Staring up at the rounded 12 inch wide telephone pole crossbeam, suspended 40 feet in the air and 25 feet across, and buffering ourselves against the 30 mph frigid blustering wind of the first November fall freeze weekend of Texas Travis looked at me slyly and prodded, “You guys (Jashley and Grant) have done things like this before, right?” “Yes we have, a few times,” I replied hesitantly, expecting as I unfortunately guessed correctly, that our program director had a twist in our high element activity up his sleeve. “Ok, here, put these on,” and he handed Jashley and I both those things which have invoked anxiety, fear, uncertainty, doubt, panic, or even the foreboding of death in many situations throughout history, in the brave and cowardly, and across all ages.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
8"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. 9"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.… Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
9but just as it is written, "THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (NIV)
I do not think anyone can argue against the truth that we are (for those who are blessed with the ability) visual beings. ‘Seeing’ is belief for us, it gives us the illusion of control, grants us a foundation to set out from, and reassures our confidence. Or, of course, it can produce in us the exact opposite: that is, disbelief, fear, and self-doubt. Beyond this, how many new situations or challenges are we thrust into, presented with, or stumble upon where we feel as though we cannot see; where we feel blindfolded?
It was into these experiences the 2015-16 Seekers, Jashley, and I journeyed into on the Veritas Life Adventures Intro Trip at M5 ranch on Lake Buchanan outside Austin, TX. The goal of course was to find where each of us were overconfident in our ability to ‘see’ physically, spiritual, and nutritionally, where we felt as if we were blindfolded; how, what, or whom could help us take the blindfolds off, overcoming and pushing the boundaries of what we thought was possible…what we thought was truth.
So, if you would like to read how we kicked off our program year trips, I present to you the following tales in three areas of our lives we focus.
I could think of no better way to begin our trials than with an area and activities most of us are completely blindfolded in; primitive weapons training and use. Yes, as soon as we arrived, we were introduced to the tomahawk, throwing knives, and the bow and arrow. We were given a brief, but informative, history of their uses, shown how to properly use them ourselves, and were let loose to try and impale our targets. As you will see below, while none of us were instant experts, we all had a grand time and found our individual prowess in one tool or another.
This, of course, was just the prelude to the rest of the novel, challenging, and, at times, obstacles that took everything we had within us to overcome. However, as we learned throughout the weekend: the more we took ourselves out of our individual comfort zones, we were able to reach into our learning zones, and, together, push and grow both so that what was once frightening or overbearing became confidently achievable.
This became evident as we help each other through team exercises on a high ropes element and learning how to navigate, through orienteering skills, to different way points and objectives throughout the vast ranch (thus preparing us for the future backpacking excursions). In each activity, every Seeker and leader had a role to play, learning that paradoxical truth all effective leaders find: that a true and effective leader does not dominate or order, but follows when necessary, building and empowering those around them to achieve the maximum outcome.
I am proud to report that every Seeker, with the aid of their fellows, was able to overcome the 40 foot high element activity I began the story. Where at the least, climbing to the crossbeam, standing firm against the wind and cold, and at the most, being able find a way to cross the other Seeker at the other end of the beam and reach the opposite side before repelling down.
It was the second part of this element which was of the greatest difficulty, as the two Seekers found the best (and really the only effective) way to pass to the other side was to lean completely out at a 45 degree angle away from the beam in opposite directions till only your toes were touching, relying completely on the belay team 40 feet below to hold you in place and guide you, then side slide past by side stepping till you could regain a standing position once fully past one another.
It is here that the story from the beginning picks up…
Now, every Seeker had already accomplished this feat (albeit without blindfolds) before Jashley and I were presented with the blindfold challenge. And all the Seekers were now looking to us to see if their leaders were willing to step out of ‘their’ comfort zones and into faith, the unknown, and show them by example we were more than just preachers of the Veritas lifestyle.
So, blindfolded, against the battering elements, climbing 40 feet by groping and listening to our belay teams of Seekers’ instructions from below, and trusting in them to keep our rope taught, we ascended. Now, standing blind on the beam, came the true trial, test of teamwork, and trust in each other as Jashley and I blindly leaned out in opposite directions. Then with constant encouragement and instructions from our Seeker belay teams below, we crossed and reached the opposite side rendering the fearful task completed, defeated, and conquered.
These physical activities, and the fitness test of different workout elements (such as hand stand pushups, and the ‘prowler’ push) the Seekers challenged themselves in lead directly into our spiritual aspect. These physical feats laid the trust foundation for us to open up honestly, confidently, and compassionately to be able to meet each other where we were.
So under a bright moon, amongst the endless twinkling stars, and trying to share in the blissful warmth as the bitting cold encroached we settled in to study and discuss three fundamental questions:
What is truth and does it actually exist?
Can it be applied to all aspects of life?
If there is truth, what do you think of God and His word being its embodiment?
I know, extremely difficult questions, and I had no assumptions that these topics could be fully explored in one evening; but as it had been with the other events of the weekend, it was time to start removing the blindfold and begin to see what lay beyond.
Have you ever heard 14-18 year old ‘children’ discussing truth as it relates to quantum physics, evolution, or the honest confession that it was hard to know what to believe as truth because of all the directions one is told is the ‘right’ way to think via schools, coaches, or parents? As I listened to the deep insights of our youth, I realized just how little credit we give them in their ability to work through tough topics and their thirst to understand the world around them, their purpose, and how to have a truly full life.
Wading through the multitude and various theories out there, they all were able to come to the conclusion that the first step in finding truth was to seek after it aggressively, but with the basic belief, hope, and faith in that their was a God out there and One with whom they could possibly have a relationship.
A good start to their journey, don't you agree?
I really don’t need to have another blog section on how obesity, lack of knowledge, and the desire for instant gratification when it comes to nutrition permeates the youth of today. Instead, I merely want to say how amazing it was to experience, tutor, and create mouthwatering meals with our future leaders in feeding their knowledge and their bodies well and healthfully.
I was extremely impressed with their willingness to try new ingredients (brussels sprouts) and dishes, and their vast skills in how to prepare the food from chopping to using alternative ingredients to make traditionally unhealthy meals into something wholly nutritional: i.e. our amazing chili, either vegetarian or using organic bison/beef, and soft crumbly organic broccoli corn bread.
Even with limited and inadequate kitchen tools, these brave young youth pushed passed their hesitations andliterally made the best of each culinary opportunity where every meal we had tasted like a feast worthy of kings….
And so as Jashley and I reached the opposite sides of the beam from where we began, suspended and held up only by those in whom we put our trust and lives below, and prepared ourselves for the slow repelling decent. As I was finally relaxed, being lowered by my team, my mind cleared from its sole focus of survival and the versus from the beginning of this story flooded my mind.
I realized that both states, blindfolded and seeing, have their worth and relevance. Through faith and trust, while blindfolded, I was able to focus on the goal at hand. I gave over the things I could not control or see, and in doing so the fear and uncertainty of the height, the wind or cold, or my physical limitations faded from relevance allowing me to do things I would have otherwise thought improbable.
However, when the blindfold was removed and because of my accomplishment through that faith and trust, my world seemed seemed somehow expanded, more vibrant, like I now had the confidence and ability to do more than ever before. This, I believe, was the lesson manifestedwe all learned over the weekend; that, when we courageously step out in faith and are willing to grow our comfort zones expand, our learning zone increases, and the point at which we would normally collapse is pushed out to new horizons.
One of the greatest theologians, C.S. Lewis, described this great struggle as an experience akin to ‘awakening’. I think all of us, the Seekers, Jashley, and I would agree. Now it will be up to us to continue pushing into the next phase of the our Veritas Life Adventures journey, and ‘awaken’ that which He has called us into…
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” - Howard Thurman
If you would like to peruse the rest of our trip pictures, see our Facebook album here.