Taking a DTS camping- which included separation from technology, no internet, limited showers, no beds, absolutely no hair-dryers, very little makeup, and a separation from the general comforts of civilized life- sounds pretty daunting right? Not for our awesome DTS staff! They fearlessly led us into the wilderness… well ok. Wilderness may be stretching it a bit! The DTS did go camping for a week, but there was no using the woods as a toilet, chopping down trees for firewood or trapping our own animals for dinner (although a few of the boys did try!)
We went to a spot called Phasels Wood which is a pretty well-equipped campsite. There was access to toilets, showers (although those were very spider-infested) and a hall that we used for cooking mealsand dining.The campsite even provided us with big piles of pallets and various bits of wood for burning.The only tough part about that was carrying these huge pallets to the spot where we had our tents set up! Everyone was grateful for the wood when we got to enjoy a nice, warm fire every night. We had some great bonding times, a lot of wonderful singing, story-telling and game-playing around the fire.
Our speaker was a man named Danny, who spoke about the father heart of God. He focused a lot on the LOVE of the Father, His FORGIVENESS and His GRACE. Ultimately Danny emphasized that if we don’t know Jesus and how Jesus related to the Father, we won’t know the Father. In the Gospel of John 15:9, Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” Danny challenged us to really dive into our relationship with God and pursue getting to know Him. In any healthy relationship, both members of the relationship strive to bring joy to one another, and that left some of us with the question… How does a fallible human being bring joy to the Father?
One of our trainees is an eighteen year old English guy named Tim. He’s tall, with black hair and a brilliant, inquisitive mind.He describes the topic of the father heart of God as something he’s never considered much before. Here are some of Tim’s thoughts as he worked through this topic.
I had a revelation two weeks after we came here. I was at a bad place. I was struggling with hard theology and trying to love God in the midst of it. I wasn’t fully understanding the love of God. One day I went to the chapel and started playing the piano. I don’t really play, but I was loving it and enjoyed playing. I just started playing worship songs, and really loving God. That’s when I felt like I knew what the father heart of God meant.
It hit me. It felt like God was watching me, the way a father watches his son. It was like God loved the way I was exploring the piano. It reminded me of my childhood… I would always write fantasy stories and color maps with loads of detail. God was watching it and loving it. God watches everything we do and delights in it. It’s very comforting… I want to apply that intimacy of God in everyday practice.
Robert is another trainee on our DTS who shared his thoughts about the father heart of God. Robert is from Columbia, has a crazy sense of humor, and always wears a smile that looks like he’s up to something (to be fair, he usually is!) He’s also been a missionary since he was young, and has a very deep relationship with the Father. When asked about his experiences with bringing joy to the Father’s heart, this is what he said.
“I believe the more I know God’s heart, the more I know how to bring joy to His person. It’s like having a relationship with anyone. The more you know a person the more you know what they like and dislike. I find God a very complex being, but when I think of God as a friend, even the big things about Him, becomes simple to understand… The way I bring joy to God’s heart is asking Him every morning, ‘Hey God what would bring joy to Your heart today? What do you want me to do today?’… I just listen and obey having the joy in my heart of knowing that He has a smile on His face… God is interested in who you are, not what you can do. All we have to do is let God be God.”
The last trainee I talked to about his experiences this week with camping is James. He’s also English, and he’s a wonderful addition to our DTS. He’s a natural leader and a great listener. God has transformed him in an incredible way since he arrived, and when I asked him about his experience when we were camping he was so excited to share what God revealed to him about forgiveness, which is one of the key characteristics of God as our Father.
“Because of all the sin and crap in my life I have always thought, ‘How can God forgive me?’ It came across… well someone prophesied over me saying your sins are as white as snow. I was so confused, how can I be pure? God sees me as pure? For the whole day I needed to process it. I talked to Andy [our school leader] and he said how God sees us. When we get to heaven it’s like we’re walking down the aisle as Jesus’ bride and he sees us in pure white… this completely perfect being with nothing wrong because He forgives us for every single thing that we did. It’s like we’re at a wedding when the bride is walking down the aisle and when the groom sees his bride he sees her as perfect and flawless and gets excited to spend the rest of his life with her. I finally realized that that’s how God sees me, as pure, and the way that a groom looks at his bride.”
What an amazing image. The Father delights in us and finds joy in us in the same way as a man looks up and sees his soon-to-be-wife walking down the aisle. He’s never seen her looking more beautiful. She is in this incredible white gown and the sight of her takes his breath away. In that moment he doesn’t think of the times she’s wronged him or the broken moments in their relationships. He is overcome by her beauty and he feels an immense hope in his heart and an excitement for a shared future together. He gets to spend his life with this person who he loves with everything that’s in Him. That’s how much God delights in us.Who wouldn’t want to know this God so full of love and so eager to forgive?The more we get to know God in our DTS the more we want to know him, and this camping-setting was the perfect place to begin to explore intimacy with Jesus and our loving, forgiving father.