This past year I have inspired many the quizzical look from well-meaning friends and acquaintances. Bless their hearts. They simply did not know what they were walking into with that innocent little question, “Hey, what’s new with you?”
As if seeing its chance, my extraverted, externally-processing mind would run rampant trying to explain the implications of practical sustainability, my new found fascination with micro-organisms, and why something called “humanure” was even part of my vocabulary.
Sure, in some arenas I was able to stay my ramblings with some fantastic low-hanging fruit: newlywed antics, the latest from my new ministry position, plans for grad school, etc. But if the moment struck true, if the crowd was just trustworthy—or bored—enough, “what’s new” happened all over them as I tried to articulate “The Thing.”
Sometimes even now I have a hard time putting it into words, but I do know that it is a two-parter:
1. An event
2. A plan
Overall, The Thing is what I graspingly call the newness showing itself in my life.
Just shy of a year ago, I found myself staring hopelessly at an empty Coke ICEE cup in a quickly emptying movie theater, the credits for Noah scrolling across the dark screen. I had just gotten to my feet to walk out, my husband Aaron behind me, when my breath caught in my throat and my body fairly thundered with knowing and imperative.
It very well could have been the caffeine and sugar from that ICEE coursing through my veins, but in that moment I knew God was leaning in real close. My heart pounded in my ears and every nerve stood at attention. I knew I was in a thin place, a holy place. It seemed like every moment thus far in my life funneled into this one place of communion, of knowing.
I knew right then, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God cared—a lot—about that empty ICEE cup.
As deep calls to deep, that hollow, single-use vessel bore witness against me in all its plastic glory. I felt a conviction unparalleled. I knew better. By that point in my life I had seen for myself the devastation of landfills and how promises of convenience turn into toxic burdens for the least of these.
And yet I still bought the lie. I chose to purchase the momentary thrill (of an ICEE!) because I "deserved it," because it would not hurt anyone "just this once."
I was wrong, and I knew it in that moment.
As the waves of this sad realization continued to rock through me, something else became clear. I felt a compassion so deep and so true it broke my heart and healed it up in the same move.
God was not leaning in close to shame me, to shake a finger and leave me despairing on the theater floor. No, God was sharing with me a heartbreak that only a loving Creator could bear.
As I stared at that ICEE cup, the Lord invited me to really see it for the first time. To trace this warped piece of convenience back to what it was before a manic and uncaring human system got a hold of it. To see the raw and precious matter from which it was made and weep at how it had come to this. What was once teeming with life and potential, once a vital part of the eco-system, once a proponent of life on this planet, once fulfilling itself toward its Maker, was now a used up piece of trash doomed to be a nuisance and danger to creation for thousands of years.
For the briefest second I felt something of God’s heart. It was the most wonderful kind of unbearable. The sadness, the joy, the love…ah, the love God has for the whole world. I felt but a piece and it shifted everything.
At that, I found myself charged.
Like Eves and Adams throughout time, I was suddenly desperately reacquainted with the Creator’s ancient and essential charge to humanity: to keep the earth.
And I understood that charge to be a right now thing. An urgent thing. An it-really-can’t-wait thing.
It very well could have been the adrenaline high from my ICEE and from watching Aronofsky’s wild telling of Noah, but as I walked out of that movie theater, I felt with every fiber of my being the "fierce urgency of now." Fulfilling my humanity as a creation keeper became a mission, one that I am still trying to figure out.
Part One of The Thing had happened, and Part Two had just taken seed.