black waviness was lost when the man two seats away from me yawned at the decibel level of a riding lawnmower. The lady behind me came out of a coma and started jabbering about Manhattan. Someone jerked a pair of iPod headphones so spastically it hit me in the face like a bullwhip.

I pulled off my pirate-hair maker. Geez.

It’s a lost cause.

Sad. I could’ve really used some sleep on this flight. I’m beyond exhausted. It’s been an amazingly wonderful love-filled, people-filled last few weeks in America. I found myself on a goodbye tour of the Southeast that ended up back in Birmingham. I was spent. In a good way.

As I stood there at my church that last Sunday morning and let the songs wash over me like a balm, I wept. How humbling it was to be back in the place where God had broken the silence a year and a half ago and broken me for the nations and the lost, just as I’d begged for Him to do in my apathetic heart.

The sermon wrapped up nine months of study of the Old Testament, with the promise of starting the New Testament this coming Sunday. Not a lax thing.The Old Testament ended with prophets railing people about their lack of commitment and even beating people up and pulling their hair over their blatant sin.

Whoa.

And then came 400 years of silence. 400 YEARS of hearing nothing from God. 400 years before Christ showed up on the scene.

To close the service, a timer on the screen started ticking down the 400 years symbolically, one year per second. 400. 399. 398. 397. We sat in silence for a long time contemplating what it must have been like to have not heard from God in 400 years.

Unfathomable.

As the numbers ticked and the worship leader began to sing “come thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free…” I began to think about the people overseas to whom the Savior has yet to come, to whom the deafening silence – longer than 400 years; instead, all of history – has yet to be broken.

A lost cause, unless someone goes.

Back in July, when I contemplated my life and where it was headed, wondering if I could handle the vast change and blank slate of following Him wherever He led, I remember that no matter what else I was feeling, it was overwhelmed and overshadowed by the humbling gift and responsibility of having the gospel. On July 30, I penned simply this in my journal: “How humbling a thought that by grace I have this Word when so many people have never had the opportunity to hear. May that fact burn in my heart more than anything I might miss in my past, or any adventure I might be looking forward to.”

May the silence beckon louder to me than anything else life has to offer. And may it be with the burning, gripping desire to see it shattered into a thousand pieces.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” (Psalm 67:1-2)

Airplanes.

I will admit it. My thoughts aren’t super noble.

I heart burritos. I wish I hadn’t heard that cow-tipping inflicts pain on cows, because I want to try it so badly on the ones I can hear mooing from where I sit on the playground. I love Facebook. I like B.o.B. I secretly dream of being a white female rapper. I kick it like Adidas, flowin’ sticky like adhesive.

True story.

But out here, in the middle of a Southern cow pasture, big thoughts sit in easier reach, a little more real. There’s no need to pretend airplanes are shooting stars. The stars here are stinkin’ huge. They dip and streak and drown out the airplanes.

It’s easier to hear yourself. It’s easier to hear Him. It’s underscored by multiple dozens of focused folks.

I have even fewer excuses than usual.

I’m surrounded by legit-itude.

Tonight as a few dozen of us sang and prayed, I wept a little. Have you ever been so struck with a feeling of His faithfulness that it invokes an emotional response from your deepest gut? I am so undeserving of His mercy. In the days leading up to this move, my soul and mind gave ascent to the call, but my heart at times dug in its heels about leaving people behind.

My heart loves tightly. Driving away in a black HHR – no matter how fly he may be – rips me apart a little.

I felt it again tonight. I knew the feeling when it came. It welled up in me much like it did in July, except this time it was over the deep friendships I’ve made in just the past eight weeks. Girls who leave by way of the windows, make their own peanut butter, dry their hair on the swing set and love on each other constantly. Just like the stars are closer here, more intense, so is the bond of people all going through such an intense and similar life change – or being led simultaneously by Him through one.

Not new goodbyes. Not again. Are you kidding me.

But then just as strongly as the feeling came, another overpowered it – a flood of His faithfulness. First my heart was seized with the feeling that just as I had broken leaving home, God had provided exactly what I needed here. As much as I hate to leave, I know He’ll meet me on the other side of the pond in my little British flat and provide for me in ways I don’t even know how to ask for, in the way only He knows is best.

Then came the second wave: how selfish are my thoughts. How could I ask to hold tightly to a roomful of people poured out for Him to be spent as He chooses on the nations?

My heart changed to a song of thanks that gripped my soul and a prayer of brokenness for the peoples who haven’t even had a chance to hear the Name that brings the hope I have.

One week left here. That’s all. May these people I love be broken, scattered with abandon and poured out as a fragrant offering.

Standing over the body.

Gloria hadn’t been serving in Mexico very long before she found herself standing over her husband’s dead body on the beach there.

It was her daughter Carla’s birthday, the family was at the ocean, and Carla got caught in the undertow. Her father, Gary, ran in. So did three others.

Gloria watched in horror. All five drowned.

But that’s not the part that rocked the world.

As her husband’s body lay there on the beach, Gloria stood over him, her heart searing with pain beyond words. But she looked in the eyes of the crowd of nationals gathered around, lifted her hands and began to speak passionately.

“If this were you, where would you be? Let me tell you where my husband is now.”

She knew why she was there, why she was alive.

We are entitled to nothing. Not husbands, not homes, not refrigerators or electricity or Chick-Fil-A or safety.

We are privileged to preach His name and His gospel, for His glory.

It’s a word He’s been speaking into my heart over the past year but burning into it the last two weeks. I’ve met people who are going into dark places, preparing for great risk. I’ve heard stories of person after person who not only gave up a refrigerator but breathed their last breath for the gospel to spread to new places.

Real people.

Somebody’s mother and brother and best friend, who probably liked to eat chicken and play Scattergories and hang out with their families before they felt burdened to risk it all. When Martha Myers left, she planned to never make it back from Yemen alive. The news is lit up even today with people dying for their faith on the other side of the world.

I’m challenged by them.

More often I should be grappling with the idea that I’m but a breath here, and that a life poured out is nothing but gain. Less often I should be thinking about how, from my desk in the UK – far from real risk – I’ll miss Moe’s burritos. My heart turns the question over, but I’m still far from laying down my life and everything I have, even the people I love. Sometimes in my honest moments, I don’t understand why I have to give stuff up. Good stuff. And I ask Him why I have to.

If I were on the other side of the world and had never heard the gospel, my soul would plead for someone to be willing to give up Chick-Fil-A to come tell me, to answer the question I had that seemed to have no resolution.

I pray every step I take in life is one step closer to that person.

It’s cutting my feet.

It was gray that afternoon, a little misty, a lot of hula hoopers. The karaoke place wasn’t open at 2 p.m. A homeless Jamaican lady told us about what it was like growing up in Alaska.

My brain was just that jumbled.

One more part of my life had been stripped away that day. I remember making it into Emily’s apartment, collapsing on the couch as she pushed a cup of hot tea into my hands. Tears slipped off my face.

I’m not a crier. Really. I’m not. At least I didn’t used to be.

But something has happened in the past month or so, something profound. Something slightly akin to that scene in Twister where Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton are strapped to a pipe as a tornado goes right over the top of them, obliterating everything around them but leaving them intact.

I’ve been watching my life as I know it get thrown around and ripped apart by a holy God. In the midst of moments rich in God’s blessings, I find people, places, things stripped away one by one. I’ve cried in my office, in my car, in the grocery store, on Emily’s couch.

And I’ve asked for more.

I must be crazy.

As I sat on her couch, my fingers bobbed the tea bag up and down on the string like a little puppet in the green ceramic mug. Control.

I had none. And I was OK with that.

I looked up at my friend, smiled through tears and said, “These are crazy times.”

She smiled back and reminded me of the two words I’d been hearing a lot lately. Kingdom view.

A few years ago, I was living a life all sunbeams and happy thoughts. Riding a wave of a sweet life in a cute little house, surrounded by hilarious and amazing friends, going to an incredible church and brewing tea and riding bikes and taking road trips. Working a job I believe God led me to, in a city I’d come to love as home.

Great things. All of which are still true.

But at night some nights, I would lay in bed knowing that I was holding on to way too much. At my core, I knew Christ didn’t have all of me – not even close. Did I want Him then, at any cost? I’d have told you yes. But was I truly willing to put everything – everything – on the table?

No way.

We went like that for a long time, He and I.

It wasn’t really a light-bulb epiphany. In the midst of my selfishness, God lovingly began chipping away at the happy shell I had covering a restless core. Sunday morning after Sunday morning I would hear David preach the Radical series and similar messages, and Elizabeth and I would go to lunch afterward and try to force down deli sandwiches while questioning how to make the lives we had fit the lives we were challenged to live.

I found I couldn’t.

It took months. Lots of months. But finally one day I threw it down. All of it. The job. Friends. Family. Clothes. Bikes. With empty hands, I reached up.

And He reached back.

Ever since, in the midst of the great joy that has overflowed with all this change, there have been moments in which things have been stripped away by His loving hand and perfect timing. But it’s hard to argue. The peace that’s running underneath any loss is such an overwhelming flood that it soothes the pain, even when it hurts the worst, and covers it to the point that I wouldn’t stop the hurt if it meant giving up the peace.

It doesn’t mean I’m handling it well all the time.

But in every situation where something is offered up as a sacrifice and He receives it, the precise and loving work of His hand surrounding the loss brings wonder in such a way that I can’t question His reasoning or His ultimate motivation. He fills the gap and then some.

And He pulls back the curtain a little and shows a way that He’s using the situation for His glory, sometimes several ways. A Kingdom view.

That curtain part – it’s a gift He doesn’t have to give.

That grace – it’s intoxicating.

Everything feels richer. Blessings radiate happier, pain hurts more purposefully. It’s like in C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” when the souls, slight and weak and unfit for Heaven, make it there but find Heaven’s grass too “real” to walk on – the reality there is more than they are equipped to handle, both the good and the bad.

I’m unfit for this path, both the joy and the pain. The grass is too real, too sharp – it’s cutting my feet.

But right now, I’m compelled by desire to keep walking.