Endurance and Patience: Week 2

Where do I even begin? As it turned out, that verse that my sweet girl gave me last week has become my sanity. “He will strengthen you with all power according to His glorious might, that you may have great endurance and patience.” And He has been so faithful. Of all the lessons I’m learning, the biggest one is how to truly rely on God moment by moment for my strength, trusting that He will give me the exact amount I need right when I need it. Until now, it’s just been a concept, a theory. But this past week there were times when I had no idea how I kept going. I’ve been sick all week and hardly had a voice. There were times when I literally had to stop where I was, right in front of my girls, lift my hands and count to 5 and say that verse. There were times when my girls asked me questions that I had no idea how to answer, and somehow the right words came out. I’m learning that when you pour out everything you have, God will refill you.

At the beginning of the week I was constantly stressing and counting kids and trying to do everything right and pushing through the day to get to the end. But on Tuesday God really started convicting me to live in every moment and take advantage of every opportunity, to let the little things go and truly give my all. Suddenly trips to the nurse were no longer an inconvenience but a chance to talk with one of my girls one on one. And when I started seeing everything in this new light, I started seeing the purpose in all these intricate details that God had planned out since day one.

One girl in my group would never do anything on time. One morning we woke up at 7:00 and still didn’t make it down to breakfast until 8:10. Endurance and patience. She told me that she always heard me when I called her name and she just chose to ignore me. Endurance and patience. She cut down the other girls until they cried and then put her hands over her ears when I tried to talk to her about it. Endurance and patience. Another girl sought attention in being “accident-prone” — she would “spill” her cups of water on people about 5 times a day, “accidentally” slice open a paintball and smear it on her face, &c. She hurt herself constantly and had to go to the nurse for every little scrape, which was about 3 times a day. She whined about everythingShe was ridiculously disrespectful to me and all the other counselors, telling us to shut up and calling us liars when we had a schedule change. She pinched another girl and lied about it, and then acted like the victim even though we all saw her do it and refused to sit at the table with us. Endurance and patience. One night all of the girls somehow decided I was in love with one of the other counselors and thought it would be cute to run down to the showers screaming, “Babe loves ____!!!” Endurance and patience.

The days were so frustrating, but somehow there were moments of grace in the evenings that made the rest seem to fade away. Thursday night Caleb was leading “Give Me Faith.” I was pretty overwhelmed, so I slipped out of my row into the side aisle and knelt on the ground, singing the truth of the song with a more desperate need for God’s strength than ever before. “Give me faith to trust what You say, that You’re good and Your love is great. I’m broken inside, I give you my life. I may be weak, but Your Spirit’s strong in me. My flesh may fail, but my God, You never will!” When I raised my face from the ground and glanced over to my row, what I saw put me over the edge and the tears just rained down. All six of my girls were on their knees, eyes closed, hands raised, singing their hearts out. It was the moments like that that kept me going, when I could see past the frustrations and obnoxious behavior and look with God’s eyes on the precious hearts that He is calling back to Himself.

During quiet time on Wednesday, I was just chillin in my bed letting my thoughts wander when suddenly I felt like God was showing me that something would happen with my girl GG this week. I wasn’t sure why, because there was no real reason to think that — we hadn’t really talked or anything, so I didn’t know what was going on in her life. And to be quite honest, I was kind of hoping it would be one of the two more difficult girls so I could feel like I’d accomplished something. But God showed me GG. So later that afternoon when she was homesick and didn’t feel like playing in the creek with the other girls, I chose to see it as an opportunity instead of a difficulty, and we sat out and talked one-on-one for a while. The conversation never really focused around God, which disappointed me a little, and I was kind of afraid that was my chance and I missed it. But that wasn’t the case at all.

Friday night after worship, four of my girls came to talk to me, all emotional and saying they wanted to be closer to God and recommit their lives to Him. But truthfully, I wasn’t really feeling it from all of them and I didn’t want to push anything that wasn’t sincere, so I told them that we could talk one on one later, hoping that I would get a better feel for what was going on in their hearts. As it turned out, in the excitement of bonfire and smores and hayride and showers, three of them changed their minds and didn’t want to talk anymore. But one girl kept reminding me over and over, “Can we talk after showers? Can we talk before bed? If I brush my teeth quickly, can we talk?” And that girl was GG.

We had a good long talk on the porch of our cabin, wrapped in a fuzzy purple blanket, because all serious talks need fuzzy blankets, about how to live a truly surrendered life and trust God with everything, and how to reach out and take hold of the abundant life that Jesus promised, not just for eternity but now. And because of everything that God has done in me this week, I wasn’t spouting off cliche Sunday school phrases or telling her to repeat a prayer after me. It was raw, it was honest, it was personal, and it was such an incredible moment as GG and I sat there sharing and learning and praying together. Yeah, I’m the college kid and she’s the middle schooler. I’m the counselor and she’s the camper. But we’re in this together now, on the same journey, reaching for everything God has for us. And it was the most awesome feeling in the world.

“Come away with Me, come away with Me. It’s never too late, it’s not too late, it’s not too late for you. I have a plan for you, I have a plan for you. It’s gonna be wild, it’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be full of Me!”

Published in: on June 23, 2012 at 10:46 pm  Comments (1)  
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Fire Fall Down

On Monday we did the climbing tower. I was fairly confident at first and started up fast, thinking, “Oh, I got this.” But halfway up I hit a point where I couldn’t find anywhere to balance. All the rocks around me were too small to stand on, and by that point I was starting to realize that I’m not nearly as strong as I thought I was. And I also learned that I’m really not good at admitting defeat. I couldn’t make it to the top, and it felt like a huge failure. It temporarily erased the confidence that I had built up over the last few days, and I felt like it cancelled out all my other accomplishments that I had been so proud of before. When I got back to the cabin to shower before dinner, I just sat down in the corner of the shower and cried. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t do it, and then I was embarrassed that I was embarrassed and was making such a huge deal out of it.

Mrs. Sharon (Mom) led a powerful devotional that night, and I felt like every word of it was spoken straight to me. She talked about how we try to self-generate the qualities that we think we need, but we can’t equip ourselves. She asked the group what are some things that we fear, and Mr. Fred answered, “Being unable to do things we think we should be able to do.” That had been so me at the climbing tower. I knew I should be able to climb to the top, and it made me so angry that I couldn’t. We talked about 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10, which I had written in my journal the night before I left for camp. “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

“The weaker the instrument,” Mom summarized, “the more clearly God’s grace shines through.”

Then we had a time of individual contemplative prayer in which Mom read/imagined us through letting go of whatever we were holding. By this point, I couldn’t hold in the tears anymore, and they dropped steadily onto my lap. She had us write down what it was we were giving to Christ. I’ll write that here, but I’ll also add how He responded to me:

I’m holding everything I need to prove. It’s a long list. It’s heavy. I’m tired of carrying it with me. He takes it from me and we begin to talk. He asks why I was so upset about not making it to the top of the climbing tower, and I answer that I want to be strong and self-sufficient. He takes it from me and responds, “But this way, I can be strong for you.”

We all went outside with our pieces of paper to where there was a fire waiting. One by one we crumpled them and threw them in the fire, and sat around the circle watching them burn. Caleb was playing his guitar and singing “Let Fire Fall.” After we repeated those words a few times, building up to the climax of the bridge, Caleb started playing louder and more intensely, and raised the song an octave from its soothing tempo into a passionate cry – and as soon as his voice rang out, there was a quick burst of flame as the fire sparked loudly. The timing was too perfect for coincidence. We all knew it was something else. And it was one of the most amazing, powerful things I have ever witnessed God do.

Published in: on June 2, 2012 at 10:33 am  Comments (1)  
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the answer to life, the universe, and everything

Of all the promises in the Bible, I think the one that keeps me going most often is one found in the little book of Zechariah, in the Old Testament and easy to miss amid all the “boring” reading of the minor prophets.

But it’s the answer to every question. Every complaint. Every cry.

Not by might. Not by power. By my Spirit.

When I’ve done all I can do and I’m completely exhausted. When I’ve poured myself into someone emotionally and I’m utterly spent. When I think there’s no way I can keep going.

Not by might. Not by power. By my Spirit.

When I mess up time and time again and wonder why I try.

Not by might. Not by power. By my Spirit.

When I’m hurt. When I’m tired of waiting. When I don’t understand.

Not by might. Not by power. By my Spirit.

It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable. It provides me with an intensity and a determination I could never have on my own.

Ephesians 1:19 says that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us. If we just reached out to tap into that incredible power, what could we not accomplish? Where our humanity limits us, God goes above and beyond.

When I can’t keep going, He can. When I don’t have the words, He does. On my own, I won’t get far. But if I put my hope in Him, I will “mount up on wings like eagles; I will run and not grow weary, I will walk and not faint.”

Relying on my own strength, I’ll never make it.

Relying on Him, I’ll never be overcome.

Published in: on February 19, 2012 at 10:46 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Strengthening

I am collapsed on the ground, unable to move. My whole body aches. I have no strength to rise, no willpower to go on. I am drained, helpless, used up.

I had thought I could take on the world. Invincible, I called myself. But invincible had turned out to be only a meaningless word used by the weak to feign strength. “Invincible” had only brought me to my knees. Utterly alone, feeling as though my life was completely up to me, I had felt that I needed to prove something by my self-sufficiency. I had thought I could take on the world, but instead I had taken a beating. I said I was invincible, and the world laughed. I stood tall, and it towered over me. I fought, and it crushed me. And now here I am, weaknesses exposed, insecurities revealed, frailty highlighted by failure.

I can’t bear for anyone to see me like this, at my lowest point, hardly caring whether I live or die — though if I were honest, I would have to confess I wished for death as I felt myself begin to fall.

But death was not part of His plan for me. My failure marked not the end, but the beginning of Life. For as I kneel here in despair, helpless and alone, I feel Him gently cup His hand underneath my chin and lift my head to meet His steady gaze. “Stand to your feet, my child,” He said tenderly, “for those who hope in Me will renew their strength. You will soar on wings like an eagle. You will run and never grow weary; you will walk and not faint. For I was nailed to a cross, helpless, so you could be free. I chose not to move so that you could. And invincible is possible when your strength comes from Me.”

I feel life begin to return to my paralyzed limbs, and I am awakened to a sense of determination I have never felt before. Renewed by His power, infused with His might, confident now and sure-footed, I take my first step with Him. And suddenly, holding His strong hand, I realize that maybe I was never alone after all.

Published in: on July 13, 2011 at 12:24 am  Leave a Comment