Friday night under a thick blanket of stars, a thousand sets of footprints slowly forged a path up the dusty, dirt hill. Once on top, the night air would be pierced with the sound of a thousand voices singing as one, a symphony of praise to the Creator. Proclamations would be made of victories won throughout week. But as anyone who’s been to a mountaintop knows, before the summit can be reached, we must first be willing to engage the climb.
Of the three summers I’ve served as a camp counselor with my church up at Hume Lake Christian Camps, this year was by far the most challenging. A lot of little things went wrong, and kept going wrong, threatening to distract the students (and at times, us leaders) from what had brought us up to that special little lake nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the first place.
Every year, our week at Hume is characterized by connection—with God and with the community of people He’s placed us in. With no cell service and daily routines filled with chapels, worship, and discussion times, it’s a time to disconnect and go deeper, free from distraction. But as problems kept popping up this year, the girls in my cabin worried it would prevent them from enjoying that “normal Hume experience.”
Things weren’t going according to plan, and the immediate instinct was to fixate on the problem—to view the bumps in the road as blocks in the road, preventing us from getting to the good stuff.
Thankfully, after a few days and a lot of conversation, my girls realized that the problems they wanted to push away were actually opportunities to push in. Instead of preventing them from connecting with God, the problems were actually entryways through which that encounter could occur. Questions and doubts became opportunities to expose incorrect assumptions about God’s character, and let Him change perspectives. Frustrating emotions became opportunities to look inward, allowing for new dimensions of self-discovery. Being wronged became opportunity to lament the fact that this world is not what God intended it to be—that pain exists and that justice isn’t always achieved this side of eternity—but that God is always with us and refuses to waste a single moment of suffering we endure. He will always redeem, using the bad for our good and His glory.
We saw that Jesus isn’t so concerned with our circumstances as He is our character, and often it’s the very circumstances we’re wishing away that He uses to refine our character, and to show us more of His character. In other words, our struggles often produce the most profound discoveries.
I’m proud of my girls for leaning in when the temptation was to check out, because so much would have been missed had they not. There were a million little nuggets to be gleaned during our week at Hume. As Charles, our high school pastor said, “When God speaks to us, we need to speak it to others because it helps us to remember and respond.” That being said, below are a few nuggets I want to share.
I learned from the incredible camp directors Rich Baker and Rachel Closs that “to live and let live” is not love. That the highest expression of love is to risk for the sake of others’ good, and that you can’t force anyone to listen to God’s truth, you can simply keep speaking it patiently, in love. I was reminded that there are so many “lesser” things we look to in this life—success, relationships, control, etc., and they promise a provision and fulfillment only the Ultimate Thing—God, can provide.
I learned from my friend Austin during his seminar that making disciples, as Jesus commands us to do in Matthew 28:18-20, has more to do with the location of our hearts than it does the location of our feet. That making disciples of Jesus is a natural overflow of first being a disciple of Jesus—a lifelong objective we can achieve only when we commit daily to the process, continually fixing our gaze on Him. I learned that “when you think a thought that’s smarter than you, it’s probably from God.”
I learned from the week’s speaker Brad Bell that “God wants to meet with us and we need to meet with Him”—that there’s so much noise, we’ve forgotten how to hear from God. We look for entertainment to keep our minds occupied, but nothing will fill our tanks except time with God. I learned that “when our output exceeds our input, our upkeep becomes our downfall.” God is faithful to meet with and minster to us, but those “mountaintop moments” aren’t where we reside; they’re where God fills us up to send us out—so that we can accomplish the unique purposes He has for us in this world.
I learned through the week’s challenges that the most fulfilling life is a life that’s not focused on me. Being pulled a hundred different directions by the needs around me, there were moments I felt like I had whiplash. I really didn’t have time to think about myself or my own worries, and that was incredibly freeing. I rediscovered the truth that the space of being completely emptied of myself is the most rewarding space to be. Jesus didn’t design us to thrive in lives focused on our own selves.
When we finally made it up that dusty, dirt hill to victory circle on Friday night, we got to take in the fruit of the work God had been doing in the student’s lives over the course of the week and even before that, each on a unique journey only God knows the intricate details of. As students stood and proclaimed what they’d learned, my heart was filled with gratitude.
“Jesus is bigger than my problems.”
“God has taught me to put my faith and trust in Him even when I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“I am complete.”
“God has a special plan for my life.”
“I finally believe that my fear isn’t stronger than God, just louder.”
“God is searching us out as we seek Him.”
“Rejoice, for God is good.”
“It’s okay to be broken because I’m not alone.”
“God has removed my doubt.”
“I’ve decided to commit my life to Jesus.”
When life is easy, God is there. When life is hard, God is there. No matter what is going on in your life, God is present with you, wanting to speak to and reveal Himself to you—always.
When things don’t go according to plan, what if, instead of viewing that deviation as preventing us from getting where we want to be, we look to see how it can be the vehicle by which we’ll arrive exactly where we never knew we needed to be? God will use anything and everything that happens in our lives to draw us closer to Him.
The roads God has us on have a lot less to do with efficient transportation and a lot more to do with relational transformation, and we can trust Him in knowing that His work in us will always be worth the climb.
Hume Lake holds a special place in my heart and I’m incredibly thankful for all the work God has done and will continue to do there.
Loved spending the week with these beautiful friends— going to miss my twin on the right when she moves this weekend, but Vegas sure is lucky to have her!
I love these crazy, amazing girls with my whole heart!
Erin made the most adorable flower crowns for all the senior girls to wear on #fancyfriday!
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