Summer of Love

Every summer presents a challenging question. What in the world am I going to do for two and a half months while school is out? As a single guy with no kids, I’m not naturally forced into a way of life, but given a choice among a myriad of options. Over the past five summers, I have chosen to travel – whether it be as a trip leader for Wonder Voyage or as an adventurer on my own.

My travels were not meant to be merely flippant, escapist journeys from a potential crippling boredom in Dallas. I treated these trips as pilgrimages – sacred journeys to the heart of Christ. In his graciousness, he has been faithful to reveal himself to me in ways I couldn’t have even imagined. I’ve encountered God in Javon’s difficult, vegetative life in Jamaica as I held him and whispered reminders of God’s love for him; chanced upon him on the streets of St. Petersburg, Russia when, in my darkest moment, I miraculously bumped into my Moscow friend, Jim; and tasted him in the Syrian tea while sitting uncomfortably in the tiny Jordanian apartments of refugees.

In one way or another, each of these moments on my pilgrimages, along with the other ones not stated, shaped and transformed me and my life in Dallas.

But, the longer I live in Dallas the more difficult it is for me to see my own locale as sacred and a container of God’s presence. I subconsciously believe it is bottled up until I leave normalcy. My day to day actions indicate a deep seeded belief — only unfamiliar territory can uncork God’s presence in my life.

My final pilgrimage of the 2016 summer was to the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Santa Fe, NM. I was attending the Glen Workshop (a Christian arts workshop hosted by Image) for the second year. For my particular workshop, I submitted a piece I wrote about my relationship with my grandfather. As my fellow participants helpfully critiqued my style and storytelling ability (or inability), the comment that shook me more than anything else was not about how I should provide more detail to the stories I merely hinted at, but instead, a comment by a woman who challenged me to consider my own love, or lack thereof, given to my grandfather when he decided to finally reach out to me.

Memories and faces flooded my mind when I heard her comment. I spent years of scooping and spreading mortar with my trowel, stacking brick upon brick when love (not simply romantic love) went awry. I had been building a fortified wall around myself in order to be barricaded from those people and moments, and potential people and moments.

Walls, whether personal, communal, or national, atrophy the souls of those stuck behind them. That which brings life (physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual) and love is always external from ourselves, and walls purposefully bar ourselves from those externalities. Therefore, by shriveling up behind our metaphorical or physical walls, we breed anxiety, apathy, fear, and a lack of trust – antipathies of life and love.

What, then, can erode the walls, so water and light can enliven all that is dying behind it?

Love. Only love.

Love corrodes; love explodes; love unleashes; love renews; love restores.

Therefore, for myself, I deem this summer the Summer of Love.

While I have one trip abroad, the vast majority of my summer will take place where the wall has been built and fortified – Dallas.

The love I am talking about here is not necessarily a “Summer lovin’, had me a blast / Summer lovin’, happened so fast.” I’m at an extreme disadvantage here. I can’t slick my hair back, and I don’t smoke cigarettes.

Instead, I’m talking about falling in love with life and not just Netflix;

Falling in love with Jesus and not just theology;

Falling in love with people and not just the idea of people;

Falling in love with art and not just simply telling people I love it;

Falling in love with good food and drinks and not just perpetually gorging myself on Papa Johns and turkey sandwiches;

Falling in love with play and not just the play of social media;

And falling in love with myself and not just feigning it so others think I have it all together.

I also want to fall in love with something I have never loved before. What/who do you love that breaks down your wall? Why do you think it does this?

May we all fall more deeply in love this summer with this gift of life given to us by a God who uses the joys and pleasures of our world to break down all the walls we erect.

Justin

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