Social media makes me think of the” fourth wall.” It is a term that comes from theater or TV, and because I grew up watching “Full House” that is the show that comes to my mind. I remember as a kid always wanting to see what the living room looked like looking out from the staircase. But that “Fourth Wall” was always where the viewers looked in on the Tanner family. So I never saw it. That “Fourth Wall” separates the characters in the show from us, the viewers, and the only thing that gets through is what the writers and actors want us to see, the script.
Social media… It’s the same way. I don’t post much these days. I have a three year old, and a two year old, I work with teenagers, we are starting a non-profit, and sometimes I have to be a construction worker building a café, and each day another responsibility seems to arise. I find myself relieved to have days where I am just home with the kids, doing laundry, dishes, and cleaning the house. Those are easy days. But even on those days, sitting at a computer is not a luxury I get often. So I won’t lie to you, I have been guilty of allowing social media to be a “Fourth wall” to everyone watching our ministry from the outside.
I think from the outside it has to look like things are going so great, and I won’t lie, they are. They really, really are. God has blessed every step of this café. Every. Step. We got our IRS confirmation letter stating we are a registered 501©3, and we received it 4-6 months ahead of what we expected. A donor fully paid for our water filtration, and this week we completely installed every piece of gear in the café. The money has always come in at the exact right time, and the random people stopping in for a week, weekend, or day of volunteer labor has always been so profoundly of God, I can’t even begin to explain it here. Just realize this, when it’s just two guys building a café, everything takes longer. So when you are looking at a $10,000 deck and sidewalk project without money or workers, and then POW, they both show up, you know it’s of God. If it was once, ok. Twice, weird…. Every single time, you can’t give credit anywhere else.
But in all of the good, there has been bad. But I find myself convicted about hiding behind this “Fourth Wall.” Every time I read the bible, it’s an open book into the flawed character of the people in it. Here is the deal, if I wrote a biography on myself, I would conveniently forget the embarrassing parts. But the Gospel of Mark (from the mouth of Peter) covers all of Peter’s worst moments. What frustrates me at times is the way we mock him when we read those passages. Because who openly admits their failures right? Peter did. Matthew did. Paul did. Jeremiah did. Moses did…. No fourth wall for those guys. And then a missionary in Honduras posted on her facebook wall on one of the bad days. God totally did crazy stuff in a good way the rest of that day for her, but it was the moment of honesty I respected. And it was kind of the final moment I realized the American church is super good at putting on an “Everything is totally fine” face, when we all know it’s not.
This last year has been hard. I thought as we got closer to opening the café it would be easier, and I was stupid. Here is why. Acts 19. There was a man possessed by a demon, and some regular Joe’s who didn’t follow Jesus were all like, “We got this.” But they didn’t. The demon didn’t cooperate or submit to them. Finally they are frustrated and start one of my favorite interactions in the whole bible, “I command you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims to leave.’ Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And then the demon beat them naked.
For me it’s always been a message, the demon knew of Paul, and recognized him. Not because Paul went to church every week, but because Paul was changing the world around him. Demons knew Paul.
So I know as the ministry in Ogden grows, not numerically, but in impact, and as the café comes together, and as Ogden begins to be transformed by the Lord…. Darkness will fight back. And this is the part where I know what some of you are thinking, “The darkness cannot overcome the light.” Oh yes, I know. But if we aren’t careful we present a form of Christianity that God Himself never presented. Every person in the bible knew of God’s power, and of His victory, but every person in Scripture also struggled. The most faithful sinned, doubted, ran away, and felt abandoned by God at times. It just sucks that today a Christian has to die, and someone has to find their journals to realize that even the most righteous among us struggle with sin. But what is easier, is to not let anyone know. To hide it, not talk about it, and avoid it. What’s stupid about that though is the fact that when Jesus used the word hypocrite, he was calling people actors.
This last year has shown how faithful God is. It has shown how profound His grace is. As I follow Him I find myself completely unqualified for every task He gives me, but then He provides a way or a person to accomplish it with me. But the struggles of this last year have been real. We left our church, we left the partnership with Barnabas, there has been constant self-doubt and I have questioned every decision. The only thing that burdens me daily is one question, “Is this the decision God wants me to make.” From the name of the café, to becoming our own non-profit organization, to the way we do youth ministry, I ask that one question every day. And this last year we had so many decisions to make, not small ones, major decisions that would impact the future of what we do in Ogden. The Zac Brown band has a song I listened to on repeat, “Heavy is the head.” The lyric that hit the most, “Loved by few judged by many, bears this weight alone.” Is it the reality? Probably not, but for months I felt that way. I felt like every single decision was challenged, second guessed, and then began times of such self-doubt, and borderline depression.
There have been too many days where I was a bad husband and father. There have been stretches where I go directly from pouring concrete and digging trenches to walking in the door and doing dishes and cooking dinner for Quinn when she gets home. Those stretches produced some bad moods that I still regret. So much so that now I find myself asking early in the day and at the end of the day, “How have I been as a husband today?” Or “How have I been as a father today?” The stress has been high, the frustrations have been high, and at times my moods have been everywhere.
Then this last year things I hoped to never see have happened. I hoped we would never work with a teen who would take their own life. That happened. I can’t pretend that we were super close, but it is heartbreaking to know that a teenager who was in your house, who you had conversations with and tried to show love to, felt so alone that they thought the only way out was death. The longer we work with teens in the community , the more information they trust us with. It’s a blessing, and it’s a curse. It’s a blessing because they trust us, it’s a curse because it hurts to hear the life these kids fight through.
It’s been an emotional, stressful, burdensome kind of year. But it has been a year where I have experienced God differently than ever before. I received a word from the Holy Spirit, to leave where we were and go into unknown territory. And when I took that step of faith and left everything, it felt like there was silence. I was doing my quiet time one day when I realized something (meaning the Holy Spirit showed me), in order to get to the promised land you have to go through the wilderness. Moses did, Jesus did, the whole nation of Israel did. The trick is this, sometimes you go to the wilderness because of your sin (Elijah in the cave, Moses after killing an Egyptian, Israel after doubting God), but other times you go because you are called by God (Abraham going to a place he would be shown, Jesus going to the wilderness, Paul’s shipwreck). So, for months, while I struggled, I really questioned if I was going through all of it because of my sin, or because I was called.
But the wilderness, it produces perseverance. There were days… There were days when I was really going to quit. But I saw a vision one day, I walked into the desert. I had been walking in the same direction for months. If I quit I would have to turn around and go back where I was. I would have to walk in the desert , retracing the steps from where I came from to get back to the same spot. Another option was that I could sit down in the middle of this desert and die (not literally of course). Or I could keep going. I could take one more step, and then another. And slowly but surely I would get to the promised land. So each step has become one of faith, because I don’t really see what is on the other side, but I believe God’s promise.
What’s funny is that I think a lot of people might think the promised land is the café opening. That isn’t the promised land. It’s the holistic transformation of Ogden. That means a spiritual transformation and a physical one as well. It means that many people in Ogden choose to follow Jesus, and that the community physically reflects that reality in time. When we follow Jesus the transformation takes time, so it will take time. But I believe Ogden will look different in 15 years than it does now. I believe, with all of my heart, our teens will be following Jesus. I believe some of our students who have ended up in jail will be leading bible studies, I believe some of the students who dropped out of high school will be tutoring kids. I believe a movement is coming. That is the promised land. The café is what will propel this movement through God’s leading.
So I am not out of the wilderness yet. In fact, I stsill have some ways to go
And sometimes, you get a taste of what good is coming… Two days ago we hooked up the Espresso machine. All of our gear is operational. We could open the café tomorrow if we wanted to. Everything is done. Today, we have a fully operational Café! But we are not open. Here is why. As much work as we put into building it, we will put into operating it. Whatever God calls us to, we will do it well. So we begin training next week. I am not in a rush like I used to be, thanks to the wilderness. I know people question when we will open and my answer is simple, “When the Holy Spirit tells me to.”
As we begin training on operating a quality coffee shop, we will know when we are ready. And so, in the next two months we will set an opening date. And then the next stage begins, operating a business that doesn’t make a profit, but that makes an impact. Making money to spend it on serving people. God’s heart is truly a beautiful thing. The café will reflect what God has laid on my hear through Isaiah 58, “is not this the fast that I desire, to loosen the bonds of evil, undo the straps of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to break every burden? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; When you see the naked to cover him?”
The café is just a tool. It is a really cool tool, but that is all it is. If we get caught up in the thing, and not the maker of that thing… We call it idolatry. This season has been the most stressful season of my life. I say that with no doubt. But through this season I have learned a faith I never knew. I cannot put into words what it is like to think about what the building was two years ago… .And now we have a fully operational café. This my friends, is a good day. It might not be open today…. But today, we have a coffee shop!