This weekend, I traveled with about 40 other kids to one of the many the Young Life campuses. This one is called Sharptop Cove in Jasper, Georgia. Many people here have been a part of Young Life camps and programs since they were in middle school, but this was my first ever Young Life camp, and it sure has been memorable.
Upon arriving after the four hour drive, we were divided into job groups. Some people were bakers and cooks, some were servers, and some had other jobs. My job was to work at the snack shop, and I was really excited; really, I was eager to serve anywhere! I have had the great joy of serving with three other college students (pictured in the featured image) in the snack shop. Though the hours were quite different from everyone else working in the kitchen, I loved making tens and tens of milkshakes and having good interactions with many of the high schoolers at the camp. I just love making connections!
It took a lot of myself to be able to serve and give my very best effort with joy throughout the whole day. I was amazed by the dedication of the year-long staff who work at the snack shop, cook, and clean the kitchen and houses throughout the whole year with a joy and willingness that was a direct reflection of Christ’s heart to serve.
Most of all, my favorite thing about Young Life Work Crew was club. This was something fairly new to me as I only began attending Young Life Club in Nashville this fall. All of the high schoolers gathered in a big room and we started singing songs like Roar and Wagon Wheel. Being the good Christian girl who has spent her whole life trying to be good enough, I was afraid to sing along, that God wouldn’t like me to dance and sing to any song that didn’t explicitly praise His name. I watched the high schoolers jumping with joy and looking happy and at peace, and envied their sense of freedom, but remained locked in fear.
Then, the skits came on. There is always a funny skit and game after the songs. Nervous laughter exuded from me. This skit wasn’t all about Jesus, it just seemed like fun; and that terrified me. After the skit, we had a time of worship. This was where I felt comfortable. After all, I grew up in the Church, went to a Christian school for so many years, and this was normal to me; this was safe and something I knew well. I mindlessly sang the words I knew so well in my heart, then sat down, ready to hear the conventional Bible story and message I had heard hundreds of times before. Would it be about Noah’s ark and how God is true to His promises. Or about sins that I had already mastered? Alcohol: no problem for me! Sex: never had it before! But something was different about the messages here.
The worship at Young Life was a little different; but in the most beautiful way. It was new to me, and it made me pay close attention to the words that I was singing and the meaning behind them.
“Who wrote the rain
Who wrote the sun in
Who called your name
Where are you running
I’m gonna be there near of far
I’m gonna meet you where you are
Who wrote the rain
Who wrote the sun in” (Andrew Ripp)
Wow! God wrote the rain, the sun in. He wrote in all of the beautiful mountains and nature I had been seeing around me in my time here. He is gonna be there for me wherever I go and wants to meet me right where I am; not where I want to be, but just as I am.
Then the speaker, Clifford spoke, and it was like a cut to the core of my heart. We were talking about the story where Jesus turned water into wine, a story I had heard numerous times; or so I thought. He talked about our misconceptions of Jesus; about how we think at the dance party, he would be the one everyone would feel awkward around. We talked about how people think that if Jesus saw alcohol, he’d just turn around and leave or be quick to condemn. He addressed all the things I had assumed about Jesus; that He is this good policeman, and I am someone who simply wants to follow the rules, go to Church on Sundays, and be a “good enough” person. But there is so much more.
Clifford reminded me that at one time in his life, Jesus was eighteen years old, too. Can you imagine? He had an imperfect family as well. At the wedding that Jesus went to, he was invited with his friends. He had close friends, just as I do. He cared about people, and he cared about his friends who were getting married. The water in the big jugs mentioned were used for people to wash their arms and feet in before the wedding so they could be clean. Jesus Christ took this gross, dirty water, and turned it into (alcoholic) wine for the people to celebrate and enjoy; he wanted good things for his friends, those whom he loved.
These were things I had never thought about before. Jesus knew exactly what it was like to live in an imperfect family, to be my age, and to have friends and live life. He was not a person concerned with what other thought of him or someone who simply wanted to please. He was not someone who just wanted to be good. He loved and cared about people.
Just like he took the dirty water and turned it into wine, he took all of my sin and shame and dirt, and carried my burdens upon him. He is mighty and powerful and had the ability to let me pay for my rightful punishment of death, but he humbly endured the scorn and mockery and shame just because he loved me so much. He is perfection and righteousness, and He lets me be that by his crushing, painful death on the cross.
And the most amazing thing of all? He did that for absolutely everyone; from Barabbas, the murderer, to a sinner like me. And because He did that for everyone, because He did that for me, it changes everything. Just like my roommate always says, the gospel changes everything. It enables me to live freely because I know for sure that I am saved because I have believed in my heart that Jesus is Lord and that he paid the price for all of my sins; I never have to be afraid.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” ~ John 8:36
I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that he is mighty to save anyone. This gives me the heart to see others as loved by God and pursued by Him, and makes me want to be a part of His mission in loving others towards Him. It means dancing freely along with these high schoolers and being a friend to those of the world in order to love them to Jesus, just as Christ loved me. It looks like enjoying God-given laughter and living in the freedom to struggle and fail, but to pursue Jesus and his life-giving love, knowing that He first and foremost calls me to love. Love is not perfect, but it is also not bound by fear. It moves and acts and depends wholly upon Jesus. It is not afraid to be vulnerable and messy and grow. It knows that it is prone to fall and fail, but loves fully and relentlessly and radically anyway, because Christ loved first.
“I have found the great paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” ~ Mother Teresa