I didn't really know what to expect going in to the event. All of my art is about Jesus, so I didn't know how people would feel about that. Because let's be honest, most attendees at your typical rave aren't really in the mood to think about Jesus. So I was a little nervous. Would I be mocked? Would there be any hostility toward my faith? Would anyone even want to talk to me? So I also took bottled water, hot apple cider, and lots and lots of candy. Who doesn't love candy?
Leaving the event Saturday afternoon, I was pretty surprised at what I had experienced. I didn't go in with any judgments or preconceived notions because I really didn't know what it would be like, but I did come away with some insights that I've been thinking about for the past 24 hours. And here's what I learned:
1. Humans crave connection.
I arrived at the farm where the event was taking place around 10:00 that morning and began setting up. But as soon as we started pulling things out of our vehicles, people seemed to start appearing out of nowhere. I was greeted with hugs and hand shakes, smiles and welcomes. My sister (who was almost like a mother figure in the place) introduced me to person after person, and everyone was so kind. People wanted to talk and visit. No one was in a hurry to be anywhere. Everyone just wanted to connect. People had come from all over the place to be there this weekend. Some of them were old friends who had been to event after event together, and you could see the camaraderie and familiarity among them. Others (myself included) were there for the first time, not knowing anyone but welcomed in like we were someone they had just been waiting to meet.
One group gave away free breakfast and was making free chili for lunch. One group taught me about fire dancing with poi ropes and hula hoops (something no one will ever have to worry about me doing). I talked to a couple of girls about geo-caching. I learned about what goes into setting up these events and how much time and effort people put into it. I heard why people were there, what they hoped to get out of the weekend, how much sleep they hadn't gotten the night before. Everyone had a story, and I was fascinated to see how ready and willing everyone was to share their stories with me, a stranger. There were no walls up. There wasn't any stand-offishness. I've never been in an environment that was so warm and open and ready to engage. There was a connection there between humans that you don't see in everyday life. A sense of togetherness and commonality. A sense of what's mine is yours and here's the shirt off my back even if you don't need it. The truck I was driving got stuck in the mud as I was leaving, and my sister called over for a few people to come help. Within seconds there were at least 6 guys pushing my truck out of the mud for me. I may have almost cried a little. Which leads me to my second insight.
2. There is something spiritual in all of us.
Why would I almost cry about some guys pushing my truck out of the mud? Because I think there's something meaningful behind it. A spirit of giving and generosity. A spirit that says, "I'm willing to get a little dirty, to use a little muscle, to stop what I was doing to help someone else out (even if it's her fault she doesn't know how to drive a truck)." I talked to one guy about his sleeve tattoo that showed the angels of heaven battling the demons of hell. He told me about being in the army and going to the war and watching his friend die and how it changed him, mentally and physically. His tattoo was like a constant reminder of the spiritual battle going on around him and even inside him. One guy told me about how he stayed up all night just to see the sunrise, and all he could think when he saw it was how beautiful and humbling it was. I told him I thought the same thing as I was driving to the farm that morning and saw all of the fields and their colors.
Blaine had more explicit conversations about spirituality, about whether there is anything beyond the material world, whether there is anything more than a karmic spiritual force, whether good and evil are objectively real or just conventions that we've made up to guide our human behavior. The human connection I mentioned before seemed to be bound together by an underlying spiritual connection. Some people were just there to let off steam after the monotony of the work week. Some people were there for the fun and the pleasure. Some people were there to be filled up with something so they could go back out and face the world again. And some people, maybe most of the people, were there to experience something bigger and grander than themselves. There was mutual respect, hospitality, and a sense of energy that was clearly more than just the physical, material bodies of people eating, sleeping, and partying there that weekend. But here's where my third insight comes in.
3. We have been sold a lie.
This was the most important thing I took away from the weekend, and here's where I may lose some of you (but hopefully not). The Enemy of our Souls, the Prince of the Power of the air, has sold us, every one of us, a huge lie. And I'm afraid we've all bought into it. As I saw people sharing with each other and giving to each other and just flat out being interested in each other's lives, I wondered what it was about this place that brought that out in people. And what I realized is that it's possible that Satan has allowed humans to experience just enough spiritualism, just enough happiness and generosity and connection, in places like this or in a sports stadium or in a cultural identity; he gives us just enough that we think that's all there is. There was just enough energy to attribute it to a vague, unidentifiable spiritual force and collective soul, but not enough to make us look to a personal God, the creator of our spiritual souls. There was just enough appreciation for beauty and nature and humanity to make us look outside ourselves a little, but not enough that we look so far outside ourselves and see who created it all or give Him any acknowledgment. The lie being sold in this wonderful place to these wonderful people is that the qualities we desire like love, kindness, respect, charity, compassion all originate from and depend on the human heart and human will. Don't look any further than that, the Enemy says, because then you might see that the Sovereign King of the universe has instilled those qualities in every one of you as a reflection of His own nature and character. Don't recognize that you were created in His image. Don't become aware that He has something grander than this fantastic weekend you're experiencing. Don't look any further than what your hands and your hearts are feeling right now.
But they aren't the only ones being lied to. As I was embraced and loved on in such a way that even a non-hugger like me couldn't resist, I asked myself what it would be like if I went to church Sunday morning and this was the atmosphere I experienced. As my church is taking this month to emphasize the importance of giving, I wondered what it would be like if the members there had the attitude of the people at this farm. Not a socialistic approach where we're forced to give, but a Christ-like approach where we want to give because we love one another, because we're a family, because, like the people at this Halloween rave, we're all in this together. We the Church have been sold so many lies, and I'm afraid that we've bought into so many of them that it has sent a message to the world around us that never should've been communicated. A message that says, "We don't really care about the lost. We don't really think you'll find fulfillment in Christ. We don't really know why we go to church or why we give or maybe why we even believe in Jesus. Don't come through our doors. You won't find joy here. Go find it at your rave, and we will sit back and judge you."
Maybe that's too harsh, and I know it isn't what we, the Church, or we, believers, actually want to convey. But I do think it's a lie we've been living under, and I think we need to stop. The Enemy may not be able to take our souls if we have given them to Christ, but he can still dilute our lives, our passion, our joy, our love. He can make our eyes heavy so that we don't see what's at stake here. So that we look at the world around us and shake our heads as we tsk, tsk their choices and their lifestyles, forgetting that we are all sinners in need of grace, never realizing that the people outside the church are not our enemies, but souls who are also being weighed down with lies. The Enemy is real, and we are in a battle against him. I've never believed it more than I do now. It sounds a little sensational, maybe a little insane, but I think that's another lie he wants us to believe. How many of us can he continue to keep under his thumb if no one believes he is real?
God is a God who saves. He will save His Church. He will save His people. And He will defeat Satan in the end. But if you're reading these words right now, please don't believe the lies any longer.
"If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." ~ C.S. Lewis
"You have made us for Yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in You... My God, My life, My sacred delight." ~St. Augustine