Friday, September 19, 2014

Treasures :: A Rainbow Lanyard with a Pewter Cross Pendant

Inspired by Leigh McLeroy's book Treasured: Knowing God by the Things He Keeps, I'm asking: What tangible pieces of my spiritual history would I place carefully in my own cigar box for safekeeping? What stories have shaped my journey with this ever-faithful, treasure-keeping God? After a several months-long hiatus, I'm picking back up below with part five of the "Treasures" series. 

V. A rainbow lanyard with a heavy pewter cross pendant

A woman placed the colorful necklace over my head on a Sunday afternoon, at the close of one of the best weekends of my life. I was emerging from a three-day chrysalis.

We high school girls gathered on a Friday morning, some nervous, some excited, some reluctant. They told us, “Don’t anticipate, participate,” and they called us caterpillars. We divided into small groups, sat around tables and named our groups—names with which we’d have to introduce ourselves for life, but we didn’t know that at the time.

We listened to earnest, thoughtful talks, and we discussed and prayed and cried. We laughed and snacked and created posters, skits and songs. On Saturday night we got a little taste of Heaven: I have never experienced the love and welcome of God before or since quite so powerfully as I did in that candlelit sanctuary.

On Sunday afternoon, they announced, we were butterflies. We had grown, we had seen God, and we were ready to take our “Next Steps” back into a world that hadn’t changed while we were cocooned inside that church. We read piles of letters from loved ones, collected by our sponsors, and the tears rolled down my cheeks, my heart fit to burst.

At the closing service for Greater Findlay Area Girls’ Chrysalis Flight #13, we each received a necklace—a heavy pewter cross with a butterfly engraved on one side and "CHRIST IS COUNTING ON YOU" on the other, hanging from a lanyard someone had knitted with variegated yarn dyed in bright Roy G. Biv hues. As the Lay Director hung the necklace around each girl's neck, she said, "Christ is counting on you," and the girl was to respond, "I am counting on Christ."

I would go on to serve as a Teen Table Leader on one of these weekends two years later--another priceless, incredible experience on the other side. In the meantime, I’d shower others with “agape” (our name for the notes and gifts as tangible expressions of love poured out on the participants all weekend long). I’d set alarms for three a.m. prayer vigil slots and write letters and hold candles while singing “Love, love, love, love / The gospel in one word is love…” I’d even sponsor both my parents to go on an Emmaus Walk (the adult version of Chrysalis). And at monthly gatherings, I’d sing “modern” (1980s) worship songs with reckless joy and introduce myself as “Amy Kaylor, Greater Findlay Area Girls’ Chrysalis Flight #13, Table of God’s ‘G’ Girls.” I always felt silly saying that name, but I dearly loved the woman and the girls who had sat around it with me.

This community nurtured me and fed my soul while I was enduring the growing pains of no longer fitting in the church where I’d grown up. And then eventually, I no longer fit here, either.

I wore the rainbow lanyard one last time in the fall of 2004, after I’d graduated from college and was engaged to be married. I was invited to serve as an Adult Table Leader this time, to nurture a group of young caterpillars and watch them take flight. It was an opportunity I dearly cherished, but I was quickly sinking into a season I'd later refer to as a "dark night of the soul"; dry and empty, I had little to give to my girls. The low point was a huge and heartbreaking moment when one of the speakers basically said something heretical in the Q&A following her talk.

I realized that the rainbow lanyard had served its purpose, that its colors and heft no longer felt right against my chest. Yet while the time had come to nestle it in a drawer, I did so with fondness. I had been deeply moved and changed by the opportunities I'd had in this community to be loved and to love others.

The Emmaus/Chrysalis community loves and serves Jesus by loving and serving each other so practically and faithfully. They fill 72-hour prayer vigils; they serve meals and drive shuttles to shower facilities at six a.m. They serve on administrative boards, clean bathrooms, sacrifice weekends. They give hugs and make bookmarks and overwhelm people with a thousand little ways of saying, "God loves you. You are precious to Him, and you matter to us. We will go out of our way to help you encounter Him and know Him."

While I needed to move on from Chrysalis, there was no mistaking what the movement had done for my sense of identity, my understanding of the personal love of God, and my concept of the power and beauty of a body of believers.

Treasures, previously:
A broken piece of cornerstone
A sharp pebble
A pastel index card 
A Bible with a broken spine

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