My friend Morgan, whose blog you can read here, recently wrote a post about what she has learned this summer. Her post has stuck with me over the past few days, and so I decided to do something similar.
For some of you, the summer isn’t terribly different from the rest of the year. But, for college students, summers often look radically different from the rest of the year. When my friends and I all return to Abilene in the next few weeks, we will spend some time sitting around sharing our stories from the summer.
My friend Morgan is working in the psychiatric unit at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota.
My friend Drew is interning with Beltway Park Baptist Church in Abilene. He is working with our senior pastor. In addition, he is on staff for Beltway’s school of Discipleship. Right at this moment he is in Uganda on a mission trip with the school.
My roommate Eric is working with the youth at First Baptist Church in Jayton, TX, a town near Abilene.
My friend Logan and I are interning with First Colony Church of Christ. I am working with children while he works with middle schoolers.
My friends and I are scattered around, quite literally, the world doing the work of the Kingdom. Thanks to the miracle of technology I have been able to keep up with them, but the last two and a half months have been a trying time away from my community.
We will all get together soon and we will share stories. We will talk about the work of God. Within a week of being back in the same place we will slip easily into doing everyday life with each other, but before that happens we will need to hear each others’ stories. This is my initial contribution to that discussion.
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For me, my college summers have been spent giving of myself for the good of others. During the school year I am extremely focused on myself. I don’t have other people I am responsible for. I go to class to advance my education. I work for the Honors College so that I have money to pay my bills. The people I spend time with are my peers. I eat, work, study, and sleep all on my schedule. All of my associations are purely voluntary. I have the freedom of an adult with none of the responsibilities of marriage or children. I enjoy that life. But, if I weren’t part of a Jesus-focused community, then it could easily turn into an extreme selfishness.
But, my summers aren’t really about me. The first two summers I was a camp counselor. I was responsible for large groups of children. My job was to make life good for other people. This summer I am a ministry intern at a church. The same applies. My job is not about me. Other people are counting on me. I can’t just back out of something without harming others. During the year I can skip class or not study with no one hurt but me. When I am supposed to run an event, teach Bible class, or clean out the puppet closet, then I have to be more responsible. I can’t just head to Dallas for the weekend. I have to plan in advance to make sure my duties are taken care of.
The first thing I have learned this summer is that the trust of other people is not to be taken lightly. Your word is your bond. If you say you are going to do something, then do it. If you don’t, then you begin to build a habit of being disingenuous. This has helped me, this summer, to follow through with discipline regarding time spent in the Bible, time praying, and rising early. It is simple to extend the value of doing what you have committed to do for the sake of other people to doing what you have committed to do for the sake of your own good.
The other thing I have learned this summer is that gauging the hearts and intentions of people is just as important as gauging their actions. While good intent is never enough to justify bad actions, it is enough to vindicate the people doing those actions. People are more important than programs, events, or success in any way that the world has defined it. The people running the programs matter just as much as the people on the receiving end of them, and they are just as broken. It is no secret that I take issue with some of the basic assumptions about the way that ministry is done at First Colony, but I know that no one there intentionally opposes the Gospel. The staff have good hearts. They want people to know Jesus. They are not the enemy. They are allies for the work of the Kingdom. And, even though they, and their methods of ministry, are broken (just as I am), God is using them. He sort of kicks butt at using messed up situations, people, and methods. I will continue to oppose their methods (and assumptions) even while working within them because I trust God. And, in any case, to sink into cynicism and judgement is to oppose the Gospel. I have come dangerously close to opposing the Gospel this summer in the way I have responded to First Colony. As Randy Harris has put it, “Cynicism is the failure of the Christian imagination.”
So, be rooted in Christ. I tweeted earlier today: “I am in Christ. That is the starting place for everything else. Circumstances be damned, I am in Christ.” Despair does not become the Christian. Destructive, loveless anger does not become the Christian. They are the failure of creativity. The failure of imagination. Our Lord has told the greatest story of all time with the greatest outcome. Replace cynicism, despair, and anger with faith, hope, and love. A day is coming when God will make all things new. That is our hope. It is more than a future hope, though. If your roots go deep into Christ now, then even the absence of the shield of community will not allow the wind to uproot you. If you are in Christ, then what you risk in this world right now, be it reputation, joy, success, money, or even your life, are of little importance. Though I have spent this summer in less than ideal circumstances, doing less than ideal work, the fact that I have done it in Christ has given meaning to it.
My blessing from this summer:
Love creatively, work imaginatively, labor joyfully, and rebuke graciously.