Over MLK weekend I had the opportunity to go to the The Oaks Winter camp with teens from our Garnet and Maple neighborhoods. We have attended this camp every year for the last several years and it is safe to say that this space up in the mountains has become a yearly refuge and retreat for many of our teenagers. Often within just hours of being there, I am able to notice and sense God working an moving in the lives of these teens, but this year things were very different.
Rather than ending the first night with confidence in what God was doing, I struggled to see Him at all. The normal feelings of excitement and expectancy for the next day were replaced with anxiety and insecurities. During the first night’s small group time I was leading a group of boys who I did not know as well as “my guys,” who I had been journeying with for years. To be honest, I was a little upset that I had been assigned to this group. As I struggled to make a solid connection, my confidence came and went as quickly as their one word responses to my “clever” questions. I went back to my room that night defeated. I told my wife, Bethany, the story and explained how defeated and frustrated I felt. She reassured me with some encouraging words and prayed that the lies of feeling incapable would be replaced with a confidence in who Christ is in me.
That next night, after the general session, I was able to approach the group living in the truth that it is not about me and my abilities (or lack there of), but rather about what God had already been doing. Instead of trying to ask perfect questions, I simply shared a story of how God had been working in my life by redeeming specific aspects of my broken past. As these words left my mouth and were received by this group, God moved and showed me why he specifically had me there. It turns out that my pain was closely related to pain they had each specifically gone through in the past month. Those one word answers from the previous night turned into an hour of stories that had never been shared before. As each person exhaled words of extreme hurt and pain, not only did it bring about freedom for that person, but it also gave the next person the boldness to be comfortable sharing their own issues.
The healing process within many of these chaotic situations began for the first time. During this beautiful chain reaction of stories, each one reminded me more and more that it is not about me or my expectations. Those feelings the night before came from an attempt to be a great leader, and the results of the second night came from sitting in the truth that He is already working. As life has resumed back in the neighborhood, I now have a larger platform to deeply connect with this new group of guys and continue to point to how God is present in their lives.
Matt Anderson | Garnet Initiative Director
Matt, thanks for sharing so candidly. Appreciate the reminder to let go and let God be in control.
How kind and patient of your Heavenly Father to lead you into such humility and candor. Thank you, Matt, to God be all glory.