Towards the end of college I was still a mess, but more attracted to the life and ministry of Jesus than ever before. My friend Hunter (a campus minister) knew I was rough around the edges, yet he took a chance on me by inviting me to work for a backpacking ministry in southern Colorado near Lake City. I wasn’t close to the spiritual maturity of the other college leaders and it was obvious. For example, I remember bringing a hymnal and not a bible to camp that summer because everyone would bring a bible and I wanted to be different. Dork, I know.
One night all the college-aged guides and camp staff were sitting around the fire, playing guitars and looking at the stars. One guy asked the group “what has God been doing in your life since you came to camp?” I thought this was a great question and I was thinking about my response as the others used words like providence, sanctify and accountability partner. When it was my turn I said “ever since I started seeking Jesus I have noticed that I don’t say the F-BOMB for every noun, adjective and verb like I used to”. All eyes were on me as I had a look of pride on my face for the baby step I made towards Jesus. One guy responded to me in a sarcastic tone that night and I’ll never forget that he said “whoa Nate, way to go big guy!!” The smirk on his face would have been wiped off with my boot in the pre-Jesus era, but instead I just walked away deflated.
I remember climbing into the old phone booth at the camp and telling my mother about what just happened. She didn’t focus on the Nimrod’s response at the campfire, she told me how deeply proud she was of me for the things God was doing in my life and my willingness to be open to Him. God wasn’t close to being finished with me, but at least He had begun a good work in me.
The Take Home- This was and is my story. I was crushed by legalism and the lack of grace. Yet, even I can be impatient and lack grace with my own students. I often forget to allow the baby steps of faith that I needed when I was a teenager. Why do I forget? Occasionally I can be so focused on fast spiritual fruit that I neglect the process that God is leading one of these teenagers on. On the flip-side, my mother’s response was literally life saving. May God give us the eyes to see and the mouths to praise each step of the spiritual process, no matter how small.
(If you don’t know me, you’d probably think I cuss like a sailor due to two posts on the F-Bomb. I don’t. But I have learned much about God and his people surrounding the subject.
As far as the camp, it was the catalyst that launched me into ministry and I’m forever grateful for Hunter and the others who loved me well.)