Fresh out of the ‘80’s, Mississippi Angie picked up an AIM pamphlet at the Tulsa Workshop. Eighteen years ago, I dropped out of college, loaded up the Chrysler and moved out west with only a Michael W. Smith cassette and a dream. And a small portable t.v. And a coffee pot. And some silverware. And a curling iron. That Chrysler was huge.
Fortunately AIM didn’t disappoint… incredible friendships, the good news study with Rex, the best singing ever, area churches, brown bag lunches, mission term, parading flags around auditoriums…
Overall, I fit the “good AIMer” profile: very studious; definitely a rule-follower; of course I crushed on some of the guys, but managed to flirt my way through temptations. I was one of those who thought I might not be invited to the mission field because I hadn’t completed all the Daily Bible reading assignments… Looking back at little legalistic Angie trying so hard is exhausting!
As AIM alumni, our time in Lubbock is likely where any similarities end. From there, we went global, serving under different missionaries in different kinds of churches… And now we’re really all over the map – in more ways than one. “After AIM” wasn’t just for “Adventures in Matrimony.” Some of you are still trying to find your place. Not to dash your paradigm of hope, but even with help from AIM and support from alumni, there’s no handbook for this.
Earlier this year Buzz Aldrin was interviewed on the 40th anniversary of his “short-term mission trip.” We’re not astronauts, but it’s still similar, don’t you think? Being launched into space, landing on foreign soil… How do you follow that? Speaking about the title of his autobiography, Buzz said, “It was not ‘Journey to the Moon’ it was ‘Return to Earth’ because that's what was difficult for me.”
AIM can take you places, geographically and spiritually, but it can also serve as a whirlwind of distraction from issues that have to be dealt with sooner or later. Aldrin spoke of his mother’s suicide that took place a year before his moon landing. His anxiety from that tragedy coupled with his own tendencies toward addiction to alcohol rose to the surface in his unstructured life after the mission.
“And I was left without goals to pursue, without a team to work with, and I had to begin recovery from that. That's a long process, and it's a process that (requires) changes in your life. But I went through the magnificence of Apollo to the desolation of recovery and I want to share those things with the rest of the world.”
AIM will always be one of the highlights of my life. It created a place for discovering God and self that is unlike any other. It deepened my reverence for the Word. It opened my eyes to the rest of the world, with its beauty and suffering.
But it’s not the pinnacle of my existence. It didn’t get me through the unyielding sadness of clinical depression. It’s not a reserve tank of spirituality that I can live on today. It’s not Jesus.
So, if it’s hard for you, I feel you. I’ve never tread a traditional path. But I keep coming back to Jesus.
There is life after AIM. And maybe your best spiritual adventures are yet to come.