One of my most significant periods during my years in New York City was that of the FAT Kids. It all began when I opened up my Manhattan apartment in Hamilton Heights every week to artists and college students for fellowship, and worship. As we began to shed our masks it soon became obvious this was the birth of something rather inexpressible. Perhaps it was due to the fact that most of us were young starving artists in Manhattan who found common ground, or perhaps it was just because this group of broken dreamers discovered that they could find true strength and acceptance from intimate community.
Over the next five years we called ourselves the FAT Kids which stood for FAITHFUL, AVAILABLE and TEACHABLE. Every week we huddled into my small living room and shared a meal together. Then we would sing with the guitar, study the Bible, wrestle some of life’s difficult questions and pray together. We shared our struggles, our darkest secrets, our fears, and somehow our stories became intertwined with one another. Outside of those weekly gatherings we played together, dancing, smoking hooka, and celebrating our youth into the early hours of the morning.
We witnessed many milestones together. It was the FAT Kids who surrounded me in comforted when I had experienced a broken heart. It was them who made a way for me to go to India for the first time, not realizing how that journey was about to single handedly change the course of my life…
I had a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that all things, even the FAT Kids was to come to an end. One by one some of them married, moved away, or embraced newer callings. And in the winter of 2008, it was with a sense of sadness and failure that I brought an end to the Fat Kids era. However when a group of people have shared such an intimate part of their lives together it is impossible to truly detach from one another.
Last month, two former FAT Kids gave us reason to reunite. Melissa and Zach first met at my apartment a few years ago. A beautiful friendship blossomed among them and love was soon in the air. It brought my heart so much joy to witness their wedding in Chicago on July 17th as I joined the FAT Kids who had flown in with their spouses to lead worship at the ceremony. Like old times, we raised our voices together and I felt the hairs on my arm rise to the occasion.
That weekend, I got a small taste of what heaven must be like. There were numerous stories, and meaningful words of encouragement and inspiration. The wine flowed and the laughter rang through the air. For the first time in a long time, I did not have to worry about my image or what people thought of me. I was free, dancing with all my might as the sweat soaked my best clothing. I can’t remember the last time I was literally drunk from so much joy. At one point, the bride looked at us and said, “You guys! My heart…” She clutched her chest unable to find the words. I could not have said it better.
As I flew home from Melissa and Zach’s wedding, I pondered where I had come in my journey. Had I really forgotten what it meant to be truly free? I had set out to play a part in saving the world and somehow I had gotten wrapped up in deadlines, fretting over money for my orphan siblings, jobs to sustain myself, marriage plans, ministry events, my career path- the list goes on… The FAT Kids reminded me of the liberated man I once was.
As I thought back on the last 5 years, I kept coming back to a verse in Ecclesiastes, “In His time, He makes all things beautiful.” In the following weeks, I have come face to face with more challenges that test my faith and my joy. I now cling to those words and the memory of my giddy state with the FAT Kids in Chicago.