I’ve been thinking a lot. Maybe I’ve been sitting in the proverbial valley so long that I’d forgotten what it was like to just enjoy God.
We’re about halfway done our time in Santa Barbara, and it’s nothing like I’d worried it out to be. Typical. This experience, this time, is my time of rest and refreshing on top of the mountain. God’s grace has carried me up here, and I didn’t know I was missing these views. Views of God’s grace, experiences of simpler life, and times of refreshing that I haven’t felt in forever, if at all. But Steve and I have found so much rest in the simplicity of life in Isla Vista. The street we live on is called Sabado Tarde, which translates to “Saturday Afternoon,” and Sabado Tarde is, as Steve has said, a perfect summary of our time and experience here – a restful 3 month “Saturday afternoon” of simplicity, and witnessing simple faith expressed in the church we’ve been attending here.
Our church here, Light & Life, meets in the park, everyone brings their camping chairs every Sunday. They meet outside, rain or shine. The church is comprised of about 20-30 people. Most of them homeless. Most of them people you wouldn’t see in your typical suburban church. They serve. They love. They are hungry for Jesus, and you can feel it. This church lives up to its name. This church is indeed a living expression and example of simple, and powerful faith. Pastor Dave leads worship, as well as preaches. From the music to the message, everything about this church is simple, and yet so profound. It’s pure faith, and true love expressed so simply, and it is so radiant in this community. It has been a great joy and refreshment for us to be amongst these people, to do life with them, and to be reminded that simple faith in action is powerful. Pouring out God’s love, and walking by the Spirit doesn’t have to be so complicated. Even the simplest steps of obedience can have a profound spiritual impact.
As I continue to reflect, I realize I haven’t enjoyed being with God, just for God, in so long. I haven’t been able to just be with Him without an agenda, or cry for rescue, in a very long time, or so it feels. And my time here has been so much of that – learning to live life stripped of all the to-do lists, living life rejecting old habits and attitudes, and just learing to walk by the Spirit, learning to embrace the life and peace that comes with walking step by step with the Spirit of God. After being at Light & Life, and seeing their simple yet constant reliance on God, it inspires me to want Him like I can’t get enough of Him, and on the days I feel self-sufficient, praying even harder for even more dependence on Him. The Spirit of God has taught me never to take time with Him for granted – never to let myself be comfortable for one second in thinking that “I’ve got this, I’m okay.” Out here, I’ve been learning to cultivate the habit of wanting and needing to always need God. I’m learning daily repentance, which is something I never did before – repenting every day because I don’t want any unrepented sin, no more hindrances, between God and I. I don’t want to miss the things He is calling me to, and while His grace has been sustaining me even in my failings, I still don’t want to miss another chance to glorify Him.
From the first week here, God has used Romans 8 to shape my prayers and my thoughts throughout my time here. Alongside Romans, Exodus 3 – a word that God has used to remind me that He speaks when we are paying attention to what He is up to, when our eyes are looking for what He is doing, and where He is working. God works in the simple things, the small decisions, the humble service, the menial tasks, the everyday things, and I want to be ready to glorify Him whenever and wherever.
Santa Barbara has given us much needed rest, as well as a beautiful view of how much a simple life and simple faith can bring healing and rest. Simplicity is a good place to be, simplicity means all the unnecessary complications are stripped away, and we can have just a clear view of God, and how He works in the uncomplicated things. We’ve booked our flights home, and I’m so sad to leave this place. I’m not ready to jump back into the overwhelming rhythms of life back in Ottawa. But, by grace I’m hopeful that we can reign in our lives under God’s leading, so that we can bring this simple lifestyle and outlook back with us, and not let our lives be ruled by a full schedule.