Originally published on July 13, 2018 at www.melissajmacdonald.com
For the last 7 summers I have done camp ministry. I travel from camp to camp as a speaker to kids. I love it. By the end of this summer I will have done a total of 39 camps in 7 years.
Yes, I absolutely love the kids. I love speaking to them. I love helping make the Bible come alive to them, I love pointing them to Jesus, I love hearing their stories, I love journeying with them. It is a blessing.
These camps, however, always involve more than just kids. Inevitably, I end up sitting on a porch or deck or bench talking to adults. The staff who help make these camps run every week are amazing. They’re also people. They have their own hurts and struggles. I cannot tell you just how much I love talking to them, hearing their stories and speaking into their stories. A lot of my conversations are with adults in their late teens into their 20’s.
This year, I have been sensing a theme in the counsel I give these young adults. If I could put it into one sentence it would be this, “stop making stupid choices and start pressing into Jesus.” Profound right? Mind blowing. I should hang a shingle and do this for a living.
Let me preface what I say next by saying I don’t want to make light of anyone’s story. Our stories are hard. We live in a sinful world. Horrible things happen to us and are a part of what shapes us. Good and bad. I would never make light of the hard in anyone’s story. That being said, as I’ve been talking to young people I, quite unexpectedly, began to believe the same lies that they’ve been believing. “Life is hard, it’s just too hard to stick with Jesus. The world pulls at me and I try, I really do, but I keep losing.” “I sin because I can’t help it.” “I want Jesus, but I just can’t find him.” I actually feel like I began to become numb to what they were telling me. Not that I didn’t hear it or care, because I do. However, I found myself going numb to their messaging. I didn’t even realize it, but I was buying it and I was discouraged. I even found myself thinking, “it is hard, it’s too hard. The cycle can’t end.” And, “maybe I’m just an exception, maybe I’m not normal.”
Then I had an encounter that put a spotlight on all of the icky and the dark I was buying into.
I talked to a 19-year-old girl at a camp recently. After I talked about hurt people hurting people and how we can stop the cycle (Pineapple People, for those who are aware), she waited until I talked to the line of campers eager to share their story and pray with me and then she came up and sat by me sobbing. I patted her arm and let her cry. She looked at me through her tears and her eyes had an undeniable look of joy. She poured out her story to me. Her story was tough, I mean really tough. Possibly one of the hardest I have heard recently. Divorced parents, multiple ugly custody battles, suicidal thoughts, suicidal attempts, abuse, anger, brokenness, etc.
She poured it all out and I just listened. It was beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, it was heart breaking and it was so messy, but it was beautiful. You see, this 19-year-old had joy in the midst of her story. Instead of being bogged down with excuses and apologies and martyrdom she was clinging to Jesus and He was making her story beautiful. With tears in her eyes she beamed at me and said, “I’ve come to the realization this year that I cannot do life without my Jesus. I just cannot do it. I need him.”.
She found Jesus through the love of a church, a youth group, a friend, and a youth conference. She spent her freshman year at a secular college. Instead of allowing the world to pull her away she pushed into Jesus. She told me, “After about 2 weeks I realized I couldn’t do it without my Jesus. I needed him with me. So, I tried to spend about 90 minutes every day (or week, because #collegelife) talking to Jesus. I journaled, I read my Bible, I talked to him.” She made it through her first year of college and came out loving Jesus more. MORE, not less.
Her summer is hard. Really hard. Family is tough and she, like all of us, desperately longs for parents who genuinely care about her and act like parents. She’s sad, she’s mourning, but she’s growing closer to Jesus. Does that not just bless your heart? I’m still over here smiling about it. I love this girl. More importantly, I love what she reminded me of. We serve a BIG God who pursues us and longs to be in deep relationship with us. He is, however, beautifully a gentleman and will not force himself on us. He doesn’t move, we move. He doesn’t quit, we do. He doesn’t give up, we do. He is there waiting to lavish his love on us. Oh, that we would press into Him. It’s not easy, but very few good things ever are. He redeems, He renews, and He creates beauty out of ashes all the time.
I want to be more like this girl. I want to press into Jesus more. I want to say proudly, “I cannot do life without my Jesus.”
You guys, at the risk of sounding simplistic, all you need is Jesus. He is more than enough. He’s there waiting for you. Now, it’s up to us to stop wallowing in our sin, in our past, in our mistakes, in the shadow of our story and start pressing into Him. Passivity in our relationship with Jesus has us circling the same issues day after day, year after year. You have all the power of the Holy Spirit available to you. Press into it, allow Him to fill you, allow Him to change your patterns and start writing new patterns for you. Let’s stop making stupid choices and start pressing into Jesus.