A longing for eternity

Ah, festival season. It truly is one of the most wonderful times of the year.

There aren’t many things I enjoy more than a good music festival. (Although there was that one time I almost met Jesus a tad early due to heat exhaustion at Bonnaroo — but that’s a story for another time.) There is just something about the blissful, carefree atmosphere of a festival. It draws my heart out in the best kind of way.

Thousands of people together, united under one purpose: for the love and fun of a great concert. Hula hoops spinning and ribbons twirling — a longing for childhood written all over myriads of adults who have escaped for a few days. Kites flying — a picture God so often speaks to me through. Embrace your child-like faith. You must be grounded to fly, but all you have to do is let out a little line at a time … and then you soar. It’s this mysterious relationship between us and the wind that creates such a phenomenon.

The breeze carries with it the smell of funnel cakes, corn dogs, and almost anything that can be fried and put on a stick. Along with, of course, a hint of body odor and beer. (Yum) Oh, but the scent of youthful delight far outweighs it — like a ribbon of purity left over from our childhood, woven in somewhere between all the ways we’ve polluted ourselves and our world along the way. There’s laughter and singing in the air, and the sound of music coming from every which direction.

In May of last year, I was at the Beale St. Music Festival in Memphis. The setting was perfect. A breezy, picturesque spring night, with the sun setting over the Mississippi River and an excellent line-up of Needtobreathe followed by Florence + the Machine. Just look at the beauty:

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As I swayed and sang along to the music of some of my favorite bands with my best friends, watched as girls popped up on shoulders all over the place and American flags waved across the crowd, I started thinking…

There’s something beautiful happening here. People united, singing the same song, waving the flags of their nations and enjoying the glory of a sun that only a God who truly delights in us could have crafted. But it’s only a substitute of what we were really made for.

This longing in me to be in the carefree environment of a festival, enjoying the company of my closest friends and dancing and singing to the music I love most — God made that longing. And there’s a reason that when it ends and it’s time to go home, there’s a disappointment felt. Because the only thing that will satisfy that longing — which is really just a longing for eternity — will be the day I step on the shores of the new earth, into the glory that He created us for.

And there, I really believe it will be somewhat of a redeemed music festival. There will be people running, dancing, playing — hula hooping and ribbon twirling and flying kites — or perhaps just being kites. 

Flags will be flying — the flags of every nation. And we will be singing the same song in unison — with every tribe, in every tongue. And the photo I snapped with my iPhone of the Memphis sunset won’t hold a candle to the glory of the light of His presence that we’ll be in when we get there.

I won’t stop going to festivals this side of Heaven, because they are one of my favorite pastimes. But I also won’t stop longing for the real thing — knowing that this is what I was made for. It’s what we were all made for.

Cheers to a season of loud music, dancing, and blissful adventures with the people we love most. If you’re a fellow fest-a-holic, may it be a reminder that nothing short of the glory of God we’re made for will ever satisfy. But have a blast nonetheless. You were made for it. May it increase your appetite for eternity, and may it spur you on to seek more of the open Heaven that’s promised to us here until He returns to take us all home. (Which, by the way, should also spur you on to be an evangelist in that environment — but that’s also a post for another time! 🙂 )

Happy Festival Season, my friends. 

When He calls I come, When He doesn’t I play.

In attempt to get creative on date night, Noland and I built a fort in our living room last week. About 9 days later, our living room still looks like a portal to Narnia — I can’t bring myself to take it down! I had no idea God would do such a deep work in me in a fort made of blankets and clothes pins. 

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^^ Behold! Fort Gilmore!

Lately I feel like my child-like imagination is heightened. I’m having so much revelation of what it looks like to become like a child so that I can inherit the kingdom of Heaven. I’m hearing Dad’s voice more clearly because I’m embracing the role of a child more than ever before. It’s sweet, and it’s rich, and the best part is it’s so full of adventure!

I think a lot of my adventurous spirit comes from my years of spending summers at Young Life camp as a kid. I lived adventures that most kids dream of. Riding a horse to a waterfall on a mountain in North Carolina, where a cowboy cooked french toast over a fire. Running through the aspen grove in the mountains of Colorado, playing tag and wading through the creek searching for treasure. Standing at a fence along the river outside of Vancouver, watching black bears fish for their breakfast at what seemed like an arm’s reach away. Swinging and zip lining through the trees, feeling the closest I’ve ever felt to what it must be like to fly. Endless afternoons of silly games and late nights of hoedowns and square dances that always ended in a midnight snack. It really was something magical. When I think about what Heaven must be like, a lot of my experiences at Young Life camp influences how I dream about spending eternity.

But the adventure of my childhood didn’t end there. I remember bike rides with my sisters and parents through the trails in Kingwood, Texas, that somehow felt like we were on a quest in some enchanted forest. My dad would yell from behind us, “Lions, tigers, and bears! Oh my!” and we would all take off on a dead sprint. 

In the years we spent in New Braunfels, we had season passes to Schlitterbahn every summer. Running around the world’s number one water park all summer long was a dream. We’d stay from open to close, pretty much. Mom packed a lunch and we would swim and play until the wrinkles on our fingers threatened to just melt our skin away.

Behind our house along the river in Nashville, I built a tree house one summer with all the neighborhood boys. We had a rope swing that we would swing off the tree house and into the river off of. We were always dreaming about how to build it bigger and better, and by the end of our second summer at the treehouse it seemed like we had created an entire village of our own in the woods. It was like escaping to another world as soon as you broke the tree line. No longer in the suburb of Brentwood, but in a world of our own where bare feet and a Capri Sun were really all you ever needed.

What made all these experiences so great? There was really no point to them. No destination, no expectation of how it would end or where it would take us. But it was a time of discovery. I didn’t care where any of those adventures were taking me — I was on some of the greatest quests of my life, and in every moment I was exactly where I wanted to be.

At what point in our lives do we lose that? Not long ago, I was spending time with God trying to pray and dream into all the hopes Noland and I have for our future. Eager to find all the answers, I felt like God challenged me with this question: What will you do with an answer? Why do you want to know so bad? If I tell you, what will happen next?

I didn’t have an answer. I began to realize that what He was trying to say was that answers really aren’t the point. An answer is like an overnight stay on a road trip. You stop to catch your breath, get some rest and maybe refuel a little bit. And then you’re right back on the road. Because on the road, in the flow of life, in the adventure of our walk with Him is where we experience the most of Him. And every time God gives me an answer for where I’m going or what I’m doing, it never becomes a resting place for long. It only sets me out on another adventure. Another quest.

So what I’m learning to embrace now is that yes, God has a plan and a purpose and He has all the answers to all the questions I’ll ever ask for the rest of my life. I’m not supposed to know them all. I’m supposed to run around in the woods, build tree houses and play with my friends. It’s in the magic of the adventure of my life that I experience the most of Him. Not in the answers He has for my future. 

So the motto I’m living by right now, is this:

When He calls I come, and when He doesn’t I play.

Here’s to embracing your childhood. To experiencing the magic of the adventure of having an open Heaven available to you at all times. To the mystery. To imagination. To the reality that it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out. (Proverbs 25:2) May your life be seen as an endless treasure hunt, in which it’s the journey that makes it worth living. May this season be one of discovery, and when you look in the mirror may you not see the adult the world sees, but the childhood version of you that will always be the way Dad looks at us.

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Sara, age 3 or 4, I suppose. My favorite photo of my goofy childhood self.