11 May 2023

‘I ended up learning so much’

Daniel Lloyd

Image shows Daniel Lloyd at different Terrain sessions.

Daniel Lloyd shares how the Terrain programme helped him grow in faith.

There wasn’t a lot of thought that went into me choosing to sign up for the Army’s Terrain programme. My divisional youth specialist told me I would enjoy it and I had never been camping before, so it sounded like good fun. I didn’t pay attention to any of the fine print about studying the Bible and growing in my faith. But I’m glad I signed up, because I ended up learning so much and having a ton of fun along the way.

Terrain is a series of Zoom calls and weekend trips where a group of young adults get to discuss their faith with each other and their mentors. Terrain’s approach to aiding spiritual growth is tailored to the individual; everyone is on a different life journey and has a different relationship with their faith. I was going through some big life changes and generally finding it difficult to engage with the Bible. Terrain gave me a fresh perspective on both those struggles, and likewise my struggles gave me a fresh perspective on the Gospels.

There were four weekend trips in the year, two out in the depths of nature. Those were my favourite, both in terms of fun and spiritual growth. I enjoyed being away from the distractions of busy life and meditating on the word of God, which is not something I often make time to do. I have since spent a lot more time actively engaging with my faith.

I also don’t usually make time to put on a wetsuit and hike down a river in Wales, but that’s another thing I got to experience in Terrain. That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done, full stop. I’m a lot more adventurous than I give myself credit for. I don’t consider myself outgoing, but it surprised me how easy it was to step outside my comfort zone.

At the end of that hike, I had the option of jumping off a huge waterfall. I would have to say that the two biggest challenges I faced in Terrain were being brave enough to take that jump and being challenged to do something charitable with £10 in London.

Strangely, jumping off a waterfall was the easier obstacle to overcome, because the dilemma of who to give money to turned out to be quite difficult. One group finished the task quickly by giving it to a man experiencing homelessness, whereas my group spent a good half-hour offering to buy service workers cups of coffee, none of whom felt comfortable accepting charity for doing their jobs. By trying to control what the money would be used for, we made the challenge more difficult for ourselves.

It surprised me how many lessons we stumbled into. Lessons that weren’t in the curriculum, but happened in the moment. I’ll never forget going to see the cross on St Cuthbert’s Island. There were all these trinkets and flowers and personal things laid at the foot of the cross. It tickled my brain because that’s an aspect of faith that’s difficult to experience in church or share with others. Imagine coming on a Sunday with a seashell, a keychain or a broken doll’s head and putting them on the holiness table. But those little things are essential to the individuals who put them there and Jesus would appreciate a good seashell!

I also learnt that boiling Jesus down into an easily understandable entity does him a disservice. The Bible was written by a lot of people going through a lot of things throughout a lot of history. To quote a book we read this year, Inspired by Rachel Held Evans: ‘The Bible is smudged with human fingerprints.’

The Bible’s messiness is its very strength, because there is always something to ponder. The stories are often smoothed over into straightforward accounts of things, which leaves many things at the wayside that are downright fascinating to discover for yourself. For instance, Inspired notes that people tend to only adapt praise songs from the book of Psalms. Psalm 22 asks ’God, why have you forsaken me?’ (v1), which would not be very fun to sing on a Sunday morning, but Jesus chose to quote those words before he died on the cross.

If you are struggling with your faith, embrace the chaos because God is trying to teach you something interesting and new. To anyone thinking of signing up for Terrain, go for it! You might surprise yourself, have a lot of fun and learn that you’re a cooler person than you thought you were. That’s what happened to me.

Written by

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Daniel Lloyd

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