A week in the Upper Peninsula
I spent last week in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with 80 Northwestern students at InterVarsity's Cedar Campus. We take the students up there at the end of every school year for a time to relax, connect with God in the beauty of his creation (and man oh man is it beautiful), receive training in ministry, and prepare plans for the upcoming year of ministry on campus.
I must confess that I entered this week with a feeling of 'have to.' It is meant to be restorative and restful for students, but for staff it is often exhausting and I was bracing myself for that. It also internally represented that last big hurdle before summer break would begin and my schedule would slow down tremendously. Hmm...it all sounds a bit self-absorbed as I write it now. At any rate, we start the week asking the students to take a three-hour retreat of silence - to get alone with God for three hours and spend time in the Word, prayer, journaling, silence, etc. I was tempted to use the time to finish up some teaching plans for later in the week, but I sensed the Lord pushing me to meet with him. So I found myself a rock along the shore of Lake Huron and spent some time with the Father. I felt dwarfed by the beauty of my setting, and it was sweet be reminded that Someone greater, more majestic, more awe-inspiriting created it all. Here was part of my view:
Thankfully, the Lord used that time to reconnect me to the truth of who He is and who He says I am. I left with a feeling of 'get to' rather than 'have to,' and a willingness to serve the students.
I feel like God has used this year to teach me a lot about what it means to be in 'full-time ministry.' I entered with such idealism, knowing I'd get to do the things I love to do and am passionate about - and that's true! But its also true that when I'm tired or struggling it is hard to live in the tension of 'having to' serve. It can be hard knowing there is a tacit understanding that I 'have to' serve even when the 'get to' attitude is gone. It's difficult to go to a discipleship meeting with a student and try to be pointing them to the Lord, when I am also feeling distant from Him. It is an odd new level of accountability in my own walk with the Lord, knowing that when I choose to be disobedient or lazy in my faith, the students and ministry indirectly (and sometimes directly) suffer. Sometimes that feels like a burden, but mostly I rejoice in being pushed to a deeper understanding of what it means to follow after Christ - trusting, wrestling, hoping, persevering.
Of course, its not pursuing growth for the sake of InterVarsity or even for the sake of the students, but it is living into the fullness of who Christ created me to be and daily asking him to teach me more of what that means. That's the heart of ministry and that's the only valuable thing I can give to others.
Whew, that wasn't the direction I was anticipating this post to go...allow me to also follow through in saying that the week at Cedar was great! I had some wonderful conversations with students, God gave me favor when called upon to teach out of turn...I wasn't feeling quite ready but it went really well, and a student I've met with several times this year to explain the Gospel decided to invite Christ into her life - Praise God! What sweet end to the first school year!
Here's some more pictures from Cedar for your viewing pleasure :D
Some of the crew at dinnertime - don't they just look like so much fun!?
A group shot at the end of the beautiful "Narnia" trail
This left me questioning whether I really wanted to return to Chicago
Queen of the mountain!
The end of a day as well as this really long post...thanks for hanging in there.