2 Peter 1:3 – “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” Early last week, I received a letter from a friend in Papua New Guinea containing this verse and the encouraging words: “We already have everything we could possibly need to live victoriously in this life. Yay!” At the time, I read over them, recognizing the familiar words, and continued on with my day.
Sunday morning, the opening words I wrote in my journal were: “Emotional trauma.” The page is tear-stained and blurred from the hot tears of anger, conviction, and sorrow which had mixed together and were escaping in rapid torrents from my heart. I had spent the weekend in Pennsylvania at my brother’s graduation from the Camp Apprentice Ministry Program, where I had graduated the year before.
I went into the weekend dealing with anger and bitterness at the restrictions placed on me due to my shoulder injury. Though I had acknowledged my idols, I wasn’t doing anything about the anger they were causing. Each time that a new restriction was added in order to protect me I bristled, fought, and walked away before completely blowing up. In case, you didn’t know, that’s not a great way to foster a good relationship with your father. My teeth were hurting from grinding them at night, and my rebel spirit was stronger than ever. I had a lot of excuses, but when it came down to it, I knew that the answer came back to: “Its not about me. I’m wrong.” But I didn’t like that answer, so I continued to marinate in my bitterness.
Saturday night, during Ralph’s keynote address, I fought to hold back the tears as he spoke on the need to maintain character even after leaving the program. As staff advisors, an end-of-year thank you was meaningless in comparison to a student returning a year later with greater strength of character and a life bearing fruit. “If you can look back and say that at the time of this graduation you were at the most spiritual place in your life, we have failed.” At this point, I lost it. I couldn’t fight the tears any longer; all I could do was weep. I felt like a failure. I had given up. I wasn’t fighting for character anymore. When they asked the alumni present to stand, everything in my wanted to stay sitting because I felt I didn’t deserve to stand as an alumni after Ralph’s message. In my mind, I had let down the staff, my fellow apprentices, my family, and God. Ralph’s words were seared into my heart: “What are you going to do about it?” I didn’t even know.
Shortly afterwards, Nathan received his certificate of completion, and the ebbing tears broke loose once again. In him, I saw a young man of God with character and charisma; someone who is so much more than I will ever be. The joy and pride at seeing him stand up tall was more than my breaking heart could handle solemnly.
I am so thankful for the wonderful friends and mentors that God has placed into my life; people who are willing to confront me, challenge me, and crack me over the head when I need it. Lew and Melodie Sterrett both took time out of their already insane weekend to talk to me, and challenge me to get back up and fight again. “Abigail, you have a heart under all that flesh that loves God. But its surrounded by flesh. Flesh that needs to die.” Melodie spoke words of truth to me, asking me to kill the flesh, for “only in death can we experience the resurrection life that God wants to give us.” The next morning, Lew reminded me that I was never worthy. None of us are. “Only the righteous fall, but the hardest part is getting back up.” In my heart, I knew they were right, but, when I really thought about it, I didn’t believe that God was strong enough to save me from myself.
Finally, Sunday night, I talked to my parents. Unfortunately, I can’t claim it as being on my initiative. They had seen me crying fiercely over the weekend, and were anxious to know what was going on. I apologized for my horrendous attitude of anger, bitterness, and rebellion, and attempted to explain the turmoil going on in my heart. Overwhelmingly gracious, my parents forgave me, prayed with me, and encouraged me as Lew had to pick myself up and keep loving God and people.
So as Ralph said, “What are you going to do about it?” I rejoice that the Lord has truly given “everything necessary for life and godliness” and I ask him to help me as I strive to be faithful in finishing the passage, to be: “diligent to add to your faith…” (2 Peter 1:5-10) I pray that I would not be ashamed of the gospel and that I would “love the Lord [my] God with all [my] heart, soul, mind, and strength.”