You wana hear a story?
This weekend I got to experience again what it's like to be a dirty, dirty hippie. Two lovely ladies and myself packed up the car with more camping gear than I've ever before been equipped with and headed off to a music fesival called Wakarusa in a state called Arkansas. I guess that when you've gotten used to camping consisting of a tree and a blanket, it's weird to have a full-blown tent and luxuries like eski's and camp-barbeques. Man, am I thankful for those.
The festival was about a 3 hour drive from where I'm staying here in Oklahoma. We pull into the fesitval and realise that to get a camping spot in there we're going to have to wait a couple of hours in the car, under the close-to-40 degree heat. We decide to drive back down the mountian to the closest servo and stop at a camping spot there to relax and figure out what our next step is going to be. One of my festival sisters decides that it would be best for us to spend the night there and head back to the festival in the morning, so we start setting up camp...
* Let's take a little detour, just for a second- the day of these events is Thursday the 2nd of June. Keeping in mind that the 3rd of June would have been my father's 52nd birthday, I had just finished telling the girls while we were driving that God was so amazing for reminding me of him in the days leading up to it- first, I had translated for a doctor called Frank the day before who had introduced himself as Francisco. Later that day I had been making some calls for a mate and had made a call to a Mexican guy called Francisco. Obviously, a chord in me strikes when I hear my father's name. It was a wonderful way for God to remind me to think about my dad around his birthday.
Anyway, back to the weekend. We go and pay for a campsite and start setting up camp. There are two young guys sitting on a picnic table next to our site. I don't want to give out any names, so let's call them Bob and Johnny. Bob and Johnny are in their early 20s and they are from San Diego, California. They have been sitting out in the sun all day waiting to buy a ticket to get into the festival. Both of them are insanely beautiful to look at; the kind of beauty that hits you in the face and you need to remind youself to look away to risk not looking like an idiot. As we're setting up, Bob is playing his guitar and singing. Of course, just too add to their charm, they are so humble about accepting anything from us, so we have to convince them to come and eat with us. We get to talking and laughing over dinner, and the boys start sharing some of their stories. Bob and Johnny have grown up together because their dad's used to be best mates- they were both soccer coaches. Bob mentions that he's been on the road for about a week or so and he is utterly amazed by the hospitality of people that he has met and how touched he is by the characters that he has come across in his travels so far. He pulls out the guitar again and starts singing. He sings some of his original songs for us. One sticks out to me, it says something to the effect of- "I held my daddy; but he's not coming back. I want to drown myself in the sea because my daddy's not coming back."
There is so much pain; so much depth behind his lyrics, that I cannot hold back the question- what is the song about? Bob shares with us that his father died 2 years ago. I tell him that mine died 7 years ago, and that he had also been a soccer coach. I ask him his father's name. 'Frank.' he says. 'Serious? My dad's name was Frank...well actually, it was Francisco,' I reply... and he so casually comments back, 'My dad's name was Francisco.' UM, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What are the chances of a Californian Hippie, and a crazy Australian girl sitting in some forest in some random state in America (ps guys, never heard of Arkansas in my life until I went there) talking about the deaths of their fathers...who had the same name?
The night proceeded- music, conversation, laughter. God was threadding Himself through everything. If you leave room for the spirit to move it's amazing how many hints, how many things refer back to Him. Afterall, He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:17), what would stop Him from pointing all things to Himself? By the end of the night, it was just Bob and I. Listening to him share his grief was intense. He was pretty much quoting word-to-word the same things that I used to say 2 years after my dad passed. The pain, the guilt, but also the acceptance and the motivation to see the positive. He said that his dad's death was what provoked him to start singing, he sang to him while he was dying. I also sang to my dad while he was on his death-bed. All these small connections that some may call 'coincidence' scream GOD to me. Only God could do such a thing; create such a connection. Only God could bring Californian Hippie and crazy Australian girl together in the forest to talk about the death of their fathers, who had so much in common.
Then, as if the evening couldn't get any more moving, it did. As we were saying good-night, Bob hugged me. Not just an awkward American side-hug, a big bear-hug. Right there, in the middle of the random forest, God brought us together to share that embrace; to mould our spirits together for a moment, through one completely pure action that we all take for granted day-to-day. The power in that hug; the force behind Bob's grip almost crushed me. There was a release of emotion, a barrier broken down that he had been keeping so long at arms length. He took a deep breath in and released more of the guard as he exhaled. He released even more of it through his fingertips as they dug into my shoulders. The prescence of God between us in that moment brought tears to my eyes. It shook my soul, my core. And Bob was there. Bob was in His prescence, in His whirlwind. I cannot even get my head around God's...well, His everything. The love that He feels for both Bob and I, to put us infront of one another and enable us relate to each another through the pain of losing what we have lost. God's love, His beauty, His compassion...all intertwined into one event.
For He wounds but He binds up; he shatters, but His hands heal.- Job 5:18
This weekend, God has spoken to me in mind-blowing ways. He has led me to desperately pray for the lost; the crushed in spirit. We are all broken, but to think that some people have such immense holes in their souls that it provokes them to turn to such extremes and such temporary highs makes me hurt for them. Watching the masses of people at this festival: the alcohol, the drugs, the emptyness of their beings- searching, longing, thirsting for something to fill those voids. Replacements that don't even measure up to the intensity of brokeness and anguish inside each individual. I've been there, I know that, I've just never seen it from the outside until now. I may not have experienced the same extents of their drug-use, but I am definately familiar with the race they're running. I understand the chase to the rainbow of happiness that seems promising in the form of a joint, a can of alcohol, or a bag of powder...however never lasts long enough to act as more than a band-aid. It wears off, and once it does you're worse than you were before you started. It's not enough. Through all of that, God keeps reassuring that He really is everywhere. Through the drunkeness, and the highs, the acid trips- His spirit shines. Unfortunately some of us are so far gone, so down buried under band-aids that we have forgotten that there is a wound that needs healing. But God speaks. He speaks through music, through movement, through conversation, through others. God doesnt turn His back on the lost. He doesnt give up on them. Instead, he cradles them. He carries them. He loves them....and He hugs them.
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things- Romans 11:36