It was scary. And it happened in this spooky building 2 weeks ago.
A night of absolute terror, of shocking fear that causes one to tremble, to ask the deep questions of life. I want to open up and tell you EXACTLY what happened. Read on . . . if you have the nerve.
There have been 3 courageous leaps that i have made this year. And i think they are connected to a New Year's Eve prayer on my blog. My prayer for 2005 , that i believe has so far led me into some wild and scary encounters:
“. . . we will be strong and courageous and greet the new year with outrageous boldness because YOU ARE WITH US!”
There have been 3 times this year when i have leapt out by faith (or studpity) into the unknown, and have felt God taking pleasure in the adventure, in the danger, in the sense of the unknown.
1. The Ba. New Years Day I jumped into a dangerously rough game without rules. The Kirkwall Ba'. And I did not even know how to play until i arrived and asked the other guys what to do. Exhillerating!!!!! And STUPID!!! Luckily, I only got a small arm injury. Thats me on the left, with the bumblebee rugby jersy, getting sandwich between 100 sweaty Scotsmen.
2. I took a 5km sledding ride in the Swiss Alps, without gloves, on the steepest slope possible, with my friends. Not that extreme, really, but important - and i felt the same sense of adventure of not knowing what was coming up next.
3. A religious meeting with some crazy young people. This was the most intense. And the sledding ride was foremost in my mind as i did this one. So was the sense of God getting a kick out of jumping in to something scary and extreme without foreknowlege of what i was getting myself into.
This is what happened to me. Last week in London, I attended a special meeting for the leaders of 24/7 Prayer who invited a small group of friends to their vision casting and vow-making ceremony,
VOW MAKING CEREMONY???????
I guess I didnt read that part of the invitation. Nor did i read the actual vow that some of the group were voluntarily about to read out in public - a verbal commitment, a LIFE LONG, BINDING, PROMISE TO GOD AND EACH OTHER . . .of their new level of commitment.
did I mention the word “LIFE LONG”?
did i mention the word “BINDING”?
I should say that i was in high spirits when i arrived at the Clapham Church. I was in the mood for something extreme and was thinking that if there was a special prayer or altar call, then i should be involved in that.
I have always been a little extreme when it comes to religious services.
If church meetings were rock concerts, then i would be the stage diver.
If there was an altar call, i would usually go up the front.
If there was a special prayer for the spiritual high-achievers, then i would stand up and get prayed for.
Basically, whatever the preacher was serving up, I would take some . . and then another helping.
Thats probably why i am overseas right now in a remote island - because every time the preacher challenged us with a “GO into the whole world” message, I was the one in the back standing up, or writing my name on a card, or jumping up and down like that donkey on Shrek yelling “Pick me! oh oh oh Pick me!”.
So i was ready for some action when i came to the meeting . . . but i underestimated the level of X-treme commitment.
One guy got up and talked about his idea for a ring. He was inspired by the vow of Count Zinzendorf and the quote “None of us lives for himself”. The vow-making was connected to this quote, he said. He also mentioned a dream in which there were thousands of rings, worn by young people who had taken this vow, and on the ring it said something like (and i cant remember the exact words) “none of us live for ourselves”.
Pete Greig got up and shared a little about vows - how people like Mother Teresa had taken 10 years to think through her vow. He mentioned others as well. And then he told everyone that he was taking this new vow tonight along with some of the others.
Pete also talked about the building - the building we were in - how the Clapham Sect had started here, William Wilberforce had preached here, Issac Watts had lead singing here. In fact, we sang one of his hymns as part of the worship.
Floyd McClung of YWAM got up and shared about the 7 vows he had made, including his marriage vow. He said that he was taking the vow also. Floyd is much older than me. I could not use my age as an excuse. In fact, I felt that i was a little like Floyd in that my life is connected to the next generation - and any vow they were going to make should not be more extreme than my own vows. I decided that, even if they lifted the level to an almost impossible height, then i should be able to make the same commitment as they did.
When Pete returned to the front, he asked who was going to take the vow, and I stood up with the others. There were about 17 of us, out of 50 in the room. I felt the same sense of adventure that i felt when i chose the steepest slope for sledding. I was afraid . . . deeply afraid . . . and yet strangely energized by the whole experience. and i sensed strongly that God wanted me to take this vow . . . even though i didnt know what the vow was . . . ESPECIALLY because i didnt know what the vow was - that was the point of it. . . God was asking me again to jump in with both feet and with FAITH into something that I DID NOT KNOW.
Then Pete started going over the basis of the vow-making decision, and people had to say that they had thought through and read through the vow. This is where i sat down. I could not proceed honestly since i had not read the vow. This was my out - i was thinking that God would not want me to proceed in dishonesty.
But later on, when everyone was standing up and about to take their vows, Pete asked if there were others who wanted to take them. Whhooo. That was me. So I stood up.
And took the vows.
It was exhillerating. Dangerous. Crazy. And i felt ALIVE.
I told God that if there was anything i could not commit to then i would pull back and not make the vow. But as the vows were read out, I found that each one was something i could do and commit to in integrity. Many of them had to do with living our lives for others. And i repeated all the vows. YES - I DID IT! I vowed myself again to God. And then I followed everyone up to the front to take communion together. I recognized a lot of the people - from events all over Europe. We didn't say much - but felt connected to each other by our common vow and new level of communal commitment. A few of the 24-7 prayer people said hello, and told me that their was something very “right” about me being there that night and taking the vow.
After sitting down, the minister of that church talked about the heritage of the building and how thousands of people had come to Jesus on the grass outside. He talked about William Wilberforce and how he abolished slavery. And he challenged us to tackle the issue of slavery today.
Which was interesting, because I had another meeting to go to that evening, and it had already started. It was with my friends Shannon, Gareth (of MootBlog) and Si Johnston and Emily who are actively involved in something called Protest4 which is attempting to stop human trafficking and modern day slavery.
I felt a little guilty about leaving the meeting early - but i think i had done what i came there to do. And it was time to move on to the next meeting. This always happens to me when i travel to London - there are always 2 or 3 meetings at the same time and i manage, somehow, to do them all.
Leaving Wilberforce's church and going by the Tube to meet with the 3rd Millenium Wilberforces was a weird trip - it felt like clicking on one website and traveling through a hypertext tunnel to get to the next page. Its like the virtual was more real than the actual. Maybe thats just a Geek thing?
Anyway, we had a good evening together. And i shared with them the Daily Express front page article on BotNets - that an estimated 30.000 young people in Europe are being taken into a new form of slavery as “Script Kiddies” and then used against their knowledge for corporate terrorism.
Much work to do.
And we are all involved.
Because none of us live for ourselves.
Thanks for reading my story.
Thanks to the young people at 24-7 for making me feel young again, and being willing to share their journey with me.
And for Protest4 for making my life feel worthwhile.
You probably want to see a written version of the vow . . . so do I.