By Sharonda Mcphee

Lessons from Chapter Camp: What Defines You?

Normally, I would’ve been hesitant to spend an entire week in the mountains of Jasper, Georgia. With no computer, no cell phone reception…can you say boring? But this year, the Lord placed an intense desire on my heart to go to chapter camp. As a city girl, I expected this to be the longest six days of my life, but God had other plans for me.

When I arrived at chapter camp, I realized how beautiful and peaceful it was. Chapter camp had the perfect environment to connect with God.From day one I was ready to get my praise on and receive my blessing from the trip, but something felt missing. I felt like God wasn’t there. And to make matters worse, while at chapter camp I found out that I didn’t pass one of my classes—a class I thought the Lord told me he would help me pass. My world came crashing down. For three days, I tried to figure out what was going on:

 Why would God bring me here and then seem to leave me? How could I have not passed my class?

As I rambled through question after question, the more confused and frustrated I became. Everything at chapter camp became infected by my frustration, from worship to early morning prayer sessions to Bible study. My chapter camp experience wasn’t anything close to what I expected it to be.

God Speaks in the Noise

On day four, listed on the schedule was a Retreat of Silence. I used the guide that was provided for us, which listed different things we could pray for and Bible scriptures we could read. I sat outside, and my paper began to get soaked and fall apart as it started raining. I couldn’t read a word on the paper, so I threw it away and prayed that the Holy Spirit would take over from there.

I moved into the Prayer Room, but didn’t know what to do. I had no guide to follow and I was still bummed about my problems. I sat down in a chair and began listening to my iPod.

Then I heard a voice speak to me. Over the music in my iPod headphones, I heard it very clearly say, “Sharonda, I love you more than you can ever imagine.”

I paused my iPod to process what I just heard. Realizing this voice was God speaking to me, I replied, “Really? You love me more than anything?”

 “Yes. I really do. And I desire the best for you. I want to help you.”

I felt dumbfounded because here I was, thinking God had left me hanging when the truth was that he never left.

And I was worried over a class. If the same God who created the universe promised me that he would help me pass a class, then I would trust it would happen.

My dumbfounded feeling was now replaced with a sense of comfort.

Jesus’ love is pure and it is perfect. He looks beyond our weaknesses, imperfections, and flaws and sees value. His love for us is not hinged on our accomplishments because even if we have none, he still loves us deeply.

That is what I learned at chapter camp. That is the blessing God wanted me to receive.

God is infinitely greater than all of our finite problems. He is bigger than our problems, and so is his love for us. In the end, our problems, mistakes, and failures are not what defines us; the love that God has for us does.

Sharonda Mcphee is an InterVarsity student at Indian River State College, where she's studying to be a veterinarian.

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