It’s been awhile since I’ve updated anything about my life. But today I just wanted to do a writing exercise. I found a prompt on Poets & Writers webiste:
Taking a Trip
Write an essay about a trip that you’ve taken during which you were in search of something. What were you in search of—family connection, relaxation, adventure? What did you find? Was it what you expected?
I’ve taken many memorable trips in my lifetime. I would maybe even go so far as to say that on almost every trip, I’ve been in search of something (a different perspective, an experience with God, an adventure). Trips are for experiencing life. Traveling keeps your eyes fresh and your perspective new. That’s one reason I never want to quit traveling to new places.
One meaningful trip I’ve taken was a month long assignment serving at a summer camp. I went to this camp in search of an experience with God, and maybe more specifically direction for my life. I found an experience with God in the way that you always find it when you are coming to Him looking for answers. I found Him in a much more meaningful way. He busted through my broken faith and redefined it, taking all the questions about my future and where I was going and making them absolutely irrelevant.
It began on the flight from Las Vegas into San Diego. I remember being absolutely upfront and real with God. “Okay, God. I know my relationship with you is not what it used to be. I’m not really sure who you are or who I am anymore. I just pray that you would do something in me and through me in my time serving.” Thus the battle began.
Spiritual growth comes in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it comes peacefully on a summer night, reminding you that God is the point of everything. Sometimes it comes through an outward circumstance, a tragedy or taking the step to go off to college. This was neither of those things. Camp was an opportunity to focus on what I had been struggling through spiritually and to attempt to put it into words to some older Christians who might be able to make sense of it. At the time, I had no idea what I was even struggling with. I knew I had hit a wall, but I had no idea what that wall signified.
Some of the girls I bunked with at camp used to say, “They couldn’t pay people to work as hard as we do.” I was the only lifeguard. I sat out in the sun, day after day, kept the pool clean, kept the chemicals in balance, and set up other games and activities for campers. In addition to all that, you try sleeping in a room full of 12 other girls and see how you sleep. I was exhausted all the time, and one-hundred percent out of my comfort zone. I went to camp knowing absolutely no one, and I am not the social outgoing person who makes friends immediately.
I did, however, end up getting close to a couple of other girls at camp and to a woman who was working there for the month. I spilled out my spiritual distresses to this woman, and she tried to help me sort through the mess that had become my walk with Christ. She was all about staying in “the tension”. One of the first messages I heard at camp was about Jacob wrestling with God and getting his hip torn up from it. That’s where I felt like I needed to be. I had questions about God and about this Christianity thing I’d been walking in for so long. My ideas of who God was, was not what it used to be and I had to confront God with that and see what His response was.
I felt like I kept seeking and seeking and seeking. I poured out my heart every day in a pink journal that I had brought with me, filling it with my exhaustion from camp, my frustration with campers and other staff, and with my questions for God. This is when I learned for the first time in my life that it’s okay to be mad. Emotions are human, so it’s okay to have feelings and not to be the perfect Christian who doesn’t get upset about anything. I felt like I had spent so long not being okay with getting upset about things that once I gave myself permission to, I got upset about anything and everything. And I was okay with that. I had spent twenty years being a push-over and a nice girl, and I wasn’t going to do that anymore. If I was mad, I was going to be mad.
This is still something I’m trying to find the balance to – being real, but also being considerate and keeping your-self in check.
Then after about half the trip of just wrestling and praying and not even knowing what I was fighting, I finally had a breakthrough. We were worshipping God one night by singing some praise songs, and I just decided that instead of trying to get to God I was just going to let God come to me. So I closed my eyes and just was and let God just come to me. It was then that everything just fell into place. I had a vision in my mind of Jesus hanging on the cross and dying for my sin. I poured out to Him that I wasn’t good enough. That no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t solve all the social justice problems that I kept hearing about at my college. I couldn’t ever be the crazy, outgoing evangelical person who shared Christ with anyone and everyone. I couldn’t even figure out what I wanted to do with my life – and whatever I did decide to do would probably end up being selfish, because it would be: a missionary, going into ministry, or being a social worker. I couldn’t be all these things that I felt like I should be for Christ. But, then I saw the cross of Christ and realized that I didn’t have to be any of these things. Jesus died on the cross so that God could meet me where I was. I didn’t have to be any of these other things to be good enough for God – because that wasn’t the point of being a Christian. The point of being a Christian is that we aren’t good enough. God’s grace alone is what allows us to have a relationship with Him. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and if I’m still living my life in the law… trying to be good enough for God, than I am not living by God’s grace.
So, we quit worshipping and I felt all light-headed and floaty like I do when I’m having a spiritual experience. I ran into the dorm and threw on my running shoes and went up a path onto a dark mountain to just be with God. I repented for trying to be good enough in my own merit for God, and thanked Him for his precious son dying on the cross to be my Savior. And then I finally felt like that wall had been broken. I felt the beautiful presence of God and swam in it. I prayed with the lady who had been mentoring me, and just felt myself beaming like the disciples who saw Moses when they climbed the mountain with Jesus.
After the trip, I did not want to return down the mountain to my normal life. But, as we all know, life has to return to normal. In my day to day life, I felt more freedom than I ever had with Christ. I allowed myself to be more open to things I’d been closed off to before, and to make mistakes if I needed to make them. I stopped living in fear of making the wrong choice. I learned that I was called “Redeemed”. Christ died on the cross for me to redeem me, and that took on a whole new meaning. And of course all the newness of the lesson eventually faded away. Back in normal life (6 years later) I still don’t feel the presence of God very regularly. I haven’t had a positive experience of growth like that since then. But, I’ve been a Christian for 12 years now. I know God. I know that whether I feel His love, or not, whether I’m reading my Bible every day and attending church or not, that God still loves me. I’m not trying to meet a church quota, or Bible reading quota. I’m just living my everyday life with the Lord. I know I have a lot of things I still need to work on and grow in (which I always will), but I know that God’s love is not conditional on those things.
And… even if I never experience Christ in that way again until I die, I know that He’s there and loves me, but I do believe that in another 6 years or 10 years or 20 years, I will have another mountain top experience with God. My faith is not dependent on those feelings, but it’s still such a high to have them.