In two weeks our 9th graders will be confirmed, publicly declaring that they want to be disciples of Jesus for the rest of their lives. Even though they have studied for three years, gone to camp three times, built relationships with their peers and other adults, I'm pretty sure they don't know what they are getting into.
But that's okay. Nobody asked them when they were baptized: are you sure you want to get into this? Are you sure you want to be disciples of Jesus? Their parents just carried them up to the baptismal font and had the pastor pour water over their heads, and made that dangerous promise.
And here they are. They are two weeks from being confirmed and they have just spent the weekend at a place called Camp Friendship. It is a camp especially for developmentally disabled youth and adults, so everything is handicap accessible. When other groups (like us) use the camp, all of the money goes toward scholarships for others to attend a camp week in the summer.
But that's not why we go to Camp Friendship. We go because of something called the "Challenge Course", an afternoon of guided team-building activities. The activities are somewhat physically challenging (as evidenced by my aches and pains today), but they are more challenging because the group has to complete them together. They are not successful because of individual prowess, but because everyone made it through the challenge.
So the group has to figure out how to get everyone over the wall, how to get everyone to swing on the rope from one side of a fake "ravine" to the other (and also, by the way, how to get everyone to fit into one round hoola-hoop on the other side). Other activities are difficult to explain, but require those with more agility, balance, and speed to pay attention to those who do not have those qualities. Also, we discover that other problem-solving qualities are important, too. And patience. Patience is very important.
I was so impressed with the patience, good humor, intelligence and good will exhibited by the youth this year. We talked a little after the "challenge course", about the lesson for our lives as Christians -- about the challenge of living a Christian life, about how we can't live it alone, about the necessity and difficulty of trusting God, and one another.
And yet, they don't know what they're getting into. How can they? I'm fifty-two, and I don't know what I am getting into, still, and I am still discovering new challenges.
So, in two weeks, they will all say yes. I'm confident that they will all mean it, too, even if some of them fall away at some time. I pray that even those who fall away will discover again God's faithfulness. And I pray that there will always be others willing to share the challenge and the joy of being a disciple of Jesus with them.