12 people. 12 personalities. 12 sets of struggles. 12 hearts of passion, 12 stories of redemption. 12 living testimonies to transformation. 12 life stories all pointing to 1 God.
And a rainbow.
In Academy classes we’ve just finished two weeks of sharing life stories. When I was reading the Academy packing list in the summer, they mentioned bringing any materials that would be helpful for sharing your life story. That didn’t mean much to me at the time, since I thought life story was just a cooler word for tell-your-testimony-in-ten-minutes. But this was nothing like that. We each had 1 ½ hrs to share our lives. Like, our whole lives: our ancestry, our birth story, our family dynamics, our struggles when we were 5, 8, 12, and 19, our joys and most meaningful moments. We spoke of our relationships, the bedrocks and mistakes and emotional rollercoasters. We shared pictures – the scanned black&white pictures of grandparents’ weddings, through our awkward braces phase and the regretful college party scenes.
I can’t even describe some of the hardships that people vividly shared about (and for their privacy, I won’t try). Over and over, I was just amazed at the diversity of our backgrounds – from the self-professed rebel who knew every philosophical argument against God, to the goody two shoes who has to succeed in everything (any guesses which one is me?) 🙂 Yet we all had testimonies of God’s faithfulness in drawing near to us in the hard times, sometimes banging us over the head to make us wake up to His presence, sometimes waiting patiently for us to look up and see Him standing there.
Anyway, I shared yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. I wrote a 12-page manuscript (yep, a manuscript sounds way cooler than a paper, or document) and read it out loud. Mine was not the most sensationalist one ever – my life basically goes along the lines of “I have a family and God who loves me and I’ve gotten to go a lot of cool places and meet a lot of cool people. And even when life is hard and I’m stupid, it’s still really good.” My life has been whole – really richly whole. No gaping wounds, no black holes of despair. And that is something I can REJOICE in, recognizing that God in his grace has spared me a lot of pain and sorrow while still reminding me constantly of my inability to live life without Him.
Yesterday evening, after another Fellow shared his story, I was just feeling really thankful for God’s work in all of our lives – the evidence of His hand molding and shaping us was undeniable. We were headed to the chapel outside, for Evensong, when I looked up and gasped – a stammering, jaw-dropping gasp. The sun was streaming across the bay, and against the murky grey backdrop of rain in the distance, there was a massive triple rainbow arching over the buildings and trees, one side touching down in the bay, one side touching on the far side of the barn – completely surrounding the Academy property, with a massive gnarled oak tree squarely in the center. The colors were more vibrant and rich than any other rainbow I’d seen before, with three district spectrums of color fully visible. We just gaped for about 10 minutes (and all showed up for Evensong a bit late that night).
Biblically, the rainbow is a sign that God will never again flood the earth. It’s a sign of hope. And against the backdrop of 12 lives of struggles and sin, the vibrant rainbow of hope – reminding us of God’s promise to continue transforming us into His likeness – was completely breath-taking. It might have been my favorite moment since arriving at the Academy.
I don’t have any pictures, but maybe that’s best. If you saw the rainbow, you’d probably be really jealous, and I don’t want to make anyone stumble. 🙂
But here’s a picture, just to make you happy: (from the Trinity Forum 20th anniversary Gala in DC a few weeks ago. Don’t we look so grown-up? I still feel like I am playing dress-up…)