I missed my one year anniversary with the DR. One year ago on August 12 I arrived at the airport really early in the morning (before the Delta counters were even open!) and was kinda of snappy to my father as he waited with me to check-in.
(*Total side note: Remember that scene in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants where Tibby and Carmen are yelling at each other and Tibby tells Carmen that the reason she’s being such a big whiny brat is because she knows Tibby can take it? Because she loves Carmen so much? And so no matter how big of a whiny brat Carmen is, Tibby is still going to love her and be there for her? Well I’m Carmen and my parents are TIbby whenever I’m home and an emotional wreck. Which is whenever I’m home.)
One year and almost three weeks ago two crazy ladies picked me up at the airport and made jokes about me packing my grandma in my suitcase. They drove me around this crazy city called San Pedro de Marcoris and I thought I’d never be able to find my way around these narrow streets. 384 days ago I met Nicole and Melody and Josue and Yensi and about 100 other people as I attended my first church service at Iglesia Bautista Evangelica de Marcoris. 12 months ago I moved here, to what has now become my home.
But the funny thing is that even though I feel at home here, and even though after a couple of weeks in the states I felt pretty ready to be back here in my home, and even though I have friends here and I know my way around the crazy streets and I can order water and pay my wifi bill and put minutes on my phone and ride a bus by myself, and even though I wave to and greet people I know on my way to the grocery story and my apartment manager gave me a hug and kissed me on the cheek when I paid our rent today (totally culturally appropriate, don’t worry), and even though I introduced my friend Michael to my motoconcho/friend Philip today via Skype, there is still one thing, one feeling, my heart is missing.
*Deep breath* That was a really long sentence.
At Cedarville we were required to attend chapel every day. Usually that was a good thing. One day during chapel a Bible professor (who now teaches at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary) spoke about the Triune relationship in which God exists. I had this same Bible professor for New Testament class and I always thought he had this excellent way of taking huge theological discussions and paring them down to one or two thoughts. The Triune relationship of God and the Trinity could, I’m sure, be the focus of a very long study. However, on this day during this chapel service Dr. Tim Gombis explained the Trinity in a way that I had never heard it explained before – in such a way that I felt I understood the Trinity as I never had before. He said (basically) the three persons of the Trinity, God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit exist eternally in a state of constant knowing. Each of the three are constantly knowing and being known by the other two. From the beginning of time and for forever. In the most intimate of ways. Constantly. Knowing and being known.
In the Old Testament there are chapters dedicated to the description of the temple. This is so because the temple was a very important place. The temple was where people could come to commune with God. To hang out with Him. To known Him and to be known by Him. To enter into the Triune relationship that had been going on since before the world began. But in those days, it wasn’t so easy to just stroll on up and strike up a conversation with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Because the Triune God is also a Holy God, men couldn’t just confront him, filthy and sinful as they were. In Exodus 33, God told Moses that not only could God not be in the presence of unrighteous, unforgiven, and unholy men, but also men couldn’t survive an encounter with the True God.
“Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” – Exodus 33:18-23
So in the days of the Old Testament, people would have to access God via a priest, who would have various rituals and sacrifices to complete before coming into contact/communication with the Holy God. All of these rituals, etc. can also be found, described in detail, throughout the Old Testament.
Then, something amazing happened. In fact, it’s my favorite thing that’s ever happened ever. God died. (That’s not my favorite part. Wait a minute.) Jesus Christ, who was God in the form of man, 100% man and 100% God, was beaten, took on sin and death, and died. And when Jesus breathed His last breath something happened in the temple. Mark 15:38 says, “And the curtain in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” In the temple, the curtain was what kept the Holy God separated from the sinful man bringing his sin offering. The curtain was what kept the unrighteous us separated from the totally righteous Him. And it was torn. It fell down. It was rent in two. It ripped straight down the middle from top to bottom. And with that glorious destruction of temple decor, we were set free. We were set free to commune face to face with a holy and righteous God. In the death of Jesus, as He took on our sins and punishment, we were made worthy to come before God, to see His glory, to know and be known.
There are a lot of things about San Pedro de Marcoris that I know now that I did not know just over a year ago when I stepped off the plane into this insane humidity. There are a lot of things about God and cockroaches and teaching and Spanish and cooking and hurricanes and the Bible and myself that I know now that I did not know last August. But it seems like the more I know, the more I realize I still have to learn, and it’s like I’m in this constant state of knowing and being known by this city and these people and this God.
When I started out this blog post it was with self-centered and whiny intentions, but there God goes again, making something beautiful out of the self-centered and whiny mess that is me. There God goes again, sneaking in glimpses of His glory in the midst of my blabbing.
My prayer as I enter into this second year in the Dominican Republic is that I will never close myself off to being known. That alongside the very real fear that comes with opening yourself up to newness, a God-given worthiness will shine. I pray that I will long to know and be known among my neighbors, co-workers, and students. That as I recognize authentic community doesn’t just spring up overnight but rather takes work and intentionality I will not shy away from that hard work of knowing and being known. That I will remember the Triune God and the torn veil. That I will remember the work that was done so that I could enter in to the temple of the Living God and commune with Him face to face in all His Triune complexity. That that work will not have been done in vain for me but that I will allow myself to be known by God. Even when that means allowing God to point out the parts of me that I am trying to shove behind the ripped-up curtain. Even when I’m bunching the curtain up and picking it up off the ground and keeping parts of me separate from Him. Because those parts of me are dirty and unworthy and unrighteous and if they come before such a Holy God they’ll just die.
My prayer is that in the joy of being fully known and fully love I will accept the pain of the death that had to come before my favorite part – the death of my Beloved Savior that had to happen before the veil could be torn. And the death of my secret, covered up parts that have to happen before I can see the face of God and live. Because the knowing and the being known go together. And to really know this God, to really see His face, not just His back, I have to bring all of me into the temple and through the curtain, and allow myself to be known.
My prayer is that this year I will live like Jesus. Not just in the love your neighbor, feed the hungry, teach the gospel kind of ways – although those ways are excellent and good and desired – but also in the way that Jesus lives in the Trinity, wholly open to know and be known by the Holy God, whose face shines so bright I could die, and who went to the cross so I could live.