We stood at the front of the auditorium, Third Day's You Make Me Mad blaring from the speakers.
He was singing, and I was watching with a small smile. I always had a thing for musicians.
"You make me mad....ohhhhhhh......you make me so damn mad...."
I startled. Laughed a little under my breath.
"Um. I don't think those are the lyrics." I whispered.
He shrugged. "Those are the lyrics for me."
I shrank away in disappointment, attention shifting to my friend standing next to me and the story of her latest crush. Musician boy kept singing next to me, altering lyrics as he saw fit. Every time I would wince. Every time I would commit to pray for him—for God to get a hold of him because until he was on fire I couldn't (and wouldn't) consider him a friend.
We were on our knees in a side room at another conference.
Twenty minutes earlier, the band sauntered on stage and in our wisdom, we turned up our noses.
"Look at how prideful they are...."
"They just want to entertain us—this so isn't about worship to them."
"Ohmigosh did you see him smiling at that girl?!"
So we left. Two full rows of teenagers packed up our things and walked out of the concert and into a side room to pray for the souls of those on stage.
"Break their hearts, God."
"Let them know what they're doing is wrong, Father."
"Move in every one else—let them see the lies—help them walk out as well."
"Send a revival."
And we stayed that way for the rest of the evening, cheeks red and tear stained, knees stiff from prayer.
Sometimes, looking back on these memories of growing up within evangelical culture, my chest tightens. It's as if we were so on fire we couldn't breathe from the smoke.
Now that I'm out of the fog I can smell the charred remains.
The Homecoming routine set to Steven Curtis Chapman's Saddle Up Your Horses.
The thousands of people pressing against me as we waited for doors to open at a CARMAN concert.
See You at the Pole rallies.
Prayers desperate for revival and being so convinced there was a taste of it—even if only a morsel—during that worship service the last night of Disciple Now.
It was the discipleship and mentoring group I so desperately wanted to be a part of and when I got in, felt ill-equipped to lead.
It's teenagers running down the steps at a Billy Graham crusade to lead 60-somethings through the Sinner's prayer.
It's summer mission trips to Mexico and retreats to the hill country.
It's purity cards and True Love Waits conferences and Brio subscriptions.
It's being good and right and true and pure and checkthatbox right after you checkthisone and strive strive strive and give give give.
It's crying in the corner of your bathroom, writing in your journal and wondering where you went wrong.
Fires have a way of burning off the dead pieces.
What happened to so many of us was that the fire became so entangling that once complete we didn't know who we were anymore. Lost in the fire we created, there was nothing left to do but wait out the flames. Now, standing in the ashes of faith, we're left with a bit of wonder.
Where do we go from here? What did it for us ten years ago sends us reeling now. We can't just host a prayer night or wait with the heavy expectancy of God showing up within an event.
Now, we rest in the vapors. Everything else is up in smoke.
Instead of striving, we're resting.
Instead of checking boxes, we're allowing for blank space.
Instead of judgment, we make room for love.
We know what it's like now to feel His presence during a movie or a book or a song or a conversation with a friend. We know we can meet Him overseas, but He's also in our living room. Sometimes even in our car during commute.
And when we least expect it, a tendril of flame licks at our hearts. But it's never consuming. It won't ever get that way again—there's nothing left to burn.
This was part of Addie Zierman's When We Were On Fire Synchroblog. Addie is a dear friend who's book, When We Were on Fire, comes out tomorrow. You need to check this one out—I'm serious. I read it in one sitting and did the whole gamut of emotions: laughed, cried, cringed. If you grew up evangelical, chances are you'll find your story within her words.