As a high school sophomore, it was her first time ever to go to camp. Her best friend begged her to attend her church’s summer beach camp, and she finally relented. As they settled into a room full of strangers, they were glad they had each other, especially when they realized they were bunking with the stereotypical “mean girls.” A knock on the door brought two seemingly thoughtful girls with an invitation to meet the campers in their room. Agreeing, they stepped out, but the olive branch withered into a conniving trick as the girls scratched the best friends’ names off the room’s roster, removed their belongings, and locked the door.
They were homeless at church camp. CHURCH camp.
Their new roomies included two of the camp’s junior interns. What followed revealed the loving attention of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present God who set things in motion weeks before in order to touch the hearts of two young women.
For the purposes of anonymity, we’ll call our first-time camper Ally. Ally lost her father to cancer when she was a freshman. He was the light of her life, her anchor, her spiritual rock and encourager. His death left a void in her world, a wound in her heart, and anger toward God. In his memory, she and her sister and mom had infinity symbols tattooed on the tops of their feet, each one unique to what they wanted to memorialize in his honor. Ally’s infinity symbol has the word strength inside.
As she settled into her new quarters, Ally noticed a similar tattoo on the foot of one of the junior interns, whom we’ll call Michelle. Naturally, she inquired about it.
Michelle, too, lost her father to cancer when she was almost exactly the same age.
He, too, was her spiritual rock.
She, too, got a tattoo in his memory.
Hers, too, was an infinity symbol, and the word strength formed part of one of its loops.
This is when the first wave of goose bumps rippled through my body. You know the kind? When you hear something so obviously only God that you physically react to His greatness? That kind.
The more the girls got to know each other, the more they discovered they had in common, like the fact that neither one initially wanted to be there. The only reason Ally went was because her best friend swore she wouldn’t know a soul if Ally didn’t go, yet she was greeted like a rock star with a fan club when they arrived. Several weeks before camp, when a leader asked Michelle to come as a junior intern, she adamantly argued she was a poor choice. Why would they want her with the bitterness she harbored against God? But the leader insisted the Lord had put her on his heart and promised he would fly her home if she found she couldn’t stay. So she went. And she found herself sharing the week with another young woman who needed a touch from God just as much as she did. They talked, and shared, and cried, and all the while, God worked. God comforted. God healed.
Only one God can connect two broken hearts through near exact circumstances and use a cruel and disappointing experience to bring two hurting and angry young women together. Tattoos revealed their similar stories, and God took what the devil no doubt intended for harm and used it for good.
Ally had a divine transaction (see A Divine Transaction). She was baptized and came home a different person. Her story reminds me that the Lord can take extremely painful, uncomfortable, and unfortunate circumstances and use them according to His perfect plan for our lives. And it challenges my faith with regards to releasing the control I like to think I have in my children’s lives to protect them from pain and disappointment. I want so much to see them happy and content, and the reality is, the only way they’ll ever know true joy is to know the Lord is their God and there is none other. To know Him as their comforter, protector, and strength. And if they never come face to face with their need for Jesus as Savior, with sin, their weakness, their vulnerability, and the pain and suffering inherent in this fallen world, they may never really know Jesus. They may never really know their need. They may never know how very real God is. I may protect them right out of a life and eternity changing encounter with Him.
It’s hard to know when and how much to lower the walls we erect to protect our children. Different ages require varying degrees of guard. But no matter their age or stage in life, we can know one thing: the Lord is their true protector, regardless of the safeguards we put in place. He will give us wisdom and discernment to know when it’s time release each child to a new level of independence and freedom, and He will give us greater faith to trust Him for a divine transaction all their own.
Lord, help us to trust You in all circumstance, even the difficult and painful ones, not just in our lives, but in our children’s lives as we become more wholly Yours, modeling faith and surrender in such a way that they learn to become wholly Yours, as well.