Each Spring we host our annual summer missions Dinner Theatre fundraiser. Dinner Theatre was the idea of students decades ago who wanted to leverage their talents and love for the arts to help raise money for students to serve on summer missions. So, in time-honored tradition, Dinner Theatre will open this weekend for the 38th year in a row with a production of “Into the Woods.” This tale follows some of our beloved fairytale characters and how their lives intersect in their pursuit to change the outcome of their lives.
Typically, I am not one to spiritualize pop culture, but this show hits on so many themes with which our college students struggle. So many students are in a season of wishing for things in their lives, and they struggle with the fear of the unknown with their future. They battle with the courage to make wise choices and step out into the unknown. One of the lines in the show is “Into the woods to get the thing that makes it worth the journeying.” There are things in the journey of life that are worth the risk, even in the midst of the unknown.
We see this repeatedly in the relationship between God and Israel. In Exodus, God comes to Moses after generations of silence and tells him that He is God, Israel is His people, and Moses is to lead them into the wilderness to the promised land. Let’s be honest: That sounds scary and risky.
“Then he continued, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors. I know about their sufferings, and I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the territory of the Canaanites, Hethites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.” (Exodus 3:6-8)
Can you imagine how Moses or the Israelites felt? Leaving all they had known for generations, going to a land that they had never seen, on a journey through a dessert that most could never go into or explore? To leave in freedom, after all they knew was slavery, because of God’s desire to have a relationship with them? Can you imagine the fear of the unknown and of what was to come? The hope of having a future that was now their own? The faith and courage it took to follow God into the wilderness? I know that was a lot of questions, but just think about it. Put yourself in their shoes. This is how so many of our students feel about life and their future. It is scary stuff. But, look at how God refers to them. He calls Israel His people. He says He is going to free them and provide for them. He gives them hope and a future.
“Therefore tell the Israelites: I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from the forced labor of the Egyptians and rescue you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the forced labor of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.” (Exodus 6:6-8)
I think it is so important to remind students over and again that, yes, life is uncertain, and the future is unclear, but God has a plan for each of them. He wants to lead them and be their God. But, just like Israel, students must step out in faith, trust, and obedience. Being in a relationship with God is a journey of trust, obedience, and dependency on Him. A relationship with God is worth the risk of the unknown future, because of the knowledge of who He is and what He did for us by sending Jesus to die on the cross and conquer death so we might have that relationship with God.
I tell my students that God has proven that even though the path and future are unclear the journey with Him is entirely worth embarking on. For us, the wilderness of life are the seasons that requires trust and dependency on Christ. Take courage and a step of faith and…
“Into the woods you have to go because that’s the way you grow…”
Sarah Farley is a campus minister at the University of Georgia. She loves talking about Jesus, SEC football, eating burgers, and drinking coffee with students.