This past week, from Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to go to Camp Geneva on the shores of Lake Michigan for a “Pastoral Identity Retreat” with my fellow first year M.Div. students.
It was different being on the shores of Lake Michigan in January as opposed to July, but it was no less impressive. The ice piled up on the shore making jagged cliffs that were both beautiful and dangerous. The blue-gray water that rolled up against these jagged winter shorelines was dark and uninviting.
Back within the warm walls of the Conference Center I had the pleasure of getting to know some of my fellow classmates better as we shared our calling stories, talked about our gifts for ministry (and the lack thereof) and uttered some of our fears about and motivations for becoming pastors and teachers.
The experience was both humbling and affirming for me. I heard some amazing stories of God’s work in the lives of my classmates – stories of great sacrifice and genuine wrestling with God. There was a young lady who is following God’s call on her life despite rejection and anger from her family; a young man who was re-captured by God on a hilltop outside of Guatanamo Bay Cuba while guarding the Muslim detainees there; and a man who re-dedicated his life to God after after surviving a severe car accident more than twenty years ago.
For me, the opportunity to share my story about how God has led my family and me to this point was just further affirmation that we are, in fact, right where God wants us. As I shared with some of my peers,I gained an even deeper sense that the upbringing, schooling, careers, opportunities, and experiences that I’ve had have up to this point have prepared me well for this adventure. I have and will continue to draw on my past experience as I learn about and enter into a career in ministry.
That being said, I’ve also learned how much I still need to learn. There is much wisdom among my classmates and I appreciated the opportunity to learn from those both older and younger than me. Their stories and backgrounds are diverse and encouraging and I’m happy for the opportunity to learn from them and about them this weekend. I was challenged by their points of view and their insights and I’m thankful to them for sharing them. It will be a good three years.
And no, I did not participate in the ‘polar bear plunge’…