I am often reminded that God places His people together to shine in ways we can never do alone. Something I learned as a boy gives me great expectations for the Body of Christ.
When my family moved to Michigan in the 1967 I was hoping to find a new Boy Scout troop and a new group was forming at our Junior High. About eighty boys showed up at the organizational meeting and all the boys were to line up in a Patrol they wanted to belong to. The dreaded picking lines, the Patrols had all been picked, but there were five boys that nobody picked, the so called, “losers” sort of huddled together in the corner. The leaders quickly decided to place these boys with the most experienced scout, (that would be me), that is how the Rattle Snake Patrol was formed.
It took no time to see the problems; Neil was a thief, and his sarcastic manner made him even less popular. Andy was the classic nerd, skinny as a rail, weak, shy, I’m not sure he ever said more than three words at once, not someone you wanted on your dodge ball team, believe me. Nick was seriously crazed, he had this look in his eyes that gave you the creeps and by all means he was a pyromaniac, if we were outside somewhere Nick started a fire, the bigger the better, and don’t leave anything close to him you don’t want burning. Ray our Rolly Polly over eater with an appetite for everything except work. The little bed wetter I don’t think he stood four feet tall and you guessed it his name was Petey. To complete this picture, me, 6’ 5” 135 lbs, my pants were a 36” inseam with a 28” inch waist. We searched everywhere for pants to fit and all my mother could find were these bright yellow corduroys, that one pair of pants is all I had, my nickname as a result, ‘banana pants” .
Boy Scout meetings are filled with competitions, ball games, races, chances for young men to find out, “they have what it takes”. The Rattle Snake Patrol had what it took to be ridiculed and laughed at. If we weren’t getting our brains beat out in a Cage Ball Game, we were getting in big trouble because Neil stole someone’s knife or Nick set the woods on fire. Yet there was a comradery that began to form among us, we seemed to have an ability to see beyond each others obvious weaknesses to a common bond of the afflicted. Time and adversity was forming something that was stronger than any of us had dreamed.
The Klondike Derby came around the second winter we were together, a competition where each Patrol would build a dog sled that would be pulled by the scouts. The entire Tall Pine Council came together to find your way with map and compass to hidden check points, once you arrived you would be required to do a Boy Scout task of some kind. This fateful winter day it was snowing so hard you couldn’t see ten feet in front of you. These new adversities I am now quite sure God placed for us to see how each member of the Rattle Snake Patrol had a special something hidden like a diamond in the rough.
Ray had no desire for work, but boy oh boy could he navigate with a map and a compass, give old Ray a map and a compass in a blinding snow storm and he truly amazed all of us. Off we trudged in the snow and before long we were at the first check point. Our first task was to lash together about fifteen poles to make a tower.
Lashing is not easy, especially when your hands are cold and you have on gloves or mittens. Andy may have been a nerd without much to say but man oh man could that boy lash; I mean a clove hitching frapping genius, and before long we had a lashed tower that would make Ted Trueblood proud.
Off we went to check point number two, once at the check point we were told all we had to do was start a fire with two matches using the snow covered wood. Nick’s eyes told the story, this was his moment and literally within seconds the wood was ablaze.
Warmed and encouraged we trudged off for Check point three. There we were required to perform several first aide functions, on a roll our confidence boosted we sailed through that one, and off we trudged supposedly to Check point four, but on the way we encountered several very cool hills, the sledding was fun and since we were sure we had no chance of victory, we decided to spend the next couple hours sledding. After lots of fun we decided we better head back, and we were soon at the start finish line.
As we approached a cheer went up from the rest of our troop waiting on the sidelines, they knew that no one else got past two check points in the snow storm and since we had made three we were the winners.
Yes, we got a Tall Pine Council victory ribbon to go on our flag that day but much more than that, seven boys took the field that morning and something greater than the sum of the parts crossed the finish line, something forged by the Master. Those who have ever been part of something like this know what I am saying, it’s beyond friendship, beyond team. Such is the body of Christ. Each of us bear God’s image in a unique way and His glory shines through us, together it’s an amazing thing, I would say Epic.