The air suffocated thought into fragmented syllables - floating particles swirled upward, slowly, softly deliberately at first, then fell loosely toward abounding green foliage of an immersed garden. I pedaled faster.
It was the second of four days as a volunteer youth leader at a summer camp with about 40 high school students. It was a place where each of us accepted a challenge to grow - to grow physically, emotionally, spiritually and for some, to grow through fear.
The year had left the remnants of a heavy snow fall. Rivers were flowing with abundance. The tides were high, the water temperatures cold and currents fast.
For a week, I was one of a small group of leaders where our steps of faith were slippery through precipitous terrain. Our group was divided in half to make our sheer number a little more manageable. Our steps were carefully measured avoiding the pit-falls of poison oak, sharp rocks and sweeping currents. The surroundings were beautiful. The trail was winding. My heart was open to the goodness of God's grace.
We had to travel light
There were underwater caves that required bravery. In what was called a birth-canal, brave souls jumped straight down a narrow shelf of rocks which launched them into a submerged opening. There were times that it was easier to jump off a cliff in order to avoid the sheer climb or swim strong currents to avoid the trepidatious footing on wet rocks. Water snakes were commonplace which made a simple choice of being in water or on rock a personal preference; i chose the water in order to keep the pace. Sometimes my stomach skimming over jagged edges.
The morning had been one of self-preservation but when we stopped, faith stepped in in order to loosen my grip of fear so that God could use me as an instrument of encouragement.
There was no escape from our circumstances. The group needed each other in order to make it safely home. With a communal breaking of bread, gulps of water and the warmth of the sun on heated rock, the group spread out to enjoy the feeling of rest.
For most, it was an easy adventure. Physical agility, peer-pressured stamina and personal athleticism were a natural map for success but this trip wasn't about the majority of the group, it was about one. I could see by the slumped shoulders and pensive expression that there was nothing fun about this day for one young man. I got up and moved closer to the ledge where he sat - alone. In a quick conversation, it was evident firewalls and passwords were easier than these locks. His physical frame reminded me of someone I knew in high school many years ago.
I dismissed the image of someone else in order to understand the present but the nagging thought intruded my space in a way that only faith could speak.
Sitting on the ledge, he was reluctant to talk to me so I left. I quietly told another young man (our ministry leader) who stepped in where I could not. I could see from a distance that his words were ones of encouragement. As the young man straightened his slump, I smiled at God's provisions that day.
A second thing happened. A soft-spoken second young man came alongside him for the remainder of the day. It was a tangible act that spoke of inclusion and value. ... take one step here ... put your hand on this rock and pull yourself to this ledge and watch for the pitfalls here. You can do this. I am right here with you!
His voice was patient and kind; his words were so softly spoken, I could barely hear them but I stretched my attention toward the quiet.
I spent the remainder of the day in the back of the line. It was a tangible step on my part to not allow this young man to be last. As I leapt from rock to rock early on, I reveled in the sense of community later in the day as I listened to their words about Job.
Our guide began talking about Job and his position in God's eyes.
Job is a tiny chapter in the Old Testament of the bible which is sandwiched between the book of Esther and the words of Psalms. So few words written for a man with great depth of hope. Job's character pleased God.
God needed Job not to be first in order to strengthen, deepen and articulate his journey and in the process, Job never gave up his faith. God richly blessed him later in life.
As so often the case, I thought my faith journey was about being a leader with high school kids. It was. It wasn't. It was about the vertical relationship with Christ. Yes, I had reached out to other people as an expression of my faith but He wanted to work on the inside canyon of my soul through rock, water and current.
... take one step here ... put your hand on this rock and pull yourself to this ledge and watch for the pitfalls here. You can do this. I am right here with you!
A fellow point guard for the faith; a writer, deep thinker, music loving, jeep blazing ... follower of Jesus.