When I was about fifteen, I went on this trip with my church's youth group to a place in Tennessee (near the KY border) called Pickett State Park. We went with several other youth groups from churches in KY (and perhaps TN...I don't really remember). We didn't know any of the people from the other churches, so I guess it was one of those "let's get to know people we don't know" sort of things. Those don't work for me all that well (especially for me as an awkard fifteen year old) and this wasn't an exception.
We were there a week. It was one of the worst weeks of my life. In a really odd sort of way, it was also one of the best. I look back on it knowing that I could have handled a lot of things differently, but as an insecure fifteen year old, I wasn't mature enough to know how to handle them. I look back on it and also know that the leaders of the trip could have handled things differently. They weren't mature enough to know how to handle them. I don't know if they should have been or not, but what I do know is that NONE of them were insecure fifteen year old girls.
Actually, a big part of the problem was the leadership at this youth trip (My youth minister was an exception--he was awesome. Some of the other leaders were great, too, but the majority of them bothered me in a way I couldn't understand at the time.) There was something wrong going on Spiritually. I could tell, though I didn't understand it, and therefore alienated myself from them and a lot of the other people there. The problem was, I didn't really know what was going on inside myself. I wasn't at all aware of what God was doing. It took me another five or six years or so to figure out that I've got the Spiritual gift of discernment. I can tell when people are fake, when people are lying to themselves and to others, especially about spiritual matters. I can tell when someone's hurting or hiding something. It's an annoying gift to have sometimes (because it annoys others), and well, that week was one of the first manifestations of that gift in my life.
Another strike against me (ha! I just used a sports metaphor)! At this place with these people, I was expected to play sports. Yeah. That lasted ONE game where I was handed a baseball glove and told to "protect myself with it" in case a ball came my way. I wasn't comfortable playing baseball and burst into tears. It's not a logical reaction, but what's logical about a socially awkard fifteen year old girl who happens to hate sports and be exceptionally bad at them? After that, I decided I wasn't going to play sports and that no one could make me. I went to the rec field with all the good little athletically inclined people and sat by myself while they played games.
Something really amazing happened in those times. I had a lot of time to do nothing (since I wasn't actually WATCHING the games they were playing), and so I did a lot of thinking...which led to a lot of praying. It was during this time that God made Himself and His will very clear to me. The Spirit was moving in my life in ways it never had before, and I was listening. Satan did everything He could to prevent this. Satan used the leadership.
During worship one night, one of the main leadership guys got up in front of everyone and said something to the effect of, "The recreation time is for everyone. Healthy competition is good for everyone, and you're expected to participate. I want everyone to participate in the sporting events." I was the only one sitting out--could he not have said this to me personally instead of making an announcement out of it? Probably. He was human and flawed, but that statement was devastating to my fifteen year old ego.
So what did I do? I rebelled, of course. I continued NOT to participate in the games because they made me an emotional wreck. But there was another reason I continued to sit out. I could tell that God was doing something with me while I was sitting by myself. I made a point of going to sit by myself at other times--not just during recreation time. And fortunately I brought along a notebook on the trip. I wrote that week. I wrote a lot. Now before this time, I'd dabbled in some writing. I enjoyed it. But this week was different. I could sense God breathing in me as I wrote. I knew that this was something He purposed in me. It was a calling.
I have strayed from that calling somewhat over the past fifteen years (oh my gosh, was Pickett State Park REALLY half a lifetime ago??--yes. wow.), mainly because I'm a realistic person--and writing isn't realistic. But God hasn't let me forget all the ways He's called me, and all the ways He's still calling me.
But Pickett State Park. Oh. I look back on it sadly because I know that so much could have happened that week. I wonder the way the course of my life might have gone if I had people to support me in what I was doing. If I had been more vocal about what was going on, maybe that would have helped. ...but I doubt it.
I remember two of the leaders coming up to me and asking me why I sat by myself, and if I needed prayer. One of them actually called me "backwards" to my face. It's okay now, because, let's face it--I AM backwards. And I like it. But to an insecure fifteen year old girl, that was pretty insulting. So I looked at the lady kindly and asked her to please go away.
They tattled on me to my youth minister. Seriously. They TATTLED on me like children. But my youth minister took my side. He came and talked to me and made me feel a lot better. He told me that he had been sensing something wrong in the leadership, too. He told me he was glad I had come on the trip because He knew God was working in me. I wished the others had been like that.
At the end of the week, I remember we were at a bonfire sharing what God had done with us that week. Many people went up and gave testimony of God's work. And the main leader guy (the same one who berated me publically for daring to skip out on rec time) prayed for every person who went forward. I felt I needed to go forward too. I shared with the people there that God had shown me what He wanted me to do with my life that week. It was a pretty big deal to me as a fifteen year old girl. The leader guy looked at me and rudely said, "Is that all? Are you finished?" I nodded mutely and went to sit down.
It was discouraging, to say the least. I sometimes wonder if I might have followed my passion for writing earlier if Satan hadn't used that leader and some of the other leaders to discourage me.
But I do remember one of the other leaders who at least TRIED to be kind to me. He wasn't perfect, but I appreciated his efforts. He came up to me after all of that and saw me in the midst of the few friends I'd somehow managed to make that week. He said to me, "Now isn't this nicer than sitting all alone."
I wish I had said what was on the tip of my tongue, but I was too shy, too awkward. I thought it, though. I thought it because it was true.
I wasn't alone.
God had been with me, speaking with me, communing with me the whole time.
There are times in our lives that are just bittersweet and special. This was one of those times for me. For a long time I was very bitter about what happened that week, but in the fifteen years since it's happened (oh my gosh---really! it was fifteen years ago!!!) I've been able to see how God has molded me from that awkward insecure fifteen year old to a woman who is pretty confident. I'm not confident in myself--I mean, really? I'm still awkward. I'm confident that the One who has begun a good work in me will bring it to completion.
He began it before Pickett State Park ever happened, but that week was the beginning of something. I've still got a lot to do if I'm ever going to be a published writer, but fifteen years ago, God showed me that He wanted me to write for Him.
So that's what I'm doing. Satan still throws things at me to keep me from my goal. And sometimes I get discouraged that it's taking SO long (in my perspective) to meet the goals I set for myself.
But life is not a straight path. I've matured as a writer much more slowly than I've wanted to, but maybe there's purpose in that. All the side roads I've taken that have deterred me from my goal of being a published writer might be things God intended for me, too. And maybe there will be more side roads, more things Satan intends for evil that God uses for good.
If it takes another fifteen years for me to be published, if God is glorified, it will be worth it.
But Lord, I'd appreciate it if I didn't have to wait till I was forty-five to get published. :-D