About the author
Eliza is a young woman who was burned by legalism, but then discovered that Jesus already kept the law for her. Her desire is to get to know Him better. She was in ATI for over 20 years.
More posts by Eliza
I have a really hard time having fun. I’m not talking about mischief–just plain fun. Relaxing or playing games is difficult for me. I’m much more comfortable working hard until I collapse into bed at night.
I remember listening to Mr. Gothard one time in a session in Knoxville. He was sharing a story that had happened in the previous few months.
He and a few select young people had gone to Russia on a ministry trip. While he was gone, one weekend evening the young people who were left at HQ got together. According to what Mr. G said, someone asked, “What shall we do?” Someone else said, “How about we play a game?” Another suggested some game that requires making animal noises.
Apparently, the game was rather noisy, because right at that time, Mr. G tried to call. No one heard the phone. He tried several different numbers before someone finally answered. I don’t remember what he said to the staff members at that time, but I do remember him saying that when he got back from Russia, he spent a whole day calling in every staff member involved one by one. He talked seriously with them about the dangers of frivolity.
He told them that they were neglecting their responsibility to take part in the spiritual battle going on over in Russia. Here they were, playing, while their fellow staff members were over there in the midst of a battle for souls. He told them they should have been praying instead.
I don’t remember his exact words, but he indicated that any staff members who didn’t repent for their irresponsibility were sent home. I recently learned that one staff member was indeed fired over this incident.
Mr. Gothard said something about this being how youth groups or normal teenagers would act. But we needed to be above this kind of thing if we were going to be the special kind of young people who would give the world a new approach to life. We had to have a higher standard if we wanted to be used by God in the incredible ministry opportunities that were rapidly opening up.
This story had a huge effect on me. As someone who believed that Mr. Gothard was a very wise man–whose opinion should be respected–I totally took it to heart. Also, as an apprenticeship student who longed for the privilege of working at HQ, I strongly desired to measure up to whatever expectations there were for staff there. I wanted to be one of those elite young people who were so spiritual that they could be a part of such wonderful opportunities! I had dedicated my life to God and wanted to do something important for Him.
As I went home after that Knoxville conference, I went with a new determination to not waste any time in playing frivolous games, but to make sure I was productive so I could serve God in the best possible way. Unfortunately, this was not a healthy decision because it contributed to me thinking that playing games (which can help build relationships) was beneath me. That having fun with someone, if there was no ministry involved, was frivolous. That it was wrong to relax and have fun with friends.
After living like that for so many years, it has taken me a long time to learn to relax. To learn to enjoy just being with people and building relationships. To learn that God wants me to live in joy. That He doesn’t mind if I actually enjoy life, even if it isn’t a specific “ministry” activity. I’m learning that it is okay to take a few hours and read a book, even if it isn’t an educational one. I want to learn to enjoy playing games, and maybe even sports. I am learning that taking a nap can be the best choice at times. And that relationships are more important than productivity.