-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I'm a gal who loves her illustrations. Therefore, this post will be told in an allegorical. Don't worry, I'll explain it as I'm telling it.
When it comes to tsunamis, they always start with an earthquake. The earthquake itself is not that dangerous. That's because their epicenter takes place off shore, in the ocean. Even if the earthquake does damage, it'd doesn't really kill anyone, or the causalities are few.
Fig Tree started way before the earthquake. People knew the earthquake could happen. The potential was warned way before I ever knew Fig Tree would some day exist. In this case, two cataclysmic earthquakes: church decline/death, and an immanent pandemic. Each of these were warned by different groups. The prophets of our age told us to prepare.
I'm a person who will leap without question if I feel it is where God wants me to be. Way before the earthquake, I felt God wanted me to go away from everything else. I set up camp in the wilderness, and then set to complaining. My prayers were bold, "Why am I out here, God?! No one can hear me out here!" I spent the years building a little out in the wilderness. Then I would go into town to tell people what I was doing.
I quickly learned the danger of the town. They were beginning to feel the hunger pangs of decline. I was going into town to bring people back with me to the wilderness. Those satiated found their comfort as a sign they had nothing to do, and would ignore me. Those who were feeling the decline/death would make bold promises of assistance, but really they wanted food. They wanted me to give them access to devour anything that was built, under the false illusion that Fig Tree's death would lead to their new life. It shocked me. I had grown up in town. I loved it. I lived in it. I wasn't used to seeing the ones I loved turned predator. I had to tell them I hadn't come to feed them, but to grow something that would nurture them in the future. With that, they had no use for me or Fig Tree.
I had no idea the earthquake was coming when I completely left the town. I simply felt that I needed to leave that moment, when leaving held power; leaving meant I was willingly losing something.
When the earthquake came, no one thought of what it would bring. No one prepared for what would come.
All of this I wrote about over the past few years. The earthquake were the first rumblings of the pandemic. We disregarded the warnings because we've heard them before. SARS, Swine Flu, Bird Flu. All these things were promised pandemics that didn't sweep across the world as promised. And no church saw their "set-up" as problematic to the earthquake and what it would bring.
The Rising Tsunami
It was only when the waters began to rise and overtake the land, that people began to immediately act. The flood waters came, and it terrified me.
Yes, terrified me. I was watching in the safety of the wilderness. God had led me to a place where I would not drown. It is terrifying to suddenly understand God's presence throughout the years, and understand why my prayers had remained unanswered.
I was also horrified by how the town reacted. "These are just some flood waters." "Sure, we'll be a little waterlogged when it's all over, but we'll move on." I watched the town as they opened back up as the waters continued to rise. I kept looking, and as I looked, it was difficult to keep building Fig Tree. I wanted to go back and try to save someone! These weren't just basic flood waters. We couldn't sit it out on our roofs and be okay. This was a tsunami!
But I couldn't do anything, and every time I went back to try, we were not moving forward.
Finally, I had this strong feeling that I needed to turn away and focus on what I could control. This didn't stop me from knowing what was going down. People were drowning. A few even reached out to me, hoping I could pull them up. I'd tell them how to leave the waters on their own, they'd ignore me, and I'd lament.
Now the waters have begun to still. This false calm that always comes with a tsunami.
We are here. This is now. We can feel a stage of the Pandemic is coming to a close, and all these churches that have survived so far are making plans in town. They've been doing their own lamenting, as they've watched congregants not able to hold on. They are also under the illusion that all those people who left for higher ground would somehow come back. But, that's not going to happen.
The Water is About to Recede.
The most dangerous part of a tsunami is not the coming of the waters, but it's when the waters leave. It's just water coming in. It's just one thing. Yes, devastating in it's nature, but only one danger. It's everything coming back. Anything the water tore up, comes back with it, and it only builds as it goes. The very foundations are ripped up and become things that can kill anyone still in the water.
At first, I thought when the waters began to rise, everyone was coming out to the wilderness. I thought this, because my lonely silence was suddenly loud! In actuality, the leaders of the town would use the wilderness to scream down to the town, where everyone stayed. It wore the leaders out, and finally, many were able to set up systems to keep their voice going while they stayed in town.
In actuality, everyone stayed in town. Everyone is still hungry. Everyone just wants the water to go away.
And it will.
I'm not writing this to get anyone out of the water. I'm not fooling myself. I know it's too dangerous to head in that direction. There are times I've cried over this, knowing with the megaphones set up in the wilderness, my voice is just too soft. Nothing I can say, can stop what's next. All I can say for the town, is this: When the waters have washed everything away, I hope I can help find something to save, a sacred remnant.
Meanwhile, I feel Fig Tree needs to be prepared in a different way. We are not in town. We never have been. Being a Wilderness people from the beginning means we never had to consider the flood waters in what we've done.
The problem I've had recently, is a problem of hope. Real honest to goodness hope is always planted in the field of lamentation. People cannot set their sights on something yet to be, if they haven't mourned and buried what has already been and can be no more. It's a very frustrating place to be. I've lamented. I've buried. I'm ready to move on. Meanwhile, people just want the hope without the work to find it first.
Hoping without first lamenting, is hijacking the destination of those who have worked through the process.
I shouldn't be surprised we find ourselves here. We are still living in a delusion that this is just a normal flood. Sure, just a little damage. "In a year we'll look back on all this and see it wasn't really as catastrophic as people were saying." We are also fighting against an influx of survivors that don't want to process what is gone, only get back to what was lost.
It has left me with very clear boundaries regarding where Fig Tree is going.
Fig Tree's purpose and goal:
Fig Tree exists to discover how God is already present in this digital wilderness and show that to those who go online.
We are not in the copy/paste business. We are not copying church and pasting it online.
Therefore, I'm looking for innovators. I'm looking for people who are willing to boldly try, boldly fail, and boldly try again. I'm looking for people who are not confined by the building. People who can take debris and turn it into treasure. People who can process what can no longer be, and be part of God's creative team to build what will be.
That's a difficult ask in an environment where the waters are about to recede. You're not thinking about innovating; you're about surviving. You just want to hear it's all going to be okay, when immediately it won't be. God has been outside of town/church/broken systems in general for years now. God has been calling us to join in. Immediately it's not okay, but eventually (if we follow God's path) it will be. I'm asking you to follow God, and get out of town. There's your real hope.