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Last night I got home from Young Life camp with a handful of leaders and 22 middle school students.
Last week, I said “yes” to a friend who asked if I’d lend a hand where he was short female leadership for his adventure. I said “yes” because I love God and love students and traveling with them is familiar territory. I said “yes” because the person asking is dear to me and a co-laborer for The Kingdom, and that’s what we do in the Family of God.
I said “yes” because a girl who is looking for replacement car, a job, where she belongs at church, a new local anchor, and a healing path through a painful relationship thicket can only do just that—say “yes” to whatever comes her way.
I said “yes” because I’ve staked my life on the belief that God is in everything–anything that comes—the beautiful and the difficult, the easy and the painful, the clear and the mysterious.
Joy and Love can only fill our days when we embrace it all.
God is in this.
Loving God and loving students is what I am made to do.
I have to admit—suddenly pinch-hitting for a camp adventure seemed so crazy there was part of me that was expecting God to do something crazy in my life last week—like there’d be some major healing or revelation. I’d meet somebody who’d change my life, I’d find a job, I’d be set free forever from some thing that has a hold on my soul—you know, I’d come back with a story. Something to show for myself.
But I didn’t get that.
In fact, any home runs I might have scored even counted for someone else—for a team and church whose jersey I don’t actually wear.
I didn’t get a trophy, or an answer, or rescued.
What I got was a chance to be faithful.
I got one more day, each day, to do the thing I was made to do wherever I had the chance to do it. I was asked to be faithful to my Calling: I’ve been Called to life and love with students and with the global Church.
And, by His grace, I fulfilled that calling.
What’s more, I was counted worthy.
In spite of all my fear and frustration, hurt and sin, dysfunction and disorganization—in spite of 2 month’s worth of childish tantrum responses to what God has been doing in my life—yanking away what I love and had put my trust in—I was counted worthy to minister to messy middle school.
You should have seen the girls when we took away their phones and electronics. You’d have thought we were shaving their heads. The complaining and outright rebellion was absurd—which proved the phones really needed to go. We all had a much richer time without them.
I can minister to middle-school girls because lately, I’ve been one in response to my Father.
I wanted all sorts of things from last week, but what I got was the chance to check my sense of entitlement and obey in faith.
I got to follow my calling for its own sake instead of what I thought it might get me.
There weren’t fireworks for me last week.
What happened wasn’t a miraculous healing as much as it was a check of my vital signs: I still know the Gospel—there’s no concussion from my circumstances. My heart still beats for Jesus and bringing His people Home. I’m still breathing in and breathing out: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”
Mary responded to Gabriel’s news, “I am the Lord’s Servant. May it be as you say.”
Jesus prayed “Take this cup from me” then finally, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Last week, 6 kids came to know Jesus for the first time.
For the first time, they saw clearly His light and Love, and they gave all their days to learning how to live with Him.
Last week, I saw my friend/wild sidekick (and, thank God, minivan copilot)—this surfer-girl ballerina college senior with uncontrollable curls—I saw her set on fire as she found she is made for this. She’s made for the Adventure that is life in Christ, for laughing at stupid things, for pouring love and truth onto the mess that is middle-school girls.
Who wouldn’t say “Yes” to those things?
But it’s not like I knew that was going to happen.
When we say yes, we never really know what we’re getting ourselves into.
I thought I did. I’ve done summer camp and student ministry for years. My parents were Young Life Leaders thirty years ago and I’ve grown up hearing the stories. I got this, right?
Things like this—if you do them right and see them for what they are, you probably wouldn’t say “yes” so quickly twice.
If I really knew what I was getting into, I’d believe I wasn’t a person who’d say “yes” to**:
- Singing for 6 days straight—all day, to all kinds of music. (We’re talking endless Taylor Swift, Imagine Dragons, and The Happy Song)
- Dancing for more than 25 hours.
- Being chased across a field
- Helping 15 students carry a 400lb man on a mattress
- Being thrown in the pool
- Being dragged through knee-deep mud
- Hauling up a mountain
- Stringing out on the high ropes course
- 5 hours of sleep a night, some nights on a concrete floor
- Teaching the Gospel to younger kids
- Peacemaking in the piranha tank of middle-school girls
- Driving 23hrs 31 mins (yes, that extra minute matters) with 6 of them in a minivan.
If I’d have known all that, would I have still gone? Would I have done it cheerfully?
Times like these, knowing what’s coming actually makes us less capable.
It’s when we say “yes” before we know what it takes that we find out who we truly are. It’s in the unknown that we find out what we’re made of.
It turns out I am the kind of person who says “yes” to all that. That was a glorious mess, and I’d say “yes” to another.
Back in real life, it’s scary how many pressing, undetermined things I have to face. Unlike my presumptions about youth camp, I don’t think I know what I’m doing here.
All I can do is continue to say “yes” to the glorious mess of the unknown, believing that God is in it.
**Confession: I’m a little impressed by my list of accomplishments. Feel free to ignore that.