Monday, June 1, 2015

Pushed to the Extreme

“One of the goals of Royal Rangers is to push you to your limit” our regional leader explained to us during a preparatory training session. “You never know how you’re going to react in extreme circumstances unless you’ve been pushed to your extreme ahead of time.” 

This would be my third National Training Camp (NTC). My first was in Serbia as a participant. Last year I hosted and shadowed the leader so I would be prepared to lead in the future. This year the responsibility fell on me. Although I felt inadequate to lead, especially knowing my greatest weakness - public speaking in Croatian - would be exposed, I didn’t expect to be pushed to any particular extreme. 

Throughout the camp I felt even more sure that this training would pass without any major challenge. In comparison with the flood-like conditions and my lack of experience last year, this year’s added experience plus perfect weather and the number of leaders supporting our effort, convinced me that this would pass without difficulty. 

Then came Sunday morning. The finish line was ahead of us. Our award ceremony/church service would conclude the weekend and I felt okay. But as I began watching the slideshow summary of the weekend with the rest of the congregation tears began to well up. “What’s this?” I asked myself, stepping out of the sanctuary to collect myself before giving a report of the weekend.

I stood up to say how overwhelmed I was with thankfulness and nothing came out. I choked. This had never happened to me, in public or private. Another leader quickly took over and the show went on. But after the whole camp was over I had to process the whole event. 

In retrospect, I had been pushed to my limit. Physically I hadn’t slept more than five hours a night for the last six nights - a very unusual occurrence for me. When I stepped on the scale on Sunday afternoon I realised I had lost three kilos - six pounds - since Thursday. Although I hadn’t run or physically exerted myself as much as I have at other times, various things took their physical toll on me. 

Mentally I was spent as well. From preparing lectures and workshops to simply trying to give directions to convey what needed to happen in my second language was more of a burden than I expected. 

Spiritually I had been seeking God’s help more than I have in a long time. How would these details be taken care of? Would everyone be safe? What if this happened…or that? The responsibility of 38 people fell on my shoulders for the first time in my life and I pleaded with God for help much more often than I normally do. 

Finally, I had been pushed to my emotional limit. Throughout the weekend I had witnessed the growth of several of the young teenagers I work with. Additionally, leaders had come from Germany, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia and the other side of Croatia to support our efforts. God had rained down his mercy upon this camp in the very practical forms of leadership, experience and support. And when I saw the evidence of it at the end, I couldn’t hold it in.

The point is, I was pushed to the limit. 

Isn’t that what we need? As a church, I believe we’re at our worst when we’re comfortable. Throughout the Bible, God’s people are called to serve the Lord with their heart, soul, mind and strength. How do we do so without being pushed to the extreme in each of those areas from time to time? Royal Rangers is a wholistic ministry aiming to equip men and women of God physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Part of this equipping means challenging each individual in all four of these aspects of their life. 

In the end, I consider the training session a success. All of our goals were met, and teenagers and adults alike had been trained. And because of the number of eager leaders, beautiful weather and lack of unexpected obstacles, it was an enjoyable experience for many of us. 

But the greatest success was that many of us were pushed to our limit. This, I believe is an invaluable part of becoming and making disciples of Jesus Christ. 

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14)

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