I’m scheduling this blog to post when I’ll be out of town at a student ministry conference called CIY Move. I’ve been going to this week-long event since I was in my early 20s, and so my attendance streak reaches into the double digit years at this point. They’re always great.
But one Move Conference sticks out.
I was in Michigan several years ago with a group from a church I used to work at. A dude named Jayson French (who happens to be one of the best preachers you perhaps have never heard of) was telling a story about hiking in Alaska. He was a novice at that stage of his outdoor adventuring, and despite warnings from buddies he had arrived ill-equipped for the arduous journey. As they navigated over treacherous ground, stomped through icy water, and tackled the difficult terrain, it all wore him down. Feet blistered and skin peeling off from the constant barrage of the elements, but not wanting to slow his crew down, he resorted to slapping duct tape over his wounds just so they wouldn’t grow worse as they trekked on.
Jayson was providing an illustration of what it meant to follow Jesus and, more specifically, what it meant to preach the Gospel. At the conclusion of his story-telling, which he wove into a moving sermon from 2 Timothy and Paul’s exhortation to preach the word, Jayson invited people to come forward if they would be willing to preach the Gospel for the rest of their lives, no matter how hard it got. He held rolls of duct tape high into the air, challenging the crowd of a couple thousand students to come rip off a piece as a reminder of the commitment to continue on, even when things got difficult.
I was completely convicted. I know the challenge was being issued for students, but there I sat in my late 20s, a student pastor with nearly 10 years under my belt, feeling like an ill-equipped minister of the Gospel who had very little figured out. I was still a novice in so many ways. The one thing I knew for certain is that I wasn’t going to quit.
So there I was, a full-grown man, practically sprinting down the aisle to get my piece of duct tape. When I made it to the front Jayson ripped off a piece and handed it to me. Then he handed me the roll, and I turned around to see hundreds of students pouring out of the crowd to accept the challenge to preach, even when their feet hurt from walking. I stood there with a dozen or so other student ministers who were resolute to preach until they stopped sucking air, passing out duct tape to hundreds of kids who vowed to do the same.
I still have that roll of duct tape. Occasionally, I get it out and look it over. Sometimes I’m tempted to rip some off, but the blisters I have from walking through life can’t be reached (nor helped) by duct tape.
Don’t misunderstand me: I’ve not suffered to the point of shedding my own blood, as Hebrews puts it. But life is hard. I slosh through icy waters of my own, and some times the skin of my resolve starts to blister and peel. There are greater trials ahead, I’m certain. Sometimes when I’m sliding the silver tape roll around in my hand, pondering that night in Michigan, I wonder if I meant what I said a few summers back.
Will I ever quit?
I’ve wanted to. I know that. If it weren’t for that duct tape, I may have quit long ago. If it weren’t for Jesus, I know I would’ve.
But instead I untie my hiking boots, take off my socks soaked by the puddles I’ve slogged through, and do a quick inventory of the wounds inflicted by sin, doubt, trials, and rejection. I’m hurt, sometimes, but I’m not even close to quitting. I may not always feel as eager as I did that night I raced to the stage to get my duct tape, but I am just as determined to keep hiking.
Like Paul in 2 Timothy I want to say in the end: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7