SPARKS, Part 1

Based on a sermon for Wildwind Community Church.

Last summer, I had an opportunity to get away and go to a pastor’s conference with a few friends and we decided to campout in a tent rather than spend a ton of money on a hotel. This just felt like the manly thing to do. It was a sort of “man make fire, sleep on hard ground, conquer the elements” kind of thing. I got to thinking about what it is about camping that I love so much and I think it has something to do with the sense of adventure that comes along with it.

I remembered a time a few years back when Lisa and I took a group of teenagers to a Young Life camp in Virginia. This camp was so beautiful! It was kind of nestled into a valley that was surrounded by mountains and wilderness like I had never seen before. This camp was one of my first experiences in leading teenagers in ministry and was actually one of the reasons that I began to pursue full-time ministry.

This camp was amazing.  We went mountain biking, we went hiking, we swam, we sat in the hot tub, we rode a zip line across the lake and I blobbed all of the kids about a 100 times. And then there was the high ropes course…

Let me paint this picture for you. The high ropes course at this camp was built on the side of the mountain, it may have just been a big hill, but to me it was a mountain. This course was basically a bunch of high tension cables strung up in the trees about 40 feet in the air. You get strapped in to a safety harness and put on a helmet and you work your way around, climbing from tree to tree with different obstacles at different points during the course. Since I was the leader, the camp staff told me I had to lead by example, by going first. You see, I am not a fan of heights. On this occasion leading by example took some serious inner-pep-talks.

“Okay, deep breaths. You are strapped in. You can do this. The first step is the hardest. Okay, on the count of three. Ready. Set. Go.”

It felt like it took me a day to take that first step off from the platform and on to the wire. My legs were shaking, my heart was beating like it was going to explode from my chest, and I was sweating. Then, they tell me that once I get half way across I need to stop and wait so that I can help the rest of my group get through the course.

So there I am strapped to a tree, trying not to cry, yelling encouragements out to 15 high school boys. Some of these guys were like monkeys swinging from tree to tree, no big deal. Some of the guys were even more afraid than I was.  But what was awesome is that we were all doing it together. The more confident guys were cheering on the guys who were freaking out and eventually the guys who were freaking out started encouraging each other. It was like this dangerous, scary, shared experience that took us out of our comfort zones and created some powerful connections within our group.

Have you ever experienced something like this? Have you stepped out of your comfort zone into a place of uncertainty? Have you ever been afraid to try something and found out that once you took that scary first step, you ended up right where you needed to be in order to grow and change?

To be continued…

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