WHY I LOVE WHAT I DO
I am officially back into the swing of things. We just finished our annual retreat, The Altar, which went incredibly well. What is The Altar, you ask? The Altar is a weekend event meant to be very restful and inspiring. It’s a place to come recharge by engaging with God through His creation on our camp’s 600 acres of beautiful land, as well as through times of silence, solitude, teaching, and worship. We had a good turnout and there was one particular thing that made the weekend really stand out.
There was a large amount of Teen Staff attending The Altar so the other Teen Staff Supervisor and myself decided to have a Teen Staff Reunion. The Teen Staff are a bunch of high school kids who volunteer their time to work at our summer camps. After the summer ends we try to get together once a month for a time of prayer and encouragement. We call this time The Teen Staff Reunion!
So we gathered them all together on Saturday night for a special party in the Snack Shack. We gave them free drinks and hung out with them for a good 30 minutes. After that, we sat around and began sharing stories about how the post-camp life has been going. The kids shared their triumphs and their defeats...and at the end of that time we prayed for one another. The time was great, but what really moved me was when I saw a Teen Staffer moved to tears shortly after our meeting because God spoke to her in a deep way through the simple act of prayer.
Interactions like these are what keep me going after camp ends. In the past two weeks I’ve gotten the chance to not only pray with the Teen Staff but I also got the chance to hang out and catch up with a couple of other Teen Staffers.
With one Teen Staffer I simply listened to what was happening in his life, offered some encouragement, and prayed for him. The other one came to me seeking advice. All three of these recent encounters really encouraged me, but in an atypical way. Sure, they helped me to better understand the influence and responsibility I have as a man in a shepherding role, but it showed me something else—something I forget about all too often. Through all of this I was reminded of just how much I am filled by simply pouring myself out into these kids.
One thing I’ve noticed as I grow and mature in my faith is that Christianity is full of paradoxes. Lots of them. We are told that we must die in order to truly live, we are to find joy in our suffering, love those who hate, and the list goes on. What is crazy is that once we embrace these teachings and live them out, we are transformed just like the text said all along! These recent encounters made me recall yet another paradox in the Christian faith—the idea of overflow. The basic concept says that when we pursue God He fills us up to the point of overflowing (John 4:14). From there we then pour ourselves out only to then repeat the process. We are filled with God’s presence and then we spill it out into the streets. It’s similar to a lung.
What I thought was interesting in my recent interactions with the Teen Staff was as I poured out into them they poured into me. I left those conversations more refreshed than when I went into them.
Essentially I realized that my choice to engage more fully in the moment helped me to come alive. So many times I take the easy route where I end up disengaging and disconnecting from certain relationships and roles because of how hard they are. What I forget though is how much God teaches us through the simple act of engaging in real, authentic relationships. God ends up pouring into me more when I am more apt to pour out all that God filled me with in the first place.
This faith is full of paradoxes...but the older I get the more I realize it just makes sense, and that’s why I love what I do.
Aaron Mitchum and myself serving drinks to the Teen Staff at this year’s Altar retreat.