Week 5 just came to a close on Saturday, and I realized something revolutionary—sometimes my patience wears thin. I get tired, cranky, annoyed, and downright irritated sometimes...and that affects how I interact with others.
With that being said, let me back up a bit and let you in on my summer thus far. As soon as I saw the first group of high school students entrusted to me for the week, my heart simultaneously jumped with joy and sunk due to feeling incredibly inadequate to do my job. Internally, I was battling comparisons to previous teen staff supervisors and was struggling with being present to the teen staff because of it. I spent most of my time that first week trying to create really good devotions and was missing out on just seeing and hearing the people I should have been prioritizing all along. My mind was elsewhere. Thankfully, God opened my eyes to those unhealthy thoughts and gave me victory over them. Through the encouraging words of many staff and teen staff as well as the many revelations that came from my own personal reading, I was able to get back to being myself...and I felt released to simply be available to the teen staff for listening, encouraging, and advising.
The two weeks that followed were more of the same...meaning that I was able to continue loving the Teen Staff because I still felt released to simply love and be present. Also during that time I began to realize more of what my job consisted of, and began to see the places God wanted me to take the teen staff spiritually. I loved it! Things began to click: my Teen Staff Assistant and I had worked out all the devotions, I was becoming familiar with my role, and the Teen Staff kept blowing me away with their maturity and passion. All of these things coupled together to create this overwhelming sense of joy in me. Things were fresh and new. I didn’t see how things could’ve gotten any better.
The next couple weeks took a crazy turn. About as soon as I thought things couldn’t get any better a bunch of attacks began coming my way. I found myself being pulled away more and more from my quiet times, tiredness began to set in, and the routine of camp life began to bring about apathy. After all, every devo was done...so obviously that meant I could shut off and run on auto-pilot, right? Um...no. Somewhere something had gone horribly wrong, and now I had to identify it.
The theme of the summer for the teen staff is overflow…it is this idea that whenever we are consistently being filled with God through our ever deepening connection with him, we end up loving God and people in a whole new way. We become more sacrificial in our love and ultimately we become more like the person we have been allowing to fill us—which in this case would be Jesus Christ. One night after talking about this I had the sobering realization that sometime during the summer I had let the very thing I was teaching slip from my own practices. I was no longer leading out...I was preaching things I was in no way practicing. On top of that, I began to become aware of how interconnected tiredness, apathy, and selfishness were. Not only was I not operating out of an overflow, but I had begun to shut down to certain people...drawing inward as people started to bug me. Essentially, I dropped the greatest commandment (Love God and love others) and took up one of my own crafting...love myself and do what is best for me always.
Soon after realizing I had been storing up all of this bitterness and brokenness inside, I had an encounter that really blew my mind. I was talking with our camp director, Jamie Roach, and he gave me a quote from an author he loves. The author talked about how our limited love really opens up our own insecurities. When we cross over from love to annoyance, we can pinpoint just how conditional our love is...and then we get the opportunity to try and increase our love by figuring out how to take joy in other people’s quirks and nuances. When we do the hard work of trying to love those who are hard to love, we end up loving people more like Christ does. Every time we examine ourselves and are able to love people despite our own shortcomings, we take steps towards being able to love all—even those who mock and persecute you. Incredible!
With that new knowledge, I was ready to try again. I was ready to return to God so I could again be filled to the point of overflow, and in turn be transformed by God’s love so I would be able to love all of God’s children again...quirks and all. I was ready to be stretched and challenged...and that excited me. It still does.
I love the verse John 4:14, where Jesus says “Everyone who drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This is my prayer...that I will be able to remain in this love so I can do God’s work without burnout or fatigue. I am wanting to always draw from that deep well that will make me thirst no more.
Teen Staff picture from week 4.