I don’t think I’m going to be able to come back next summer.
My heart broke as this stunning reality hit me last winter break. I pulled out of the parking lot at T Bar M Camps with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. That moment marked the beginning of the long, arduous process of figuring out what I would be doing the following summer. I was halfway through my sophomore year at Texas A&M, and by the end of the next semester, I would be halfway done with college.
My parents said it was about time for me to begin developing myself as a young professional. It would be beneficial for me to have an internship experience under my belt entering into my junior year.
Reluctantly, I agreed.
Camp and Computer Science don’t exactly mesh well together, so heading back to camp as a counselor was not an option.
And so the search for a summer internship began. After four stressful months of phone calls, countless emails of correspondence, seven interviews, and four offers, I found myself signing a contract from Blackbaud to work as a Web Development Intern. The search was over, and I celebrated by taking the most glorious nap of my entire life.
Signing that offer letter meant that my summer was going to look drastically different than the previous one. It meant trading hot summer days on the sports field for an air-conditioned office. It meant trading wooden picnic tables for an ergonomic chair. And it meant trading six days a week of FUAGNEM for a 40-hour work week.
Now while these trade-offs may not seem all that bad, I must let you know: what I gained last summer while working at T Bar M has proved itself invaluable. Camp is a place where you find yourself daily being pushed to the end of yourself and brought to a place of deep reliance on the Lord. Five solid weeks of this makes for a truly humble servant.
I thought there was no way anything could ever compare to the experiences I had at camp. However, despite my doubts, I’ve discovered that the Lord has taught me just as much over the course of ten weeks in Austin as He did last summer at T Bar M.
As I wrap up my final week with Blackbaud, I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned:
Community is tough to acquire.
One of my biggest concerns that came with moving to another city for the summer was the fact that I didn’t really know a whole lot of people. There were a handful of guys that I knew from the previous summer at camp, but that was about it.
Last summer, I was surrounded with an enormous community of friends who encouraged me in my faith every single day. This summer in Austin, I learned the reality of Christian community—it doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes, it means suffering through a few awkward conversations before finding something you can relate to. Other times, it means taking the risk of being transparent about who you are with other people. Building community is hard work, but I’ve learned that it’s worth the effort.
I also learned that a small handful of people is all that you really need. God blessed me with nine individuals and taught me to build a community by simply working what I had before longing for more.
Rey, Jonathan, Blake, Josh, EK, Shawn, Angel, Chris, and Justin: thank you. Each of you have encouraged me throughout the summer, whether you knew it or not—all of you in your own unique ways. Thank you for the laughs, the fun experiences, and some unforgettable memories.
People are valuable.
People are valuable, but I recognize now how often lose sight of this truth and treat them like commodities. Over the first few weeks in Austin, I met a lot of new people. However, I found myself time and time again in the middle of a conversation with someone, realizing that I could not remember their name. One day, I was convicted of the fact that I tend to be more focused on making a good impression and making much of myself in a conversation than on being compassionate and loving to the person standing in front of me.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. // James 1:19-20
Shame on me if I have ever forgotten your name. I’m working on listening more and speaking less. Jesus was fully devoted to the people around him, and I want to be the same. You are too valuable in God’s eyes for me to not give you my full attention.
On top of all of this, I’ve learned how we all need to be reminded how valuable we are. Like I said earlier, you and I are more valuable in God’s eyes than we will ever think.
A few kind words go a long way. Personally, I want to be more generous with my compliments. Whether it be a handwritten note, a short text message, or a friendly gesture, these things remind people that they are treasured. The kindness of the Lord leads us to repentance, and likewise, our kindness leads people to love God and to love others better.
My relationship with the Lord is precious.
Despite having a small group of great friends, I found myself feeling very much alone at times throughout the summer. The busy schedule of work kept me from spending significant amounts of time with my roommates and friends, and at work, I spent the majority of the day by myself confined by the walls of my cubicle. This summer has been a journey in many ways, and I’ve felt like it’s been just me and Jesus for much of it.
In this short season of loneliness, I’ve learned how precious my relationship with the Lord is. I’m reminded of a parable Jesus once told:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. // Matthew 13:44
I am so thankful for a God who has been my ever-present companion throughout this great journey that we call life. He is my most precious possession. All along, I’ve had everything when it seemed like I had nothing. There is peace in knowing that He walks with you every step of the way.
Recognizing how precious my relationship with the Lord is has affected the way I worship Him. In the past, I’ve taken for granted knowing Jesus, sometimes treating Him just like any other relationship that I have. Now, I’m able to celebrate this great treasure that I’ve found.
We like to cling to the familiar.
We are all creatures of habit. We are naturally drawn to living a routine life because we believe that’s where safety resides. We don’t like walking in unfamiliar territory because we’re afraid of getting hurt.
All of these things keep us from being men and women of great faith. I think I was so drawn to return to camp this summer, not because I wanted to serve God there, but because camp was conquered territory in my life.
My story joins many others as proof that it’s worth it to take a risk with our lives and to follow God wherever he may lead us. For me, He was calling me from camp to corporate. I found Him there with me in an air-conditioned office, in ergonomic chairs, and in a 40-hour work week. And it just goes to show that He goes with you wherever you go.