"God's ability to perform is far beyond my our prayers - even our greatest prayers! I have recently been thinking of some of the requests I have made of Him innumerable times in my prayers. And what have I requested? I have asked for a cupful, while He owns the entire ocean! I have asked for one simple ray of light, while He holds the sun! My best asking falls immeasurably short of my Father's ability to give, which is far beyond what we could ever ask." ~ John Henry Jowett
Two weeks ago I got back home from the best week of my life. A week that I can honestly look back on and say with confidence that it was the best week of my life. It even surpassed the time that I went to Italy, which is probably now the second best week of my life. But it was an amazing time. A time with little time to myself, lots of time spent with high school kids, and lots of time spent doing activities that I don't and wouldn't ever do if it wasn't for a faith, a hope, and a deep, abiding love for my Savior.
To really understand the depths of this week though, I have to go back a year. The summer of 2009 was probably the hardest summer of my life. Not because of any terrible tragedies in my family or friends, thank goodness, but because I was just completely broken and felt suffering to my core. It was like a deep fissure opened in the crevices of my heart - deeper than I think I will ever realize - and from this gulf rose so much pain, hurt, and despair. It was a time of wrestling and doubt - deep doubt - and lots of tears. Pain that you just feel in the marrow of your bones.
Thankfully, with the changing of a breeze, September came and broke through with a breath of fresh air. I loaded up my fall with fun, friends, and prayer. I was going to start leading Young Life at a different high school and after our Leader/Committee Weekend, I was so excited. I was ready to start letting go and being "a fool for Christ", in the words of our speaker.
But God is funny. He certainly answered my prayers, but in a way that I completely took me by surprise. Instead of ever really getting a chance to lead YL at the other high school, kids from the school where I had been leading started to show up in droves. Actually, it was probably more of a trickle and then the droves came. We had a camp-out event in November (probably the craziest 48 hours of my life) that brought about 75 kids - and 4 girls rode in my car and from there it just took off. They were fans and were "in" and kept showing up. And then they started to actually want to do stuff with me! I had never had kids want to do stuff with me.
Fast forward to July 17th and 5 of these amazing girls boarded the bus to take us to Lake Champion. And from that moment until our bus pulled back into the commuter lot on July 24th, God moved in ways that I had never imagined possible. From having energy to make it through the first two days of camp (which were probably the second craziest 48 hours of my life) to courage and bravery to talk about Jesus to these girls - to heck, just have enough courage and bravery to talk to them! - to just surrendering each day to God and letting His Spirit have His way - it was incredible. And the most amazing and humbling thing is that I had nothing to do with it.
I ran through an obstacle course, leading 13 girls in our cabin through the darkness with a flaming torch. I screamed and cheered my lungs out throughout a chips competition. I volunteered to be in a skit in front of 500 kids as Bella from Twilight. I hung out in the trees for 45 minutes on a ropes course and then "swung" down via the death, errr, bucket swing. I led cabin times, times at each night in which I got to talk with girls about Jesus as a group. And then I got to have "one-on-one"s with the girls, talking about all sorts of things - boys, Jesus, tornadoes, puppies - and loved each moment. I got to pray an "ABC" prayer for my girls. I got to go on a New Christian walk with them. And I stood beside them as they proclaimed in front of everyone that they had decided to surrender their lives to Christ. But all I really did was show up and surrender my inhibitions and fears to Jesus, and His Holy Spirit took care of the rest.
For this is the thing - I cannot claim that my spirit, my self had any part to do with this. I was on some kind of autopilot all week. The only time that my "self" really showed up was during a torturous session in a canoe at an awful early time in the morning (and it was ugly - perfect storm for me to lose my patience - thankfully it too had an endpoint). And if my self had showed up, it would have held me back in terror from everything - because there really isn't much that I like about camp - in fact, the first 48 hours are the most torturous for me. So you see, I can't claim anything about this week had anything to do with me. It is sooooo humbling, but oh so good.
For I can't explain how difficult it has been to be back in the "real" world. To go from a place and time in my life that I knew mattered and in which I got to witness kids choose life over death and in which I let God have His way and not let fear hold me back. And then I come back home and work in a cube. It is hard to come down from the mountain.
But here's the thing...it is just starting. Even as I descend from the peaks of my experience, I now get the privilege to help shepherd these girls along their walks and as they take their first, real, new steps in a life centered on and surrendered to Christ. And that is both scary and humbling. I feel as if I am starting all anew and afresh, stumbling along in the darkness, not wanting to make a mistake. But I wouldn't trade this for the world. It is a feeling of being both undone and all in.
And so I look back at the year in amazement, wonderment, and awe. How at the same time God both repaired and prepared me. He heard my pleas in the dark and let the few rays of light that faith clung to burst into blinding sunshine. It is a miracle that He has truly blessed me with. What a difference a year makes.
Thank you Abba. I am completely undone by Your faithfulness. I am all in - for Eric, the speaker, spoke the truth. There are many things that I will get to do in heaven - but the chance to bring people to Your feet to receive Your love and grace will not be one of them. That alone I get to do here on earth. Thank you for the gift - a gift that has felt more like a curse some days - but the true gift and privilege it is to get to tell high school kids about You and Your love. And not just high school kids, but all men and women. I surrender this imperfect and sinful vessel into Your hands and thank You. Thank You for the taste of real life You have given me. I am undone and I am all in. Amen.