This morning, I read a little blurb about the phoenix -- a mythological bird (that did exist in literature before Harry Potter) that burned up every 500 years only to be reborn from the ashes to live again -- and I was reminded of God's very clear Word to me during Young Life Assignment. (There is so much to share about Assignment, but I only have a few minutes before I pack up the car and head to the beach with the family, so I'll just get this one posted and then I'll do more later.)
Background: From July 9 to August 2, I volunteered as a Work Crew Boss at Young Life's Washington Family Ranch. Specifically, I was teamed with a wonderful, talented, funny man from Baker City -- Mike Long, you rock my socks OFF -- to supervise the 33 high school volunteers in the Dining Hall. I do not know the specific challenges faced by the bosses in the other area; I'm sure that the Outdoor, Housekeeping, Kitchen, and Pit Crews each had their own challenges. I, however, can speak directly about the challenges of preparing for, serving, and cleaning up after 700 campers 3 times a day. Yowsers.
One of the challenges is maintaining the attention to detail necessary to make the Dining Hall look like somebody cares. There is a VERY specific way for each table to be set so that the entire hall is uniform, and while some of our crew members did attend to these details, many of us just wanted to finish the job. Not necessarily finish it well, but just get DONE so we could sit down. That's how I felt most of the time, but one of my jobs (and Mike's, and he was better at it than I was) was to see the details and get the kids to see the details and fix the missed details. And since the details are a huge element of the job itself, our challenge became how to help the kids see that they were not done with the job until it was done and done correctly.
Keep that tucked away as I explain another part of my particular Assignment experience: Life Signs. Life Signs is a 3-part presentation at camp when 5 different staff people share stories of their big issues and how Christ has dealt with those issues. Just before heading to Assignment, I had several people tell me that doing Life Signs and Dining Hall Work Crew Boss was very challenging. I was prepared to get out of doing Life Signs because I don’t want to over-extend myself while I give away my summer vacation. In fact, slowing down and not doing too much was (and is) another issue on which God has been working with me in the past months. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was supposed to do it, even though it would be hard. I took it to Jesus in prayer, and the feeling was still there. So I moved forward with it.
I was prepared to talk about feeling like I needed to perform for acceptance, but when I spoke with Brooke (the person who’s coordinating all of the participants) she told me that two other people are wanting to talk about that. She challenged me to share about not feeling beautiful or attractive, feeling like I’m not worth noticing and that there’s something intrinsically wrong with me, and feeling that if somebody really knew the real me (and the real family stuff I bring with me) they'd head for the hills.
Let me just say that I'm glad I had serious confirmation that Jesus was leading me into this because it was SO MUCH HARDER than what I had anticipated. As I attempted to tap into the "scenes" from my adolescent and collegiate years that contained those feelings, I hit a vein of emotion that I didn't know was still there. We presented Life Signs twice (once at each of the two high school camps) and the first time was unexpectedly raw, not during the presentation itself, but during rehearsal. I found myself crying as I acted out being dumped in the ninth grade, aching as I reenacted breaking my high school best friend's heart, and cowering with self-condemnation after a conversation in college about how I and my family were too much to handle. But at the end of the presentation, I got to talk with and pray with several girls who had been struggling with the very same things.
And then came Week 2. As we went into the first day of the presentation, I felt like I had a better grasp on myself and also felt like I wanted to mention a bit more of how I felt ugly. So in those two "snapshots, I veered a little more towards my feelings of being fat and ugly and that's why guys didn't stick. The LS coordinator (brooke) challenged me in that space because it was sounding like her story. While her story (not feeling beautiful) and my story are similar, I didn't really intend to get diverted. Then she asked why I thought that happened, and the emotions just started to overflow. I realized I didn't want to walk through those wounds again. I just did it last week, and I didn't want to say it all again; more than that, I didn't want to feel it all again.
So I took some time right then ti have a good cry and some journaling with Jesus. I went through and wrote down the feelings that were so raw, the lies that were fueling those, and the Truth to combat the lies. Having somewhat recomposed myself, I went back to work in the Dining Hall where Mike had been working all morning while I did Life Signs. I came back just in time for devotions, which normally we did out of the whole camp study on Luke. On this particular day, though, Mike went off the schedule and shared about the idea of a job being "good enough" even though it's not done, being specifically applicable to the kids finishing the jobs and finishing them right. But he gave the example of Jesus in the garden. He posed this question: What if Jesus had said, "the work I've done is good enough. I don't need to finish this by going to the cross. I don't want to go; this is good enough. What if He had said that?"
And BAM that was straight to my heart. I knew (and know) that God called me to do Life Signs and to walk through these experiences and emotions again, but I seriously didn't want to, so much so that I was diverting from those wounds without realizing it. But Brooke challenged me on that point, and I saw what I was doing: avoiding the work God had asked me to do, saying "I shared this once, and that was good enough." But God was saying, "Finish the work I've given you to do." So, as Mike was sharing, I prayed the same prayer Jesus prayed: But not my will, but Yours be done.
Then I thought, if Jesus had said no to the Cross, he would have missed out on the resurrection.
Resurrection. New Life. Is that not the hope to which we cling when we are experiencing death? Whether physical, emotional, spiritual or whatever kind of -al, as a Christ-follower, I can have the same hope and therefore the same courage to face and walk through any death God may ask of me.
In all honesty, I don't know what that resurrection is going to look like. I've been home for almost two weeks and feel like the crap that was dug up by Life Signs is still floating on the top of my soul. Yucky soul poop water. But I do know that Jesus did not ask me to do this so that I could just stuff those lies back down into my heart. He has led me here, He has asked me to die to my compulsion to hide and ignore these cancerous lies, and He is the Resurrection.