I’m writing this during the midst of CPC’s annual youth beach retreat at Laguna Beach Christian Retreat in Panama City, FL. And though the trip isn’t over, I must say these guys and girls have, and are, teaching me a valuable lesson … one I hope the Lord works into my own thoughts, words, and actions … and also our entire church family.
As I said, this is a beach retreat … the idea is to come away to the beach – sun, sand, water, fun! But as we loaded up the vehicles on Monday morning to leave, we knew good and well we were heading straight into a tropical storm. Yet I heard no moaning, groaning, complaining, or wavering of commitment to go … so off we went. And sure enough, we’ve encountered a good bit of rain thus far (though God has graciously spared us from anything too heavy or constant). But it has most definitely hindered everyone’s freedom and ability to go to the beach. Yet here again, I’ve not heard voices of complaint or discontent though it’s certainly not the “fun in the sun” type weather one would hope for on such a retreat. Consider the fact we have over 70 folks on this trip … lots of opportunity for trouble, mischief, or problems. So far, nothing even close to any of that. And in this large group we have 4 churches participating, plus a good handful of guests who attend even other churches. In addition to all this, we have a very diverse group in age, ethnicity, geography, and interests. Lots of potential in all this to find cliques, division, selfishness, and disunity. We have some very athletic kids and some who have severe physical limitations … some are extroverts and some are introverts … some are Biblically/theologically articulate and some are definitely not. But I have been amazed so far at how well all these students are getting along, welcoming one another, encouraging one another, helping one another, and becoming as one large group. I know the cause of all this is the grace of God, working in the hearts of these students. But I also know He uses certain means to accomplish His purposes and in this situation I’m seeing Him use Stokes to help bring this crazy group together.
This is a picture of what the church ought to be … of how I ought to be as a member of the Lord’s church. Diversity is a good thing. Diversity of ages, ethnicities, gifts, interests, preferences, styles, and knowledge is to be expected, welcomed, and enjoyed. And though we would all love for the “weather” of the church to be “sunny and warm,” it’s often not … in fact, it’s sometimes pretty stormy. There are times when the winds and rains of adversity come and we’re called to endure it together. When circumstances don’t match what we expect or what we “signed up for,” still we’re to press on without complaining or grumbling. Again, this group is teaching me something about the beauty of the body of Christ, what it is supposed to look like, and how it is supposed to function.
Yes, I know the week isn’t over and there is still plenty of time for trouble. But what else is new? This wouldn’t be the first time I would witness Christians acting out of accord with who they are in Christ. But right now I’m rejoicing in what I’m witnessing and I’m asking God to allow this to carry over into my own life and into the life of the entire CPC family. Would you join me in asking God to work His amazing grace in us and allow us to live with one another in a manner that is in keeping with the Gospel? And pray for Stokes and the rest of this group for the remainder of our retreat.