Most of my teen summers, I worked as a counselor in a Christian camp. Each week, I’d be responsible for hosting one cabin of girls: helping them to move into their bunks, waking them in the mornings, sitting with them at meals, leading a morning Bible study, getting them to their activities on time, and quieting them at bedtime. My love of teaching and my holistic understanding of it as being relationship-centered were born at that camp. I remember a week of lessons about Queen Esther where we experimented with lotions, perfumes and colorful scarves as we studied her story of faith and bravery. I remember a lesson when my cabin group, sitting outside for Bible study, was visited by bees. Fearful of them, because I am allergic, I stopped the lesson and prayed out loud, asking that they would go away. They disappeared, and we all sat amazed, joyful, reassured of God’s specific care for us.
After the summer of my eighteenth year, I left home to go to college in New York City. I explored university activities and the city itself with my beautiful, intelligent, worldly-wise roommates, none of whom knew Jesus. Wanting to fit in with them, I began to ask my own versions of the Garden of Eden question: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not…’” I persuaded myself I could influence my friends for good, even as they influenced me to compromise. But one compromise led to another until I had wandered farther than I ever expected.
I kept my wandering a secret from my family. But every Sunday during worship I was overcome by remorseful tears.
The month of May brought final exams and as I prepared to return home for the summer, the Christian camp director called and asked if I would serve as a counselor again. My heart sank. For the first time I attempted confession. I said, “I can’t, since I am not living right.” In a generous act of grace, he called me back the next day and said the leaders had prayed and wanted me to serve as a counselor anyway.
I went to camp and heard again that Jesus loved me and died so I could be fully, freely and forever forgiven. All summer I collected verses to help me to stand against temptations’ enticements. I taped them inside of my jewelry box. But after two weeks with my college friends, I had fallen again. In my dorm-room mirror, I looked at my reflection, gray and shattered. I prayed, “Jesus, I want to follow you, but I’m not able to. Help me!”
The next day, I noticed a poster inviting students to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. There I met students who showed me how to follow Jesus at university. I started to study the Bible for myself. Temptation became less attractive.
I realized that feeling distant from God makes me miserable. I need Jesus, and I need transparent relationships with other Christians to help me follow him.
Recognize the magnitude of God’s grace to you, dear friend. I found that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Weary friend, risk grace towards others. The discipline of grace means you trust God to work in other people’s lives. Your friends matter. Choose friends who help you be your best. There is danger in having only friends who influence you to compromise your values.
How might your relationships change if you demonstrated risky grace to others?