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This is Aloha: What Hawaii Taught Me About Restoration 

The most exotic place I had ever been up until this point was Mexico. You should ask me about that trip some time. I assure you the story will have you running the gamut of emotions, and possibly crying at points. Needless to say, Josh and I are keenly aware that sunscreen is absolutely, positively, the most important item to take on a beach vacation. Take my word on this – overdoing it on sunscreen is far better than overdoing it on aloe, no matter how bad you want that “tan”.

When my brother, Taylor, called me up and said we were going to Hawaii in two months, I was elated. Taylor is far more adventurous than I am naturally inclined to be; I knew this trip would be full of new experiences, the opportunity to push my limits, and the chance to soak up one of the most spectacular places on earth.

It did not disappoint.

Significant for a few reasons, I will forever count Hawaii as one of the most meaningful vacations I have ever taken. For one, never did I ever think I would be hipster enough to proudly state my affection for both Chacos and Enos but I’ve changed my mind on both accounts.

But most importantly, this trip bore the mark of God’s grace and favor. You see, a few short years ago my brother and I would have both told you that our relationship was marked by resentment and misunderstanding. It is often hardest to love those closest to you and Taylor and I were proof positive of that truth. Though we both loved the Lord, our relationship represented a stronghold that we had not yet given over into His hand.

But our God is a God of reconciliation and restoration. Our salvation is built upon those grounds. Though we in our sins had created a chasm between our unrighteousness and the Lord in His holiness, Christ reconciled us to Himself.

It is for this reason that God despises grudges and resentment and bitterness. We who have been given so much have no right to harbor discord in our hearts. We who have been forgiven so much have no right to be stingy in forgiving others.

What’s more, Scripture goes beyond mere forgiveness. He commands that we love others as He has loved us (John 13:34) – a love that brought Jesus to Calvary (John 3:16). He desires that we live as members of His church, serving together and representing His community well (Gal. 5:13). We are not to compare. We are not to harbor strife (Eph. 4:32).

We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.

And yet, we more often than not apply these truths only to easy relationships. The ones that are hard are the ones we shove under the rug and allow to fester. But the Lord desires more of us and for us than bitterness will allow.

As Taylor and I grew in the Lord, discord became conviction. Conversations were had, accusations dropped. We had to come to the table and stop defending ourselves. We could no longer place being right above living in community. That kind of reconciliation is transformational because it is infused with the Spirit of Christ.

Taylor is now one of my dearest friends and closest companions. I admire his heart for the Lord and he pushes me in my own walk with Christ. As opportunities arise, I jump at the chance to serve alongside him in his ministry. Though we are in different states, we speak for hours each week. His friendship is a treasure.

And so, I tagged along on his vacation and he purposed to see to it that the trip became just as much mine as it was his. But the setting seemed to be saying so much more.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” – Psalm 19:1

In case we ever forget the magnitude of the Lord, we have only to look at the expanse of His creation and be reminded that He spoke it into existence. What’s more, the Maker of this universe desires communion with His people. He desires to dwell with His people and work among them. He desires to restore that which is broken and reconcile that which is divided.

When I was standing on the ridge of the Waimea Canyon, hiking the Napali Coast, flying over the Hanapepe Valley, or gazing out over Polihale Beach, the Lord seemed to be shouting His majesty and whispering promises of His unfailing love. And in the midst of it all, I was humbled to remember that my Lord had redeemed what I could not, for His glory and for my joy.

Life is sweeter when we live as He intended – without bitterness and strife, but in community and service of one another.

We reserved one night of the trip for a sunset sail. While we willed our captain closer to the pod of whales nearby and dolphins danced in our wake, they played a song entitled This Is Aloha. I assure you that song is only appropriate in those circumstances, but its meaning was fitting. The Hawaiians consider Aloha to mean more than hello and goodbye. It conveys a spirit of compassion and peace – a prescription for how to live.

This was our Aloha.

Goodbye to our former selves that are most consumed with self. Goodbye to harboring past hurts.

Hello to coming before the Lord humbly and with overwhelming gratitude for who He is and what He has done. Hello to recognizing that because of who He is, we now live in communion with Christ and one another.

Hello to building a life upon that foundation.

Here’s to many more vacations, conversations, service opportunities, and adventures with our God-given community. May that community be a reflection of Christ’s work in us.

Aloha, friend.

-Madison Hetzler

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