I have never been one who does well sitting in a classroom all day, and I’ve never been the person who thrives in a 9-5 office job.
I crave adventure, excitement, and the freedom to move around.
When I saw online that the January Discipleship Training School (DTS) with YWAM Newcastle had the “Summer Classic” elective running, I jumped at the chance to enjoy all the elements of the DTS, but with the added bonus of one week of lectures taking place over a week of camping by the lake, rather than in the classroom.
Prior to coming on DTS, my relationship with God was… well, it wasn’t a relationship. It was me trying to do the right thing every week, and every week messing up, before going to church and feeling guilty for all the things I had done, promising to “do better” next week. Growing up I rode from one “spiritual high” to the next and signed up for DTS hoping it would be like an extended church camp, a place where I could feel good about myself for six whole months.
What I didn’t realize was that the spiritual high could only last so long. It was around the 3rd week of lectures that I realized I couldn’t “fake it” anymore, and things started to fall apart. It just so happened that the next week was camping week, the week I had been so excited for; only now, knowing I would be spending a week in the Australian bush with a bunch of people who kept talking about “relationship with God”, I was far from excited.
I reluctantly packed my things, vowing that I would push through and continue to fake my way through DTS.
Turns out our guest speaker who was camping with us for the week, Marty Emmet, has a knack for sniffing out the things people are hiding. I tried to keep to myself and hide my feelings inside the whole week, but Marty did everything he could to draw them out in the open. Each day he asked us to read Psalm 139 and one morning Marty had us spend some time thinking about the lies we believed about ourselves and lies we believed about God.
I went off into the bush alone, finding a log to sit on. With the trees around me shooting up into the sky, and the breeze blowing through the leaves like an old friend, I felt safe enough to start talking.
“God,” I said. “I don’t understand You. I’ve been looking at You through the lens of my circumstances, but I want to try to see my circumstances through the lens of who You are. Can you help me?”
I read Psalm 139 again. When I read verses 4 and 5, I began to cry. They read, “Even before there is a word on my tongue still unspoken, look, Lord, you know it all. You have covered me behind and before me, and you have placed your hand of blessing on me.” (Psalm 139:4-5).
At that moment, I realized a “relationship with God” wasn’t about going to church and trying not to mess up during the week, but it was about being seen and known and loved in all of my imperfections.
It was about asking the One who made me and knows me best for help when I’m weak. It’s being humble enough to know His grace covers me at all times.
“God,” I said. “I just need a hug right now!” Suddenly the wind started to blow even harder, and I felt like God was wrapping his strong and loving arms around me.
When I came back from this time, our speaker Marty asked us to share what we had learned. I was scared to admit in front of a group of people that I wasn’t perfect, and when it came to my turn to share, I started to argue with our speaker.
“I don’t understand why we have to share!” I shot back in response to Marty’s invitation.
“That’s fine,” he said with a smile, “you don’t have to share.”
“I’m not going to share!” I yelled.
“Okay, you don’t have to share.” said Marty with a smirk.
“I’m really not going to share!” I retorted one last time before retreating to my tent for the night.
That night I tossed and turned, unable to sleep. My mind raced a million miles an hour thinking over the things God had shown me, realising I needed to share them with my classmates, and wondering how on earth I could face Marty in the morning.
By the time morning broke, I had only managed about five minutes of restless sleep, and I soon found myself groggily stumbling out of my tent to find Marty.
Reluctantly, I came up to him with these three words: “I’ll share today.”
He smiled and pulled me into a big hug. “I was waiting for you to say that.”
After gathering the group, sharing what was on my heart and mind and crying so hard I had snot all over my face, I felt like I could breathe again.
I felt like a huge weight was lifted off me, and like the fakeness I had been carrying my whole life was finally over.
Today, I’m beyond thankful for the week we spent camping by the lake. I think if I had spent that week in the classroom, I would have talked myself into being fake again and I would have never let go of the things I was carrying. If Marty had never “poked” at me, encouraging me to open up, I would have never have made the decision to share on my own. That week in the Australian bush helped me to deal with my feelings and gave me the opportunity to get out of the classroom and connect with God in nature, the place where I come alive.