As I drove home from dropping off my thirteen year-old at Boy Scout camp, I realized that the formative moments of life pass imperceptibly except in hindsight. After more than 30 years of reflection I now know that I was shaped by my time at Camp Child in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was there that I learned to swim, to sail, to shoot and to serve. It was there that I first understood the benefits of hard work and discipline. It was there that I developed the leadership skills I’d need many years later. Much of what I’ve become was planted a week or two at a time beside a pond in Manomet.
Can you imagine what you’d have missed had you not been where your formative moments transpired? What would have happened had you chosen not to take that summer job where you met that special person who became your spouse? What would have happened had you decided not to respond to that acceptance letter and met the roommate with whom you spent most of your college career? What would have happened had you backed away from the challenge and never knew the strength that resided within you?
The funny thing about formative moments in life is that they are impossible to predict. Had I followed my own heart, I would have likely walked a different path in life. I was afraid to go to camp the first year, but glad I went anyway (even wanting to stay a second week). I was apprehensive about the job interview at Friendly’s, but glad I went anyway (meeting a wonderful girl who also worked there). When I was working for a bank, my desire was to move beyond the teller line and I applied for a position in the Trust Department; I had no idea that I would be developing the skills I use today (i.e. dealing with those in the grips of grief or relational conflict) in ministry.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Psalm 37:23 (NKJV)
Looking back, I see how God has been ordering my steps. Had I not worked for South Shore Bank twenty five years ago I would not have been aware of the apartment we moved into on Elm Street; had we not lived on Elm Street, we likely would not have gone to Central Baptist Church; had we not gone to Central Baptist, perhaps I would not have volunteered with the youth or gone to seminary and likely would not have ended up as a pastor in Dorchester. Sometimes the formative moments are epic and other times they are mundane, but they are always unpredictable to those of us who live on this side of glory.
Now that I have children of my own, I want them to embrace their formative moments. I want them to go to camp, to take risks and experience life. I want to know when their futures are being shaped. Alas, my perception of these moments is faulty and I cannot recognize what is important and what is not. I suppose I will, like all things, trust that God is God and He will order their steps as He has mine.