Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Seat at the Table

When I was 18, I randomly stumbled into a potential leaders meeting for a ministry called YoungLife. This happenstance changed my ministry life forever. I loved being a YoungLife leader. One of my favorite things about YoungLife was the annual summer camp trip. Wow! What an experience! I was able to load up some of my closest middle and high school friends and spend one of the best weeks of our life together. If you were to ask any of my guys what their favorite parts of camp was (aside from the spiritual aspect of it), I would bet that over 90% of them would not say it was the zip line or the bus ride or the awesome programs/games. My bet would be that they would say it was the meal times.

One of the intentional things about YoungLife camp are the meal times. The tables are designed to be round, as to mimick a family style seating. Many YL kiddos have rarely, if ever, sat around the table with their own families. The first thing you'll see before the meal begins is all the leaders entering the dining hall before their students so they could be there to welcome them as they come into the room. Leaders cheer and yell and wave their friends over to the table! It's chaotic and wild and beautiful. See, as the kids come into the dining room, they are desperately looking for their leader. I would bet that some of them, because of the hurts of their past, have some worry that there won't be a seat for them when they get to the table. But their leaders see them and welcome them to THEIR seat at the table and rejoice over them EVERY time! There was times when my group was bigger than 8 guys (which is what the tables hold), so guess what? We would crowd more chairs around the table because EVERYBODY had a seat at the table! To me, this part of camp spoke to the gospel just as much as the speaker did!

It is the same way with Christ. He welcomes us to the table EVERY time. There is the first time we sit at the table (when we first give our lives to Jesus) and this is the best! We realize that we have a forever seat at His table! However, as time goes on, there comes situations that want to threaten our place at the table. Situations we call sin. We screw up and a thought enters our mind, "I wonder if I can come back to the table? Will Jesus let me sit even though I screwed up this bad?" And the answer every single time is a resounding "YES!!! COME SIT!!!" This is my favorite part about my faith. I was a kid who didn't have a seat at the table. I was a kid who screwed up time and time again. I can still remember when I was invited by Christ to sit at the table for the very first time in 2002! My first thought was one of not being worthy, but I sat down and claimed my place at the table! And I can attest to you that every time I've screwed up and thought that my place at the table was compromised, He welcomed me back every time! I have a permanent seat at the table! I am now challenged to stop those things that make me temporarily leave my seat at the table.

Tony (name changed for privacy) was a kid who, by the world's standards, did not deserve a seat at any table. He was an overweight kid; didn't smell very pleasant; didn't have the best manners and was socially awkward. Tony came to camp with us in 2007 and whenever I talk to him, we speak fondly of our time together at camp. Without fail, meal times come up! Tony always tells me that there was always enough food (which to a big guy like Tony means a lot!) and we laughed so much around the table! He can't tell me the name of the speaker or what the theme of the week was or even remember the program lines. But he can tell you about sitting around the table; about how we celebrated his birthday around the table (which he says to this day, was one of his best birthdays! 9 years later!); and about how even a kid like him had a seat at the table.

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