The object in this picture is a hitching post. Prominent before the rise of the automobile a hitching post, or hitching rail, existed next to almost any establishment so that the owner could tether their horse to prevent it from straying.
I like this analogy for our lives in community. When life in the valley gets hard I battle my own fight or flight reflex. Community helps keep me tethered. In many ways, the family of God can serve as a hitching post, an anchor, in the weeks or days that feel difficult.
This week I got to see pictures of what Heaven looks like on earth. To name a few: Youth staff retreat last weekend, games of Catan with new(er) friends, and a night at the Aldous home last night that might be the best picture of Heaven-on-earth that I've seen in a while.
Amidst some amazing snapshots of the Kingdom this week there's also been plenty of reminders of the full side of what life in the valley is like. We crave adventure. We would love to only identify our journey's by the "highs" the shareable, post-able moments. The problem with living adventurously is that it over-values the mountaintop. The mountaintop is beautiful. It is what we may spend great work climbing. We celebrate the mountaintop with a filtered post, cropping out anything that doesn't contribute to our #adventure #liveadventurously agenda. But the mountaintop isn't where we spend 99.9% of our time. We live in the valley and lust for the glory of the mountaintop. Living for the mountaintop comes from a place of lack of contentment. And it makes so much sense. We aren't satisfied with _____ so we lust after things that will make it look like we have achieved _____.
Its no coincidence that many people's spiritual testimonies begin with "I gave my life to God at camp." Often, the mountain top is the only place where we disconnect and unplug enough to truly sit and hear what God has for us. However, we can't live on the mountaintop. We must come down.
In the valley we experience shalom - content, deep peace. We also experience pain, heartache, and brokenness. We experience the fullness of humanity.
There's a movement in the Western Church (church in America) right now that is asking the question, "is bigger better?" This movement is focused on missional living and intentional relationships in your own neighborhood. It is also really slow. On purpose. It seeks to break the cycle of flashy programs and advertising that has, in many ways, wounded the Church of the 90s from authentic growth in community. Living missional lifestyles encourages people to dig deep roots into a neighborhood and truly invest.
Most of all, it helps people listen well to others and to the voice of God in their lives. In the valley, the everyday and the mundane, we are invited into hearing God's voice - we are just too often pre-occupied with our own concerns to slow down and listen. In the everyday of following Jesus we are invited to listen well and to eat meals together. One of the things that made youth staff retreat last weekend so abundant was that we sat at a big table, together, and ate delicious meals that had a significant investment of planning and time. (good) food unites in a way that almost nothing else can. It equalizes. Food brings people into a shared experience that sets aside a moment as sacred.
Finally, in the valley we are invited to rejoice and to pray continually. What are the little moments we can rejoice and celebrate better? What are the things we need prayer for? What are the things we need to pray for others?