so this month i got to go sledding, probably for the first time since i was double digits in age. and it was awesome. i went on new life’s high school retreat with a bunch of the guys and gals i’d been getting to know over the past semester, and it was a non-stop rush of games, snow, fellowship, and craziness.
that’s all of us before we left. it took about five or six hours to get from new life to michigan, where one of the high schooler’s parents graciously allowed us to stay in their wonderful winter getaway for the weekend. i’m a fan of long drives, because it’s the perfect opportunity for fun conversations and getting to know people better. it’s also a great time to break out some camp games and find out that tastes in music are brilliantly similar.
we arrived late friday night and pretty much just unloaded, got used to the space, and crashed for the night. the next morning, we woke to find that the parents were making us all breakfast (i know, right?). it was delicious, and set the day off on the right foot.
after breakfast we cleaned up and had some quiet time. i was super grateful that it had been scheduled in; not only did it help to emphasize the importance of spending time with Jesus that weekend, but it would also have been kind of difficult to find time otherwise, because the weekend was packed. adam had prepared passages for all of us to look over, so that when we came together for the first session, we were all on the same page. the first devotional was over daniel 3, the story of how the Lord delivered shadrach, meshach, and abednego (or rack, shack, and benny for any of my fellow veggie tale folk out there) from a fiery furnace they’d been thrown into for refusing to bow down to the king’s golden idol.
for some reason, i went into the weekend thinking that, since this was a high school retreat and i was just along for the ride, i wasn’t going to get a whole lot out of the messages that took place. definitely a wrong assumption, and i’m really thankful it was. God had me thinking a lot about the idols in my own life (something i’ve written about before), about how i pursue them blindly and hopefully, even though i know they don’t satisfy. He also, especially in this season of support raising for east asia, revealed how i actually hadn’t been trusting him at all (which inspired this post last week). most of all, though, He called into question my motivations. in daniel, the three friends believed that God would save them, but read this:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (daniel 3:16-18)
that’s called boldness (and sass, i think), but it’s also trust. they assumed nothing about God’s plan in the matter. they knew He certainly could save them, but if He decided not to, it certainly didn’t make Him any less great. it didn’t mean they were wrong or stupid for trusting Him in the first place. because, ultimately, their motivation wasn’t a desire for deliverance; it was glorifying God.
is that my motivation for everything i do? it should be. 1 corinthians 10:31 tells us, “so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” that’s pretty clear. and yet so often i am motivated by some selfish desire, as if when i do enough christian things, God somehow owes me; well, i prayed a lot today, so God will probably help me do well on this test i forgot to study for. and when that happens, the reverse is also true: i feel that when i forget to spend time in the word (or, more likely, don’t feel like it), God will punish me for it.
the good news is that God doesn’t work like that. true, we feel closer to Him when we spend more time with Him, and as a result, our lives often seem fuller and more satisfying. but christians who are close with God still have stuff happen in their lives that really sucks. and the flip side of that is true as well; i can’t count the number of times i have received blessing from the Lord during a time when i wanted nothing to do with Him.
this is good news because God’s love for us is not based on what we do or don’t do. it’s based on the fact that He created us, as well as Jesus’ perfection, which perfectly deserves God’s love. romans 8 tells us that there is literally nothing that can separate us from the love of God, including ourselves, once we are in Him.
anyway. that was a rant, and i apologize. allow me to compensate with lots of pictures.
we did lots of sledding. lots of it. there were snowball fights and snowmen building contests. adam tried to build a snow boulder from doing nothing but rolling a snowball around (it kind of worked). we found a clearing in the trees that looked exactly like the one in narnia. we played capture the flag in the forest. it was the most fun i’ve had in a long time.
our evenings were filled with movies and games (the phrase “brad’s beard” came up three different times throughout our game of succotash), original rap songs (swaaaaaaaag) and ukulele music, conversation and laughter. since i worked with mainly the middle school last semester, i didn’t get many opportunities to hang out with the high schoolers, so it was really cool getting to know all of them and see the ways that God is growing them into really awesome young men and women. i loved seeing new friendships form and old ones grow stronger.
at the end of the weekend we had to get as many different kinds of pictures together as possible, naturally. so we did. and it was great. we were pretty impressed with the pyramid the guys came up with.
it was such an amazing weekend, and i’m so thankful that i got to be a part of it. i came away with new friends, a greater excitement for fellowship and a solid church to be a member of, and a deeper appreciation for the way God loves His children.