My journey toward affirming my faith started in the summer after 7th grade when my class went to Luther Park Bible Camp for a week. I am still in touch with some of my counselors from that week. In 8th grade, my class was taught by the associate pastor, and in 9th grade, we were taught by the senior pastor. I remember showing Pastor Chet how to hold a softball bat correctly (he tried holding it like a cricket bat), and I remember Pastor Sjolie keeping me after class so I could hunt through the Bible to find the scriptural basis for the text of “This is the feast” (perhaps to test if I would be seminary-worthy a few years later?). Other than that, confirmation was pretty uneventful, and I made public affirmation of my faith in September, 1988, at the same church where my mom and her mom were confirmed.
Fast forward about 14 years. I was on internship at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Richland Center, Wisconsin, in 2001-02, and I was tasked with teaching 8th grade confirmation. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t challenging! I had a class of nine or ten very active, very honest, very loud kids, wrangled in cooperation with one of the adults of the congregation. We went through a lot together—9/11, the sudden death of one boy’s Lenten mentor, one student leaving mid-year because of personal issues. We had a lot of fun interpreting key Bible stories in ways we all understood. When illustrating the day of creation when God created the stars in the sky, one student drew Brett Favre in his Packer uniform—particularly painful for me, a diehard Vikings fan! At the end of the year, the Mountain Dew Code Red ban was lifted, hot dogs were grilled, and we played five-a-side soccer on the church lawn.
It has been a delight to stay in touch with those young people throughout the years. Some have struggled more than others, but they are all certain of the vocations to which God has called each of them—graphic artist, neuroscientist, cake decorator, computer engineer, occupational therapist, to name a few. They are all living out their faith in different ways. They all knew that their confirmation day wasn’t their graduation from the church, but rather the beginning of a new journey of discovery and continued faith formation, a journey that will never really end. It’s the same for all of us. We learn how to hold a softball bat, how much caffeine is in a bottle of Code Red (a lot!), why <insert quarterback name here> is the best QB in the history of <insert your favorite team here>, how hard it is to lose the Wilmers in our lives, and how the Holy Spirit guides each of us in our journey of faith.
Andrea Toven is a radio broadcast engineer and head of electronic component sales for Smiling Dog Systems. She and her husband Shane, an applications engineer for Linear Acoustic, live in Laramie with their four-legged children Callie, Leo, and Norman.