This series is a recounting of God’s story throughout my life (Part 1, Part 2). I want to do this because I’d like readers to know the broader context of my writing. I want you to understand why I even care to write about Christianity. I would recommend starting at the beginning, as this post won’t make sense without that context.
If you’ve stayed along, you’ll notice apologetics hasn’t played much of a role quite yet. We’ll get there. Just not in this post. Well, not much. Next one.
I ended Part 2 with the realization I was numb. Over the next few years, I graduated high school and started my engineering degree. Near the end of my first year of university a buddy of mine asked me if I wanted to travel to New Zealand with him to do Adventure Bible School (ABS) at Capernwray New Zealand. I would only need a year off school to work and save for it, you know? No biggy (sarcasm). But I said yes. I didn’t say yes because I was all spiritual and wanted to grow with God. I wanted to travel and see Hobbiton. (I’ve hiked Mount Doom!)
Then I got traded. Yup. I was playing junior b hockey and got traded. Man, was I mad. I felt disrespected. (But I was playing junior b hockey so…) Fortunately, since I had already decided to take that year off of school and my summer job was coming to a close, I just found a job in the new city. If I hadn’t taken the year off, I probably would have had to quit hockey to stay in uni.
Moving taught me a lot. I lived with a family my parents knew. I went from being the youngest of 3 boys to living with 4 kids under the age of 12. It was an education, to say the least. God used my billet family. It’s hard to describe how. It was subtle. Maybe children do that to you. Feeling started to come.
God taught me a lot in my job too. I was a rod-buster. I didn’t apply to the job. I think they found me on some obscure job website I had forgotten I put my resumé on. I didn’t really want it. Sixty hours a week seemed a bit steep. But it could get me to New Zealand and there was nothing else. My billet dad told me something very wise when I was asking if I should take the job. He said, “Sometimes God opens doors for you and let’s you tip toe in a bit. Maybe He lets you peak inside, maybe try a different door or two. Sometimes he opens the door and just kicks you through.”
That’s basically what happened. The funny thing, at least in hindsight, was that most of my coworkers were armchair philosophers! (They needed a little less armchair if you ask me, at least on site) That began to peak my interest in Christian apologetics, or at least showed me I needed to do more homework. They never really said anything that challenged Christianity. But they had questions. Seeking questions. And I had no idea. More feeling.
There was one time, due to a mix up with pay cheques by the company, a friend/coworker had to choose between water and heat; in Canadian January. I helped him out a bit (would me-on-my-own, from Part 2, do that?) More feeling.
Then that job ended and I got on a terribly long flight with the best service in the world to go to ABS (kudos Air NZ).
Now, I need to tell you something about ABS… I can’t tell you anything about ABS.
Seriously. I can’t tell you. Or at least not much. During ABS, you have no idea what’s going on. They don’t tell you. Why? Well, do you really know what’s happening tomorrow? We pretend we know. We pretend we’re in control. But we’re not. So ABS takes that away. You never know what’s happening tomorrow. Heck, you don’t even know what’s happening in a few hours! So I can’t tell you about ABS, just in case someone reading this was to go on it. Sometimes knowing what’s going on probably wouldn’t effect the situation much. Other times the whole point would be ruined. So the details I leak must be vague enough that you couldn’t guess what’s going on if you were to do ABS. That eliminates some of my favourite and most challenging stories, but I’ll do my best. And as they say at ABS, “Do you really need to know?”
ABS pushes you to your limits physically, relationally, and spiritually. You know how someone giving a presentation provides some type of illustration or metaphor to explain something? On ABS, you do a bunch of crazy, pushing-you-over-the-edge type stuff, and then they make you the illustration in the debrief. It’s awesome.
My biggest issue was the walls around myself (see Part 2). I held God at arms length. There I can safely analyze Him without too much commitment. Just be a hypothesis, thank you very much.
ABS was a wrecking ball. Somehow living in really close quarters, having real conversations, and being forced to be completely out of control completely destroyed my facade.
There was one time a teacher on ABS pointed out the boldness of some of the things we say or sing in church — if we actually believed them. You know the song Hosanna? It has a line in the bridge, “break my heart for what breaks yours.” Do you know how bold that is? You’re going to be living with a lot of heart break if God grants that prayer. Do I actually believe what I pray? Do I actually want all of Him?
Some of my learning was just in normal conversations. I really came to look up to one of the leaders on ABS in particular. She lived out her faith in a way that was free and open. She wasn’t afraid to have a deep conversation. She wasn’t afraid to glorify God. She wasn’t afraid to open herself up. She was incredibly wise and insightful. This is someone that I saw and thought, “that’s what faith looks like and I want that.”
And there were a few special moments. One night while we were on a multiday trip, watching shooting stars on the shore of a lake that due to volcanic activity had parts with hot-tub temperature water, one of my friends simply said, “God is so cool.” That line has changed my life. For some reason, God used that simple phrase to rocket Himself past my defenses. That line cannot be said of a hypothesis. It’s intimate and beautiful. God is personal. He cares. He loves. He’s a great metaphysical hypothesis, but He’s not content with mental assent to His existence (see Part 2 again).
On ABS the leaders and students have to keep each other alive in many activities, but those people didn’t just do that; God used them to bring me to life. I could breathe. I could feel.
Then I had to come home. We’ll take a look at that season, where apologetics really started to come into play, next time.