Greetings from Colorado! As I type this, I’m gazing through the window at a snowcapped mountain peak, set against a clear blue sky and contrasted by green trees (and the Starbucks patio umbrellas). I don’t mention this to make my Midwestern readers jealous, but… yes, I do.
The more important reason to set this scene is to illustrate, in some small way, the beauty I get to be immersed in this summer. Working at a Christian service camp, Camp Como, is a pretty good excuse to spend a month at 10,000 feet up. Since this is the longest trip away from home I’ve taken since moving to Missouri, I’ve been determined to soak in every last second of it. So far I’ve logged two weeks of training, one week of actual camp, my first hike up a “fourteener”, lots of quality time with the camp director’s dog Ruby, and (arguably) far too many hours spent in Breckenridge coffee shops.
There’s a reason “mountaintop experiences” are called that. Along with the fun adventures and time-consuming work going on, it’s easier to hear God from this high up. Maybe it’s the altitude, or the limited cell service, or the fact that I’ve drunk more water in the last three weeks than I did the previous three months, but my spiritual antenna seems to be receiving better than it typically does in the flatlands. While this season has been exciting for that very reason, it can also be a little nerve-wracking at times. Let me explain.
I left for Colorado on May 21 at around 5 AM. On May 20, at approximately 11:45 PM, I was deep in the throes of an identity crisis. I had to come to a terrifying realization: I am not a youth minister – not even a student learning to become one. On top of that, I had committed a considerable chunk of time to a camp that ministers to youth. (On top of that, I had to drive 13 hours the next day, which was terrifying for reasons unrelated to identity crises.) Flooded with this confusing combination of thoughts and emotions, I set off across Kansas.
I would never voluntarily post excerpts from my journal for the world to see – the closest you all will ever get is the version filtered through this website – but it goes without saying that I filled a couple pages with panic. I had no idea why I was so far away from everything comfortable and known. Thankfully, that antenna I mentioned earlier was still receiving. Whether my choice in reading material for the summer was purely chance or Spirit-orchestrated, one of the first passages I read leapt off the page at me. In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together (page 70, in my copy), he writes:
“Work plunges men into the world of things. The Christian steps out of the world of brotherly encounter into the world of impersonal things, the ‘it’; and this new encounter frees him for objectivity; for the ‘it’-world is only an instrument in the hand of God for the purification of Christians from all self-centeredness and self-seeking.”
This began to reassure me. Surely I can hunker down and work hard for just five weeks; the promise of “purification” as a result encouraged me, although I wasn’t sure exactly what it would look like. The same day I read the above quote, I came across a couple Scripture passages that would highlight a sort of theme for the summer: Isaiah 6 and 2 Peter 1:3-11. Isaiah’s example of willingness to serve and Peter’s instruction regarding our calling and election gave me a sort of focus, as I felt a certain amount of pressure to reach the “purification” ASAP.
I soon narrowed in on Isaiah’s response to the Lord in Isaiah 6:8: “Here am I. Send me!” This is a well-known verse, and I like to think I have more or less imitated Isaiah’s availability to God in the past, but now I began to question what exactly I needed to respond to. What was my “calling”? Did God intend to transform me into a bouncy, outgoing youth minister? A wizard with ProPresenter worship slides? The creator of the most confusing middle school camp game known to man? (Rules for this game rival New Girl‘s “True American” with regard to complexity.)
If you know me at all, you probably know that I am a big fan of personality tests. I recently took the Color Code test to find out I am a Blue-Red. In the review of this type, it was written: “As a core Blue with secondary Red, you have the most complex personality of all the color combinations. There will never be a dull minute in your life. You face an intense internal struggle.” To be completely honest, this made me a little proud of myself. Take THAT, all you simple personalities! Where’s your intense internal struggle? (I repented later, I promise.) Around the same time I took the Color Code, I also began learning about the Enneagram. I won’t even try to explain all that goes into the Enneagram, but it’s fascinating, and you should definitely look into it. My most dominant type is Four, with a Five “wing”. Those dominant in type Four are notorious, according to what limited research I’ve done, for their search for identity and authenticity, as well as their drive to be special/unique. While I try to remind myself often to not be completely defined by online tests, I was a little concerned with how accurately strangers had summed up my identity in their books and blogs. In keeping with Four typology, I began to search for what made me different from their summaries, what made me special/unique, what my “calling” might be. Where might God be trying to send me?
So began my quest for self-discovery – although, given my obsession with personality tests and the like, perhaps it was only the beginning of my awareness of the quest. I quickly became concerned by the feeling that I didn’t know much about my self. This sounds absurd, I know – how can you not know yourself? But the more I learned from books and tests about who I was, the more I felt I had to discover, and the less I felt I knew.
This quest hasn’t come to the conclusion I was hoping for; my “self-seeking”, in Bonhoeffer’s words, got me nowhere. Suffice it to say I won’t be writing a best-selling self-help book anytime soon. However, I can hold out hope for writing something more useful. I’ve been thinking about the wrong half of Isaiah’s cry. He wasn’t saying “Send me!” Just a couple verses earlier, he was woefully aware of his shortcomings when faced with the glory of the Lord. Such realization is common in the presence of God, as Peter exemplifies in Luke 5:8. Another Colorado-themed illustration occurred just yesterday, at the peak of Mount Quandary. 14,265 feet up, my insignificance is evident.
If Isaiah spoke in italics, I think verse 8 would have read more like “Send me!” The emphasis is on the action, and the One performing it. While I haven’t yet had a live coal touched to my unclean lips, God has prepared and purified me for His service in other ways. As I continue to learn daily reliance on Him, especially through the highs and lows of camp life, I’m realizing I have a bit more of a youth minister in me than I realized — maybe just a bit more in general. He doesn’t ask me to know my specific “calling”, or to be good enough; He asks me to say “Here am I, Lord. Send me!” and to be made ready by Him.
Here am I!
Some summer recommendations, partially related to this post: Sleeping At Last - some of my favorites include "Son", "Four", and "Taste" Ben Rector - quickly becoming a highlight of the summer jams Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Heuertz Scary Close by Donald Miller (I'll have to write another blog about this one eventually...)