Monday, October 6, 2008

Outside the Camp: Light Amidst Darkness

Last night, as I caught up with my mom in one of those really priceless hour-long chats, we found our way to one of my favorite topics: how to be light to a dark world.

As I told my mom about my frustrations with the cultural Christianity here in Nashville, and as she shared some of my sister's recent struggles at church, I was reminded of a quote I just love from Shane Claiborne's book, The Irresistible Revolution. While Claiborne and I come from quite different theological understandings, I do appreciate what he has to say about being light.

"Do not let your eyes adjust to the darkness, but neither fall asleep in the light."

That is the difficulty of the Christian faith, isn't it? It seems our natural inclination is to do one of two things: either we cease to notice the darkness we're in, slowly assimilating just like the Israelites did again and again, or we let our Christian environments strip us of all boldness and fervor. Most of us are either letting our eyes adjust to the darkness or we are falling asleep in the light!

I love my life in Nashville. I love having Christian bosses I can talk about theology with. I love living with a sweet Christian family. I love having an abundance of godly people around me who will encourage and admonish and pray for me. All these people in my life who truly "get it" are such a blessing from the Lord!

But some days, I start to wonder, how am I supposed to be missional here? When everyone I interact with day to day is either firmly rooted in Christ, or just considers himself a Christian thanks to church attendance, it's pretty difficult to even find the darkness! It makes me miss my college-girl years terribly, and I'm reminded of the dramatic way in which God revealed His call on my life to go into the darkness...

It was November of my senior year of high school, and I was in the midst of college applications, standardized tests, and campus visits. My youth pastors, Matt and Brandon, were taking a small group of high schoolers to a Passion event in Peoria. It was a fun night of worship and fellowship, culminating in getting to hang out with Chris Tomlin and his band. But the most meaningful part of that night was Louie Giglio's talk on Hebrews 13:12-13:

"And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore."

Giglio spoke passionately about the tendency of Christians to hide out in little pockets of light, refusing to go into a dark world. He shared his passion for Boston, the city he believes to be the darkest in the nation. (Having visited there twice since, I tend to agree with him.) He pleaded with us to go into the darkness, to "go outside the camp" as Jesus did. I was dumbfounded. I had been wrestling with whether to choose a Christian or a secular school, and the Lord had cut to the heart of the matter, convicting me with such force that I knew immediately the path I was called to take.

It was those verses that motivated me to initiate spiritual conversations on an almost daily basis my first semester at Richmond. It was those verses that challenged me to pray that God would send me into a dark sorority during recruitment second semester. And it was those verses that sustained me through my college years at times when my Christian community seemed like more of a scattered remnant than a cohesive family.

This is just another way I'm called to wait for now. This cloud is in a holding pattern, and I'm waiting, albeit not-so-patiently, for the Lord to reveal where it is He wants me to venture "outside the camp." It occurs to me, too, that I'm waiting to see this city awake from her slumber!

I'll close with more wisdom from Claiborne:

"That is what the Kingdom of God looks like. Christians blaze through this dark world and set it on fire with their love. It is contagious and spreads like wildfire. We are people who shine, who burn up the darkness of this old world with the light that dwells within us. And perhaps the world will ask what in the world passed through here."

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