“Is everyone here?” Ten other students and I nod or deny our presence playfully. The night sky outside the cozy lodge rumbles and then carefully opens the floodgates of heaven itself. “Lousy night for camping,” I comment coyly as the movie starts, and a few others laugh in agreement. Then someone more compassionate behind me remarks, “Hope they stay dry.” I shrug, start into my mandatory movie-watching snacks, and add between munches, “I just hope they don’t get washed away.”
Earlier that day, the majority of the students and leaders went camping at the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado, where those who were too burned out, sleep-deprived, or clean-shaven would meet them the next day. As a city boy who has panic attacks at the thought of 24 hours without a shower, you can guess which group I went with. Yeah, there’s adventure, beauty, group bonding, heck! maybe even a dragon and damsel in distress, but I’m more of a sweat-pants, bacon breakfast, small-group, and all-night-sleep kinda guy.
Even so, the next day when we met the sopping and sandy campers, their exhaustedly goofy grins, zealous retelling of memories, and absolutely stunning selfies made even me almost regret my choice. Don’t get me wrong, the other hygienic students and I had a blast and made some awesome memories, but apparently we weren’t the only ones.
Did I make the right choice? I’ll never know. After all, choices are unique things. From packing up home to saying hello, you can only really make them once, and they sometimes irrevocably change your life. Often the change is minute, but these choices and decisions happen all around us, constantly adjusting and molding our souls. If we knew the end result (like slaying the dragon or getting roasted), life wouldn’t nearly be as scary. Unfortunately, I haven’t received the road-map so many of my peers seem to have gotten, giving them the low-down on their life and future, so life still scares the pants off of me. Fortunately, I still have a compass, something more reliable than my whims or ambitions to guide me through choices.
During my freshman year in high-school, my family had to make the decision to move across the country and leave behind friends turned family, familiar roads and other homes, and that one small family restaurant that makes the best omelets in the world, or remain cozy in our well-tailored life. Uncertainty and dread grew from “the raspberry seed in my wisdom tooth” to an infected multi-tooth cavity as my compass pointed towards the move. Seeking to do the right thing and actually doing it are two very different things, so a family powwow was in order. Reminding each other that our compass was rarely wrong, we took a deep breath, steeled ourselves, and began packing. The next three years unfolded into the most painful and difficult period of life I have experienced so far, and yet, what I learned through those years gave me priceless gems of wisdom and radically shifted my life. Even if I found Doc Brown’s DeLorean and could go back and re-choose, I would not trade the comfort I lost for who God made me. But that’s not saying I wouldn’t go back and ensure that last year’s Super Bowl reached the right result: a crushing Bronco victory.
In large groups I tend to be a bit tentative, some might even say straight up puritan-hermit-live-under-a-rock reclusive. I’ve heard it both ways. Either way, the first week here at Summit Semester was challenging as I wanted so badly to make friends, but didn’t want to trust people or take that first step. One night, after small group, one of the guys caught me mid-skip towards sweet sleep and asked if I could go for a walk and talk a bit. In that moment, time froze and I saw the cross-roads materialize before me: Shake it off and make up some joke about dating my pillow or say yes. Time resumed and I realized he was waiting. “Hey, you ok? Do you need to hit the sack?” Maybe it was God, or maybe I really need to start thinking before I speak, but the words sprang from my mouth. “Uhm…nah, I’m cool! Let me grab my jacket.” Either way, I gained a valuable friend that night, the first of several.
Not going to lie, a script would be my first choice, or maybe even some cue cards, but God hasn’t given me any of those for making choices. His will and Word make up the compass that shows me the right thing to do. That doesn’t make it easy, or even guarantee that I follow it. It’s a compass after all, not squad car. But the path of the choices that I take defines who I will be. Sinner that I am, I screw up; however, in the peace and knowledge that God forgives my wests, easts, and even my straight up souths and continues pointing me north, my foolishness is made into wisdom and my successes become His.
It is also worth noting that not all choices have a defined moral north, like enjoying bacon with a few friends or having an unforgettable camping experience. Those are the times where God doesn’t disapprove of one choice or another, and our decisions may have lasting consequences that become who we are. For me this past weekend, it was a few more trustworthy friends in my life and a few extra pounds around my middle.
Nathan Harris comes to Summit Semester from Pennsylvania. Nathan is planning to complete his studies at Pennsylvania State University. After his degree, Nathan looks forward to using his creative skills to shine light into other’s lives and help them see Christ more clearly. During his time at Semester, Nathan looks forward to deepening his understanding of and relationship with God, as well as increasing his critical thinking abilities, humility, and self-discipline. When he has a free moment, Nathan gravitates towards creation, whether through words, music, or drawing and painting.