Friday, October 26, 2007

Glow sticks, reflective clothing and the after party.

Glow sticks, reflective clothing and the after party.

During my senior year of college, on most weekend nights, you could find me shirtless in some dark corner with glow sticks and pupils the size of dinner plates. I’d never smoked pot in high school, wasn’t drunk until I was a junior in college and never intended to do any sort of designer drugs like ecstasy, but there it is. I was a little lonely and a lot stupid and small pills seemed to be a cure to both of those issues. At least temporarily.

My girlfriend at the time was heavy into the rave scene and I was heavy into her so I basically went along for the ride. It was fun for a time, getting lost inside the sonic blanket that techno music tends to create. I felt like all the ugly parts of me were worn off by the continuous beat, the shadows infused with patterned lights, the sweat of eight hours of dancing. But regardless of where I went or how many pills I swallowed, one thing always happened. The sun came up.

Sunrise was such a depressing thing. I can still taste that first breath of fresh air when we’d push open a door and land back on the planet. The sun would be high in the sky, the rest of the world awake and alive, clean and happy and in motion. I’d stand there, my skin pale and thin, my eyes blistering at the brightness, my heart feeling like a piece had been left inside the dark warehouse. Then I’d go home and tell myself never again. Never again.

Regardless of your views on God, that feeling is universal. Maybe it wasn’t the sunup/comedown of drugs. Maybe yours was how it feels to finally drive away from your parents at Thanksgiving with so many things unresolved or even worse, reopened. Maybe it’s Friday in traffic when you realize you’ve given a job you don’t like 40 hours you’ll never have back. Maybe it’s sleeping with someone you didn’t mean to or hurting someone you didn’t want to. I don’t know, it can be a thousand things. But we never get after parties.

I can’t once remember a time when I failed, when I threw it all away, only to be greeted with a celebration. When I got suspended from college there was no party. Shoplifting, no party. Near death skateboard accident, no party. But, and if you can see where I am going I guess that’s a good thing, God is the king of the after party.

That blows my mind, because I used to think God was the keeper of the consequences. I thought that if I could run from him, the results of my jackassery (an actual word) would never catch up to me. I’d never have to face the music if I just got far enough away from God.

But that’s not true is it? Our actions give birth to consequences, not God. When I hurt my wife, the hurt exists, the wound blossoms whether God ever comes into the picture. In the Bible it says, the wages of sin is death. The price of sin, the cost of sin is death. That’s not God’s price for this life. That’s sin’s price.

Where does that leave God? Where is he in that moment when the door is thrown open and the light of a new sun or eyes of a spouse or work performance review reveal a mistake? Waiting to throw a party.

That’s so ridiculous, but that’s how I think of God now. He’s the God of After Parties. He’s the one just waiting to hang a welcome home banner when we take but a step closer to him. He’s the one that greets scars with band-aids and balloons. I feel like I’ve written that a million times, but it doesn’t get old.

When we mess up, God wants to love us. When we fail, God wants to love us. When we have ruined our lives, God wants to love us. I am reminded of my friend R. He is a bulimic, drug addict with HIV. He once told me, “Why me? Why is God blessing me so much and loving on me? Why me of all the people in the city? Why do I get such good things?” That is an insane statement, but it’s the kind of thing people at After Parties say. R was expecting death and punishment and penance. Instead he got a party, a party so big and lavish, that even with HIV coursing through his veins, he can barely contain his joy.

Maybe you’re still inside that nightclub of regret trying to dance until the sun doesn’t come up again. Maybe you’re hiding in a relationship, content to wear a veneer instead of be who you really are. Maybe you’re dowsing that creative fire inside with a job you can’t stand. Wherever you are and what ever you’re doing doesn’t really matter to God. He wants to throw you an after party. That’s it. The only question. Forget the rules and the regulations and all the trappings of Christianity that are hard to swallow. The one thing, the simplest thing you need to think about is “do I want an after party?”

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