Lake McGinty pulls out his chair and sits at the table, tossing his long brown curls away from his face and smiling a jovial smile. He begins to share his story, his slight accent revealing itself every so often, softening the harsh vowels of the standard American tongue.
“The instantaneous moments are not how God spoke into my life. It has been His continual long-term faithfulness that has pulled me in.”
Lake tells of his earliest years in St. Louis, Missouri, where his family lived out the beginnings of the American dream. When he was seven, Lake found a professing faith in Jesus and just two years later, his parents’ followed God’s calling on their lives to serve as missionaries to college students in Cape Town, South Africa.
The University of Cape Town, or UCT, is the largest university in Africa. Lake’s parents ran a nondenominational ministry for students, and Lake, his older sister, and younger brother attended public school in South Africa.
“That was my life for the next ten years or so. Public school in South Africa is a lot more of a blend of cultures. And it was a huge culture shock, to sum it up – going from a small suburb of St. Louis to a large city in South Africa with my parents serving at a university with over 100 nations represented. I was in school with people from every background, worldview, ethnic background. It became very easy to just be the Christian kid, but the biggest struggle for me was intimacy with relationships. Being a kid who moved around a lot, I had very shallow friendships.”
Despite Lake’s academic and athletic achievements, he often felt like he didn’t belong.
“I always felt like the social outcast. Which is interesting because I was in the upper end of academics; I was the star of the basketball team, and played rugby for four years in high school. I was known by everyone in my year, but primarily because I was the American. But I could bound around and fool myself into thinking I was known. After high school I realized I’d never had a close Christian friend.”
Lake’s lack of deep and steady friendships trickled into how he viewed the Lord.
“The truth that God never leaves and never wants to distance Himself was a hard one to believe.”
As Lake began college, first at a Bible college in South Africa, then at a small, Christian college in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, and finally at Missouri S&T, he found that because of his lack of long-term friendships over the years, walls had been placed around his heart, protecting him from getting too close to someone who might be a temporary figure in his life. Through the Lord’s gentle pursuance and the deep relationship with others, those walls began to crumble.
“None of the walls coming down were my doing. There were a few key people who spoke directly into that – whether they knew they were doing it or not. One was a young man at the Bible college in South Africa. His name is Johan.”
Johan was the first deliberate mentor Lake had in his life. He was the first person to push Lake out of his comfort zone and directly pursue a friendship with him.
“He insisted on having deep conversations and showed up at my room at the most inopportune times. He taught me about God’s persistence and calling us back to Him, then catching us when we don’t want to be seen by Him. Johan would interrupt me when I wrote poetry. And as one who gets very vulnerable and most often uses poetry as a way to talk to God, Johan asking, ‘What’s this about? Will you read it to me?’ felt like an invasion of my privacy, but it was God showing me that inviting other people into the gifts that He has given me is a form of faithfulness.”
While God worked through Johan to reach Lake’s heart, he didn’t grasp that he was called to do the same thing for others.
After Lake moved back to the United States to attend Covenant College, two more people began pouring into Lake’s life as well.
“Nathaniel, who we called Nanny, was my RA. And he, independent of his actual position, led us in Bible studies and encouraged each of us to lead one during the semester. That was the first direct call to serve in teaching that I had experienced. And then Peter. He was a dear friend and accountability partner, and also a missionary kid – his parents served in China. He was the first friend of mine where I felt understood. I could talk about struggles with fitting in in the United States, and Peter understood what it was like to have a little bit of an accent. It helped me to learn that God understands our context more than anyone else because He knows. I learned that truth is a foundation in a Christ-driven friendship. You have to know each other in order to best speak into each other’s lives and best uplift one another.”
While at Missouri S&T, Lake developed a one-on-one discipleship relationship for the first time, and finally understood the importance of pursuing a discipleship friendship himself.
“Jason was the first person to one-on-one disciple me. We went through Psalms and Proverbs throughout the course of two years. It was an intense study, but it was life-centric and ultimately, God showed me the depth His scripture and theology can apply to everything in our lives.”
After being discipled, Lake felt the Holy Spirit leading him to now disciple others. He asked his friend, Will, and he agreed to be discipled by Lake.
Lake and Will met weekly, studying Scripture, but also reading through C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and The Chronicles of Narnia, seeking out Lewis’ intentional inclusion of theology in his writings.
“Throughout the course of time, God used each one of those friends to gradually reveal to me what it means to be in a friendship first, but a friendship that goes on beyond the day’s events and what you enjoy and includes hard things, like calling each other out, keeping one another accountable, and praising together. Now, I can say all of these men, in their own way, have become like brothers to me. I think there’s a new found understanding of the value of every human life in that. And discipleship is a two-way street. I think that the Lord reveals to His children the value of being helped.”
While at Missouri S&T, Lake was actively involved in their student ministry where he served as president during his last year of school, giving him many opportunities for discipleship relationships. From shallow friendships with no idea that intimacy in Christian circles is a gift the Lord has given us, to leading an entire ministry of Church community, Lake’s relationship with others and with the Lord changed drastically. He could now see how the Lord is a faithful friend who desires intimacy with us and never leaves.
After Lake graduated, he began looking for a job and while many doors closed, the Lord made it clear that he was going to work in Kansas City. Shortly after moving, he found Pleasant Valley and began attending Twenty-Somethings, determined to find community but also get involved in leading, discipling, and serving as well. Lake’s longing for intimate friendships is a direct result of the walls God tore down around his heart.
And while Lake now has deep and steady friendships, he has learned that Jesus is really the best friend of all.
“Jesus is faithful and not shallow. He’s been faithful to surround me with people who love Him and then encourages me to surround myself with people I need to share His love with. It isn’t a shallow faithfulness, it is a deeper faithfulness – He knows the depth of us and chooses to give us the depths of Him. Jesus is faithful.”
Am I a burden to my friends?
Am I the one clinging to a past I’ve journeyed beyond?
Do I seem to them to grasp at fading ripples of our times,
Never again able to create the waves that bore us hence
And look as though longing to never use the past tense?
On the surface it seems waves don’t travel far,
Can’t brave the miles between.
But, underneath, I think, they span entire oceans
And traverse the waters unseen.
That is what I hope to be,
The connector, the tides joining the continents.
Not hoping for times fading,
Not expecting a splash anew,
But joining lives together,
seeing no need for them to drift apart
And trusting that the months and miles mean nothing to the heart.
So I pray I’m not a riptide pulling them back to sea,
Brought along for the ride as I drag them along,
Nor that I come across as one who is locked and bound to distant memories.
But, rather one who believes it is to eternity that brothers belong
And that we can endure seasons of silence amidst phileo’s song.
A poem by Lake McGinty