Sydney and I started our trips to Nashville almost two years ago, traveling back and forth every two to three months for her to either record or write. During that time, one of the young women from my disciple group reached out to see if I could connect with a friend of hers who was moving to the area. What unfolded was a relationship I hold so dear to my heart for many reasons. To know Lindsey is to know unending vulnerability and complete openness to whatever circumstances the Lord allows her way. Good or bad.
On our last trip to Nashville this past February, Lindsey took some photographs for us while Sydney was recording at the studio. (Lindsey’s also an extremely talented photographer.) I still needed to pay her for those photos and was hoping to do it in person. Lindsey suggested meeting up for coffee and told me she’d be bringing someone along with her. I knew she had been dating someone for a while and assumed he would be her plus one. But, I assumed wrong.
I was still recovering from the night before and had so many questions. I was tempted to ask Lindsey some of them because she had been attending The Belonging for some time. She asked how our meetings had gone so far, but the last thing I wanted to talk about was our conversations with music producers. I began sharing about the previous two nights, but kept getting distracted by Lindsey’s muffled giggles and the stares she and her friend kept giving one another. They either found my charismatic encounters far more humorous than I did, or there was some inside joke I wasn’t privy to.
It was neither. I think they were trying to contain their amusement because they knew, given my encounters the previous two days, they were about to push me over the edge.
Or maybe the Lord was just preparing us for what He was about to do.
The story that unfolded over the next twenty minutes was impossible to digest. It began with a sermon Lindsey had heard at The Belonging that first weekend in April. It was about having faith the size of a mustard seed and not trusting God fully in your life. In that moment, Lindsey knew where she wasn’t trusting the Lord: in her relationships and her identity. She knew her pursuit of those things needed to be placed on the altar and she made the decision to do it. But, not too soon after that, as the worship music began to play, she felt the Lord speak into her ear. It was an audible voice. Her voice. In a quick aside she tells us that this has occurred ever since she received the baptism of the Holy Spirit about six months prior.
TIME OUT: I’m not getting into the whole second baptism/baptism of the Holy Spirit controversy here. BUT, I will share my personal feelings on the matter. I don’t believe in a second baptism of the Holy Spirit. Well, not entirely. Here’s what I believe: We live in a Christian culture that is really great at manufacturing EVERYTHING…. Including the perfect setting for people to commit their lives to Jesus at the end of a service. We provide the mood music, the compelling promise of a better life and, in a lot of cases, an immense amount of guilt and/or pressure to not spend eternity in hell. And all we have to do is raise our hand, say a simple prayer and/or fill out a connect card so someone at the church can talk to you about baptism. I think a lot of us who grew up in church got baptized at a certain age because, well, that’s just what you did. I think a lot of us have also gone to church and wanted the things a pastor talks about and accept their invitation, even if the Holy Spirit never revealed himself to us. (This was my experience and, since being on the road, we’re learning that many others share in that experience.) My hypothesis: This second baptism of the Holy Spirit might actually be, for many of us, our first true revelation of God. That first baptism might have been more about the hope promised to us by a pastor with good intentions. I don’t claim to be right. But, this is how I reconcile what I see going on in the institution of church with what I see in scripture… and what so many of us experience.
Okay… back to the story.
Lindsey said she heard the Lord say she was supposed to marry her friend, a thought that made her literally laugh out loud for two reasons. #1 She JUST put the whole relationship/identity debacle on the altar. #2 Her friend was gay. The idea was fantastical and she really didn’t give it much thought… at first. Another thing she didn’t give much thought to at first… where she was going for dinner. Her friend, who was with her at the service, suggested grabbing a bite to eat. Unable to make a decision, they decided to flip a coin: Heads meant going to a sports bar and Tails meant somewhere else. Secretly, Lindsey wanted the coin to land on Tails, so when it landed on Heads she suggested the best two out of three. When it landed on Heads a second time, she decided to suffer through the big screen TVs and endless surround sound yelling. (Yeah… this part of the story doesn’t make sense now, but it will.)
Now, this is where the story gets really weird. (Just kidding, it was already weird for me, but, to be fair, my threshold was practically non-existent at this point.) Lindsey’s friend jumped in to tell us about how he had been working in his garden a few days earlier when he was suddenly overcome with this feeling that he was supposed to get married to a woman. It was something he had been wrestling with and had even discussed with the one Christian he truly trusted — his grandmother. It didn’t make sense to him at all. He even pulled a Gideon and told God that if this thought was truly from Him, that he would find a ring in the flower garden. Well… there wasn’t a ring THAT day. But, there was when he picked back up with his gardening the following day. (As he continued telling the story, Lindsey pulled out this baby blue plastic ring that was most likely purchased for a quarter in a gumball machine. The band was wrapped in tape and you could still see the dirt wedged into the crevices.) He said that upon finding the ring he knew it was for Lindsey, but he didn’t know what to do with that information.
This all happened before the church service. Before Lindsey’s revelation.
As her friend was relaying this story to her at the sports bar, Lindsey wasn’t putting two and two together. That she was the woman he was suppose to marry. In that moment he asked God, “If you want me to ask Lindsey to marry me, make it clear at this very moment.” (And this is where the reluctant game of Heads and Tails comes into play.) Because at that exact moment, all of the TVs in the sports bar went black.
Lindsey jumps back in and takes over the storytelling.
She begins to tell us how Beyonce could be seen on the television screens singing Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It). On all of the screens. At the same time.
At this point, I’m pretty sure my brain was incapable of retaining any more information. Nothing. I honestly don’t remember much after that. I do remember thinking how often I’ve heard stories like this: drastic conversions, callings. Lindsey, stirred by her emotions for Jesus, talked about a calling to live out biblical marriage. Not in a romantic, fairy tale, happily-ever-after way, but in a hard, sanctifying, God honoring way. She talked about living their lives in a way that glorifies the Lord’s redemption and underscores the hard work and selflessness required in marriage. I have heard stories, but I’ve never personally known anyone living it out. Honestly, I don’t even think I know anyone willing to CONSIDER living it out. And, honestly, there’s NO WAY in the world I could do what she was willing to do. I was dumbfounded. This was something I didn’t understand and I couldn’t explain. What, or more importantly Who, would compel someone to do something so insane?
Sydney and I parted ways with Lindsey and her friend and started the one-and-a-half-hour drive back to the RV. Thankfully, Sydney slept the whole way back. She usually has a million questions, but there was absolutely no way I would be able to answer them. In fact, as soon as we got back to the RV, I went straight to bed. Jamie was still waiting to talk about that first night after the show. Lord, that seemed like months ago. He had no idea about our experience with the small group at The Belonging. He knew nothing about my meeting with Lindsey.
I went to bed at 5:45pm.
The next morning, I agreed to tell Jamie everything, but made him take me to Starbucks first. It wasn’t really in the budget, but I needed coffee. Lots of coffee.
There’s more to this story, but I will share it as it occurs in the timeline. I was starting to see something. This life, it really isn’t about comfort. But, we have made it about comfort. As a Christian, it’s suppose to be about sacrifice. But, few of us are willing to live sacrificially. (And I’m not talking about sacrificing your church time to serve in children’s ministry. However, the truth is simple: We can’t even do that. Or, if we do, it’s usually joined with grumbling and a level of preparation similar to that of a kid cramming for a test the night before. ) God’s at work, in the most unlikely and unpredictable ways. And, no matter our circumstances, He never changes. He is the one constant. The only constant. What changes is us. In living sacrificially, we become more humble. More wise. More selfless. More like him. But, we have to walk away from the comfort… and for many of us, the institution of church has been our biggest obstacle in doing just that.