Our church started Exodus, a mentorship program, years ago where we would take some of the youth on a camping/backpacking trip. The program consisted of an overnight backpacking hike and a shorter day hike, with a sharing at night from the Word followed by some one-on-one time with each youth paired with a leader. We just got back from I think the fourth trip, this time spending four nights at Yosemite national park.
This actually was my first trip since I was busy with either medical school or residency. What an amazing time we had these past couple of days. We went on the backpacking trip first, making our way up to the top of Yosemite Falls. The hike was only about 3.5 mi one way, but it utterly destroyed my quads. We basically climbed stairs for about 5 hours carrying 40 lb packs.
We spent the night there and explored the river feeding the falls the next day before hiking back down. Going down was easier, but again quads-destroying going down those steps. We made it in about three hours.
For our day hike, we made our way to Vernal Falls. The original plan was to continue on to the next waterfall, but we cut short the hike since most of us were out of commission. I was pretty happy about that.
I prayed for this trip that God would work tangibly in our group and that we would come away with an unmistakable experience of His presence. I wanted to see revival happen in our church, starting with these guys and in myself. God certainly answered.
When we think revival, the picture we conjure up often is fire coming down from heaven Acts 2 style and miracles starting to be performed. That didn’t happen, but there were some close fire encounters back at camp with the lighter fluid…
I read something by Tim Keller recently that I really liked. He writes that revival is not necessarily seeing crazy miracles, but “is an intensification of the normal operations of the Spirit (conviction of sin, regeneration, sanctification, assurance of grace) through the ordinary means of grace (preaching the Word, prayer, and the sacraments)” (Center Church, loc 1253). Through the conversations on the hike, interacting with the messages shared, and one-on-one times, we saw hearts soften, sins confessed, relational issues confronted, and a deepening dependence on what Christ has done for us.
For myself, the Spirit convicted me again of my pride (and of course that would be the case since the topic I shared on was pride), from my silly pride in my thighs to again bringing to mind my strong tendency to depend on myself. Being in such close fellowship with the brothers made me realize again how independently I was living in all aspects of my life.
As a church leader I think the temptation is to always be in serving mode and it is difficult to open yourself up to be ministered to. There is a pressure to live a certain way, to have an image that I have everything figured out spiritually, and to have to keep that up is not just exhausting, but so stifling to my spiritual growth and what I can offer to others. We see this kind of dynamic in medicine as well, with doctors always having to do the caring while neglecting their self-care.
One brother made the comment that if he had to do the hike up to Yosemite Falls by himself wearing the pack, he wouldn’t have made it. I have to agree; I was already having second thoughts after the third switch-back five minutes in. We need one another, but it is so easy to isolate ourselves because of either shame or condescension, thinking ourselves better. The cross takes care of both of those, reminding us that we are all sinners on equal standing before God, but that in Christ we can be fully accepted through forgiveness of sins.
To all the guys that made it to the trip, I’m so thankful for the experiences shared. I pray that God would continue what He started, and that we will continue to grow as a church in dependence on God, and interdependence on one another.