For those who don’t receive our mailed newsletter, RJ and I shared about some of our experiences with the Navigators in the Netherlands on our trip this summer. The Navigators in the Netherlands have an incredibly thriving ministry in the midst of a post-modern, post-Christian culture. They have figured out what works in bringing students to Christ and into a deeper relationship with God.
Where I believe most ministries operate on a more cognitive level (i.e. interacting with the Word of God), the Dutch have learned that in experiencing God, people want just that…to experience God fully. To experience God beyond just a cognitive level, but on an emotional, spiritual, and even physical level as well. How do the Dutch Navigators facilitate these experiences?
On the first day of the student leadership camp, where more than 260 staff and students from all over the Netherlands gathered to be poured into, to pour into others, and to be challenged in their walk with God, everyone in the camp participated in one of these experiential activities.
The time began with an introduction, where the speaker expressed that each person at the camp had brought at least one burden with them to that week. We were each asked to select a rock or a piece of wood symbolizing the burden.
We were then instructed to hike up a hill and into some woods in silence and meditate on various Scriptures that were being read along the way. I think God was also facilitating the event, as rain began to fall as we walked somberly in single file carrying our burdens, which seemed to get heavier the longer we hiked.
Some people chose small rocks and pieces of wood, to symbolize their smaller burden. Others chose large pieces of wood to carry with them, symbolizing a greater burden.
Those who had larger burdens often could not bear the weight themselves. They needed other brothers and sisters to help them bear their burden.
Slowly, we wound our way up the hill in the rain, over rocks, over puddles, into the woods, our arms quivering more and more with the weight of our burdens, until we reached the foot of a huge cross. And at the foot of the cross, each person was embraced and welcomed to the foot of the cross, a place of grace, where they may finally lay their burden down.
At the foot of a cross, one of the staff gave a quick message that I didn’t understand because it was in Dutch, but the time closed with everyone singing a hymn in Dutch, beautiful and eerie at the same time. And as participants sang, the sun burst through the clouds, almost as if God was saying, “You don’t have to mourn anymore! I’ve taken your burdens away!”
Though I didn’t understand everything that was going on because of the language barrier, it was still incredibly powerful to me. I can in one way cognitively recognize and understand that Jesus bears my burdens, and that I can lay my burden at the foot of the cross.
But it brings the concept to a whole new level when you experience it all, to feel the actual weight of your burden get heavier as you move forward, to feel slowed down more and more as you are physically hiking up the hill bearing this burden, to feel your arms trembling with the weight, to experience the warmth and emotion of being accepted as you were embraced and welcomed into a place of grace, and to experience the freedom and relief to actually leave your burden at the foot of the cross, finally realizing just how much it had weighed you down before.
It moves experiencing God beyond just a cognitive level, and into a more holistic and meaningful way, where you are experience God with your whole being, with your heart, with your mind, with your soul, with even your strength.
One of the things that I hear often from women who I have worked with over the years is, “I know that (insert spiritual truth) in my head, but how do I know it in my heart??” Heck, I ask myself that all the time!
But I wonder, I just wonder if experiences like these help to move spiritual truths from just head knowledge into the more transformative heart knowledge. It did for me.
**Photos courtesy of Jason, my favorite Jew of all! Besides Jesus, that is…