The Basis For My Assessment

WORDS FROM W.W. May 17, 2011

Last weekend I went camping with six young adult guys I’ve been meeting with since October. When I invited each one of them to be in the group I was leading one of the stated requirements was to go on an overnight retreat a few months after we had started meeting. Unfortunately, I wasn’t clear enough on where the overnight retreat would be! I was thinking “conference centers” or camps with indoor plumbing or, at the worst, a mountain cabin. I was thinking the place might not have wireless. They were thinking “wires-less”, as in no wires…phone lines, electricity outlets, cable.
So we went camping. No, not KOA camping. Off-road camping! Like in, no one even knows this place exists!
It was good! We enjoyed being together, talking, laughing, sharing. Most of them actually said it was the best camping experience they’ve ever had. I was surprised, since we were eating scrambled eggs out of red plastic Dixie cups, and couldn’t make a early morning Starbucks run.
But you see, I have no basis for an assessment on what is great camping versus Neanderthal Remembrance Day. The last time I went tent camping was in 1985, and that was with 12 Junior High age boys on a week-long bike camp. Camping with a dozen 12 year olds for a week is not really camping. It’s like a seven day episode of “Fear Factor.”
So, was this camping excursion good or bad? I have to believe in the camping veterans that gave it “A’s”. All had all experienced a lot of camping. I’m not sure how to even light a Coleman lantern. Some of them had cool looking little lights that they hung around their head. I had my iPad, which is cool, except when you’re shivering by a campfire. They had sleeping bags that could protect you up to thirty degrees below. I had a borrowed sleeping bag that I couldn’t figure out how to zip up.
I came away believing it was good. I just had nothing to compare it to.
There is a hint of a correlation between that and being a new follower of Jesus or a seasoned disciple of the faith. When someone enters into a relationship with Jesus there is no basis for assessing how good this new journey is except for an inner sense of hope. That inner sense, dependent on the person, might seem peaceful, or joy-filled, or exciting. Whatever simple analysis you might give you it, there is a sense that one is in a different place.
The tendency is for someone who is new to the faith to look at other Christians and assess his faith experience on the basis of theirs. Whereas spiritual mentors are invaluable in helping us navigate the journey, nevertheless each person’s faith shape is different. One of the critical discoveries we can take from the Scriptures is the diversity of transformational experiences that people had. How Levi came to Jesus is different than how the woman at the well came to Jesus. The way Levi came to Jesus is even different than how Zacchaeus did, even though they were both tax collectors!
Coming to Jesus is “gospel”, good news. It’s just that how that good news is heard and understood is different.
The interesting thing is that I now have a picture of what camping is, and it is good…except for numb feet and “bear paranoia.”
I’ve also had 44 years of a picture of being a follower of Jesus…and it is good…no exceptions!

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