It was Tanner who quoted the verse in his devotional. The boy towers over the rest of us, eliciting stares and finger-pointing everywhere we go, and it’s his turn to take the stage before morning ministry to give an encouraging word. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. ALL THINGS, and by now it’s midweek and every last one of us is desperate to believe it.
We’re stretched thin and passing around a bug, too much emotion and far too little sleep. Three and a half hours most nights if we’re lucky. And now Tanner’s reading Scripture and reminding us all of the miracle we’re living. Just like Paul. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12-13). ALL THIS – and do you see how context is everything here? The apostle’s words, often quoted, hardly ever in context. We’d go ahead and print the verse on the tall boy’s t-shirt and tell him to shoot for the NBA, never thinking twice about what that verse is really saying. Not so much about dreaming, but more like miracle-surviving – the author knows it, and so do I.
Ten days of miracles, that’s what it was. We arrived on a coach mid-day Saturday, 37 students and leaders on a 30-hour road trip, and our first night of sleep was folded up like pretzels in upright chairs, or stretched across aisles and under bus seats. Rank and weary, we pulled into McAllen, Texas, 100-plus temps, but glad for the chance to stretch legs and take showers, bags of luggage and VBS bins stuffed tight in rooms, rearranged just enough to inflate the air-mattress, my bed for the week.
And now, listening to Tanner, I remember how this miracle started the very first night. The only time on the entire trip I felt the exhaustion, an irritable spirit, and I asked Him to help me. Nothing fancy, a simple prayer. Jesus, I need… Minutes later my heart was happy and me aware of the Spirit’s recharging, renewing my strength. And every day from that day after I rode on His wind. All this. All things. I have learned the secret. The secret is Him.
Every night we’re eating dinner well past my bedtime; 10pm mopping floors and cleaning tables, a half-hour drive from church to hotel. Just getting started. These kids have been at it since before the sunrise – 4:30am to church for praying; a full day on mission; they’ve poured themselves out in love and good deeds. Now gathered at poolside for their own time of refilling. All this through him who gives me strength. And it’s well past midnight when we’ve finished singing and sharing our stories. Lingering tears, and strengthening hugs. So many broken, desperate for healing. Our kids on mission, needy for Him.
My own boy, Jimmy, shares his story, later that night after Tanner’s devotion. He takes his place in the poolside chair, bright blue mesh over PVC pipe, and he leans in close. All these faces by now BFFs, a team undivided, cheering each other. And it’s time for my son to add his own chapter to the Bigger Story of broken people and Jesus healing, which is just how he tells it. Tears dripping off chin as he remembers and tells about the hardest things and how it’s been worth it because God has a plan and His plan has been good. My heart aches and rejoices as Jimmy tells it. All these kids with broken stories, and this boy’s story’s been hardest of all. But they’d never know it. This kid whose gift is encouraging others, words of healing for places of pain. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret…
I’m proud of them all, but proudest of Jimmy. Knowing where he’s been and what he’s experienced, and seeing him now, this servant of God. The boy is special. Everyone knows it. Ezra, and Sophie, and Joel, and Dylan. Reese. Kids broken and lonely, touched by Jesus through the touch of my son.
A week of miracles. Strength and healing and soul revival. Ten days later we’re different people, we all can say it. In any and every situation… we can do all this because of HIM.