When you haven’t spoken with a friend for a while, you often wonder what happened to your once strong friendship. Ever since I graduated from high school, some of my friends and I have grown apart (but that kind of just happens when you don’t see them every day).
Today, however, I got a message from one of my girlfriends that I had been praying for and thinking about but hadn’t felt led to talk to yet. We had such a great conversation and it was so wonderful to wake up to such a surprise. Another pleasant surprise today was a package in the mail.
A few days ago I was on the phone with my mom and she excitedly told me, “I sent you a package! It’s so you!” I wasn’t entirely sure what it was or how it could be “so me,” but I made a few guesses. My first guess was a pair of fuzzy socks that said something like “Why laugh if you’re not going to snort?” My second guess was chocolate. And my final guess was a jar of dog hair and a note that said, “So you can wear your favorite color every day!”
I received an email today from the post office saying I had received THE package. When I brought it back to my dorm and slit it open, I was greeted by a photograph sitting on top of a bunch of old crumpled graduation napkins. I laughed at my family’s growing resourcefulness and smiled at the picture of my siblings and I. Once I had dug through the napkins, I realized that the box was not full of socks or chocolate or dog hair, but full of pumpkin cheesecake muffins and apple cider donuts from a gas station store that is one of the hot spots in my little home town. Other than feeling like I had gained ten pounds just looking at the sweet stuffs, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside because I made the connection: when my mom said, “It’s so you!” I’m sure she just meant that it was fall food, apple cider, pumpkin, all the things that made me comfortable and excited. But it was more than that (yes, more than just great-tasting, calorie-blasted, binge food that I get all to myself); it was an edible memento from the Shire of my world, from the little place hidden in the valley that stands as my home and houses the people I love. The moment I had cleaned up the napkins and tidied my room, I unwrapped one of the muffins and ate it while doing my homework and getting ready for Bible Study tonight….it tasted like I was swimming through a river of smooth cream with tons of pumpkin spice candles burning on the banks and some weird fall fairy thing playing a song about pumpkin and cheesecake….okay, it just tasted awesome.
I thought of my Dad while I was eating the muffin (yes, this is where I have a sentimental flashback of homey things; sorry it happens :)). Usually a few nights a month, Mom and Dad would treat us kids to Stewarts (Stewarts is the gas station from which the muffins and donuts came from). Mom would always get a pint of Espresso Therapy, coffee ice cream full of something even more sugary (probably just a bunch of Dominos sugar packets :P). Gracie always got chocolate ice cream and Jimmy would either get some gummy candy like worms or sharks, or he would get cheese pizza Combos. I would either get nothing or I would get the most unhealthy thing in the entire store, like Crumbs Along the Mohawk, Muddy Buddies, or a blueberry cake donut. Daddy would always get some kind of muffin. Whenever I went to get the snacks (I was often sent because my mom would already be in her pajamas and I would be the only one up and around, in jeans, who could drive), I would try to get Dad a corn muffin but one of the girls behind the counter would always have to get a frozen one out of the freezer…I guess New Berlin is full of corn-muffin-consumers.
About an hour before bible study, Zappora asked me if we were still meeting for Bible Study tonight. I was so happy that she was still going to come to my study…of course, then I wondered why I had thought she would stop coming to mine just because she was starting her own. I answered her question and she told me she wanted to bring dinner. I thought that was awesome and I told her I would bring dessert (because I had a whole mess of junk food in my room that I was not going to eat all on my own).
I went to the meeting place for Bible Study and all I could think is “only Zappora is going to come…she probably thinks this whole Bible Study of mine is an absolute failure. I mean, it’s not like anybody is being encouraged by it…if they are then why aren’t they coming?” But then I stopped myself, because even if few people came to Bible Study and even though everything wasn’t going the way I thought it would, God was spending my time well: a lot of Christian girls were being encouraged even though they were not part of my Bible Study. The point is to encourage girls who are trying to stay faithful to God that they’re doing the right thing and they’re going to get through this; the point is to show other Christians that God is way bigger than any social, emotional, mental, and sexual pressures put on our shoulders by the world especially here and now,. That is the point.
I sat in the dorm lounge for a little bit, reading and doing some homework until Zappora came in with plates and a Tupperware full of something hot. We sat down and prayed before eating and we laughed and talked a bit about little things. Then she started talking about her bible study. As she did, we both agreed that it wasn’t about a competition, and I was able to tell her that I wouldn’t be there because of my church’s bible study. The three hours following, we ate the food she brought (chicken, black beans, and broccoli and man was it tasty!!) and munched on what I had brought (actually we didn’t really munch, exactly; we went through an entire six pack of apple cider donuts…which were fantastic); we talked about our testimonies, how God was working in our lives, the defining moments we’d had in the past month or so since we’d arrived at Pratt, our families, our friends, and doctrine.
When it came to doctrine, we began a debate. “It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.” (Joseph Joubert). Zappora began talking about her prophet in her church. I became very confused.
“Prophet?” I questioned. She seemed surprised that I was surprised. If the dust particles in the air had eyebrows they would probably be lifted in surprise too. She began explaining (using scripture) why a prophet was necessary. The quote above was mentioned because, as she explained this to me, I was tempted to just drop the subject and nod appropriately and move on to something else. I wasn’t really in the mood for a debate. But I knew the falsity of what she was telling me and felt convicted about not challenging it.
“God, I don’t want to challenge this. We’ve had a great conversation so far, I don’t want to ruin it.”
“Hunter, do not deny me in front of her. Do this. I will give you the words.”
“I will give you the words.”
In the Old Testament, there was a spiritual wall between God and His people placed there due to the Fall. Until Jesus Christ was sent to die for the sins of the world and place the Holy Spirit in the midst of humanity (Isaiah 63:11, Acts 2:1-4), God did not have contact with the common people; not everyone could talk to God. It was during this time that prophets were used. Prophets were put in place to be given divine insight and relay the will of God to the people. Priests were used as well to intercede between God and sinners, offering God their sacrifices and entering into the holy place of the temples, and acting as sub-ins until the divine Priest, Jesus Christ, came and nullified their positions.
Prophecy was a talent like speaking in tongues, having visions, and performing miracles, given to a select few in the body of Christ when the church was first being developed. The disciples were picked (before this new church was even thought of) to be the foundation of the church and were the main dudes making decisions concerning the construction of the body of the church and the roles played in this body (roles including, deacons, interpreters, preachers, etc.). As the Holy Spirit entered into thousands to millions of new vessels, the need for prophets and others like them disappeared because God was now able to have personal and intimate relationships with His people (Romans 8:8-9, 1 John 4:10).
Also, God asks us to trust Him every day and to believe that His mercies are new every time we wake up in the morning (Lamentations 3:22-27). Again, only God knows the future and He has asked that we live day-by-day. This is where faith comes in. Without the unknown and the supernatural aspects of God, why would we need to have faith in Him? If I already knew what was going to happen in my future, why would I have to depend on God to get me there and to reveal my future to me in time? There would be no point, because I would already know. Therefore, why would God use a prophet in today’s modern church? I feel like knowing what’s going to happen would greatly damage and water down my relationship with my God. I would rather have Him holding my hand and leading me than Him standing on the side watching me lead myself.
I respectfully brought up these points and she and I looked up scriptures to support our arguments. A few other things she spoke of made me question her doctrine. She still believes in salvation through only Jesus Christ (which, I think, is the most important thing of which to be certain), but other parts of her thinking are slightly off from scripture. I understand how she could interpret certain passages to support what she believes in and what she’s been taught growing up, but I don’t agree with it.
Ironically, we ended our extremely long conversation talking about guys (what can I say, we are girls :P). She confided in me that it was really refreshing to be challenged by different beliefs. Looking back on how it all happened, how only she came to Bible Study and how God played it out so we talked not only about her starting her own bible study but also about her doctrine, I realize that God was just giving me the opportunity that I had been waiting to take. I’ve been wanting to really dig into her doctrine, to be sure it was secure so that I could feel more excited about her starting her own study. Now that I know the ins and outs of her doctrine, I’m still excited but less sure that she’s going to lead people in the right direction…but honestly, I don’t have any control over it, even though I feel obligated to do something. God’s got it…it’s all good. God will still use it…somehow…I’m really not at all sure how He can but I know He can.
While I grow spiritually tired from debating and digging into doctrine, I appreciate being exposed to and challenged by so many different beliefs; it reminds me that I’m not perfect and I don’t know everything. Some of them make sense. Others I know are false from studying and from spending time with God and learning about Him and His character. I’m sure some people read things like this and think “well, there’s really no right way to believe in God.” They’re right to an extent; everyone’s relationship with God is totally and absolutely unique. God made sure that would happen by making us all so different from one another. There are, however, certain elements of the gospel that cannot be interpreted in any way other than one. “Only one?” Yes, only one. In the book of John, chapter 3, verses 16-18 (ESV), Jesus says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be save through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” This can be interpreted in one way: God sent Jesus Christ so that the human race could have a chance at eternal life. God sent Jesus Christ to save the world. All the world has to do is accept such a hero, such a gift given at such a price, to live in eternal glory.
One of the things about the world that I haven’t gotten used to is that there is no black and white. Everything is constantly in this weird twilight zone of shades of grey, where everyone is right all the time. Anyone who believes in anything is correct. But this isn’t true. How can every god (or all gods) of every religion be THE God? How can every set of beliefs be the true set of beliefs? How can every single human being on the face of the earth be going to some form of Heaven (including those who, for some frightening reason want to go to Hell) regardless of belief in God and regardless of how messed up and twisted the human heart is? No…I don’t believe that. I can’t believe that, not after what I’ve seen. There is only one truth, one gospel, one God.
And I am His.