One major disclaimer: I have never personally been crowd-surfing (nor do I plan to). The metaphor may be a stretch, and it breaks down quickly: a rock star is the last thing I see myself as. I’m hardly even a musician. But bear with me for a minute or two.
The image of crowd-surfing has been on my mind since watching the TED Talk by Amanda Palmer. A good friend and fellow missionary sent me the video link, just when I needed a motivational speech (I need one at least every month). I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of her before — pardon my pop culture illiteracy. While some of what Palmer says may be irrelevant, I found it be on the whole thought-provoking.
She describes her career as a musician choosing not to work with a record label. Her radical strategy is simply to ask. And beyond a funding strategy, it seems to be a life philosophy for her — that to ask people for help is fair. That it creates a personal connection which is otherwise too easily lost in our society; that it allows the person being asked to meaningfully participate in a project; and that it actually communicates to that person that he or she is of incredible worth.
Palmer asks her fans for venues, donations, housing, meals, etc., especially when she and her band are touring. At one point she declares,
I maintain couch-surfing and crowd-surfing are basically the same thing. You’re falling into the audience and you’re trusting each other. … So I fought my way off my label…and I turned to crowd-funding. And I fell into those thousands of connections that I’d made, and I asked my crowd to catch me.
In Palmer’s label-less music career, I think there’s an analogy for my recent experiences of support-raising in central PA. I’ve spent the past several weeks quite close to literally “falling into” a small crowd of prayer and financial supporters — some old friends and some strangers — in a radius of several hours. I’ve slept in their beds, eaten at their tables, met them for coffee, participated in their everyday lives, and shared with them and their friends what God is doing in West Africa. I haven’t once worried about where I’d lay my head for the night; I’ve often had several offers. I’m riding a wave of open homes and generous hands reaching up in tangible support. It’s not as much terrifying or uncomfortable as it is reassuring and inspiring — at times, even exhilarating. To all of you wonderful homes and hands out there — THANK YOU.
Although, as much as my friends’ visible hands are giving me the confidence to “crowd-surf,” I know that what’s really holding me up is an even stronger, more lasting web of care. Yesterday morning Psalm 91:11-12 reminded me of the promise:
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
We are all being upheld and moved along by the hands of God, who owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10). I suspect that I personally just have the privilege of experiencing that reality more unmistakably during my itineration. But whatever material or bodily scaffolding on which we depend, God holds it together and is the impetus for our Spirit-led motion.
The time may come when you or I are without the visible arms and homes of caring friends. Yet even then — when there is no crowd to “surf” or “fall into” –Â I pray that I’ll have eyes to see that “underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deut. 33:27)