“It’s only going in reverse!”
Clammy from apprehension and humidity, I turned to my faithful co-pilot Kiana and told her the gold Tuscarora van wasn’t driving forward. My first official day as summer Staff Supervisor at Tuscarora, and this 15-passenger van was ruining my first impression.
This moment made me think of my own road before coming to Tuscarora.
In my relationship with Jesus, I have actually been going steady with the reverse gear. I initially learned of a relationship with Jesus as a freshman in high school. For nearly ten years, I went on an unrelenting pursuit to be good enough for Him. I attended youth group and bible study twice a week, I served on our youth ministry leadership team, I planned and attended summer mission trips, prayed over friends who struggled in sin, and raised my hands and closed my eyes hoping to hear His voice during worship.
Even with all these things, I felt my relationship going in reverse. When I sinned – especially that one struggle I could never rid – I ignored God, and isolated myself in the darkness of my bedroom where no one could help me. I had to clean and fix myself up before going back to youth group or church.
Then, a year ago, I met Jesus while sitting on the toilet. Then, I met Him in my bedroom. I encountered Him while I unlocked my heart to my best friend at the bar. He pursued me when my transmission was broken down and I was only going in reverse.
Grace means we accept our failure – past, present, and future – and we accept that rituals or self-righteousness will never save us. I thought I did everything right to deserve a relationship with Jesus, but I was only made worthy through His death and resurrection.
So, fast forward to this summer. The summer staff program began with three counselors, a new supervisor, and many wide-eyed teens eager for their summer ahead. We attended Mt. Bethel church a few Sundays throughout the summer. One particular Sunday, Pastor Chris taught Psalm 107, and verses two and three pulled on my heart: “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south."
The summer staff came from the north – is Stroudsburg far enough north?
The south – Karlie and Karsten are from Maryland!
The east – Brooklyn and Queens, Plainfield and Rockaway
The west – Martha is from Colorado and I am from Illinois!
The summer staff came from all directions, each with our own distinct stories of struggle, joy, salvation, and hurt. Some of us grew up at Tuscarora, some followed our friend here for the first time, and others did not know this Jesus fella’. Throughout the summer, the staff learned of Jesus and His grace through individual devotions, small group, attending Sunday church services at Tuscarora and Mt. Bethel, and talking with each other while completing our tasks at work. Each day on staff was a new opportunity to encounter Jesus, learn of His redeeming grace, and develop a personal story.
Though verses two and three are a highlight for me, the entirety of Psalm 107 shares stories of God’s deliverance and gratitude of the wanderers, fools, rebels, and sinners. I give thanks to our Father for His grace, provision, and faithfulness to the Tuscarora summer staff this season.
I hope Tuscarora continues to be a place where the redeemed can tell their stories, even if they are only going in reverse.
In case you were concerned, the gold van drives forward now, too.