It is well with my soul. I don’t know that I’ve ever had opportunity to dwell on those words let alone use them and fully comprehend what it means to be overflowing with joy and compassion. But after a week of beach camp with some of the most precious people I know, I can say with confidence that it is indeed well with my soul.
I’m a processor – I need time to withdraw and think, to revel and understand. Eventually, I use my love for words to share with others just how I’ve been changed. There is no eventually this time around. My heart is so full – bursting with satisfaction in a God I saw move, in the victories I witnessed, in the broken walls and the honesty, in the experiences I encountered – that I don’t want to wait. While the beauty of Christ breaking through is still fresh in my mind I want to share with you – whoever you may be – about a week I will never, ever forget.
You hear the words Myrtle Beach and youth group in the same sentence and, if you’re anything like me, some dread ensues. First of all, acquiring a one piece bathing suit is suddenly necessary. Then there’s the fact that a beach is involved which means water is involved which means near death experiences involving someone else’s child could be involved. And obviously the wrath of mothers everywhere when their children return several shades red is a legitimate concern. And yet I found myself with a burning desire and excitement to lead Southbrook Church’s youth on their summer camp trip.
Having been away at college for a year I felt slightly disconnected from them all, but the moment our bus rolled out of the church parking lot, relationships were tightened and began to grow. I’m still amazed I had the opportunity to accompany such incredible men and women on the journey. I honestly had no idea what to expect. I knew God was going to show up but I wasn’t planning on him pouring into me as much as he did.
After powerful worship with Kristin Stanfill, David Platt walked on stage, asked, “Do you know Jesus?”, and I knew I was in trouble. Not because I don’t know Jesus but because from that point on, God was penetrating my heart and shining light into all the dark corners. Hurts I was holding onto, doubt I didn’t realize I had, fear I needed to overcome – all of it was suddenly hurtling up to the surface. I wanted to keep it together for my kids – what if they needed me? Finally, sitting there in service, I decided I had to go to somebody. One of the best parts of the trip was getting to lead with my two best friends – Adam and Amy. I went and sat on Amy’s bed the following night and broke down. I still am not entirely sure what it was God put on my heart in that moment, I just knew he was moving within me. Somehow, Amy made sense of the emotional chaos I was throwing her way and she asked if I wanted to talk to our youth pastor – Billy.
I’m the kind of girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, but when it comes to my spiritual life I struggle to be vulnerable. Part of it is pride. I struggle with humility and to go before friends and leaders and expose the grey, shadowy areas of me is daunting sometimes. Part of me hesitating that night was confusion. I couldn’t put a name to what I was feeling. I was overcome with emotion and looking back on it now, I think God was giving me the opportunity to move past my inability to open up. I believe he’s working on me and about to change my life in big ways but he cannot lead me if I stubbornly refuse to share intimate parts of my walk with those around me. And so I found myself receiving truth and encouragement from Amy and Pastor Billy. All I really remember is crying lots, but more importantly, I remember the peace I felt when we all finally went to bed. Having someone come alongside and speak against fear (which can so easily become crippling) is amazing.
From then on, God crashed over our youth group, his mighty spirit transforming and healing, connecting and growing, breaking and sowing. Like the waves that rushed over us as we swam in the Atlantic, he rushed over us, truly making his presence known on Thursday.
Thursday really was the breaking point. I had gone to bed Wednesday night feeling like I needed to continue being vulnerable regarding my faith. I wasn’t entirely sure what God was stirring in my soul but I knew I wanted to publicly acknowledge the work he has done and the work he is doing. For whatever reason, anxiety was still holding me back. Again, I had to reach out. I’m reminded of the verse in the Bible that says when we obey in the small things, God will entrust us with more. Thursday morning I met with my other best friend, Adam, on the beach and told him I’d been wrestling with something. I felt like God was calling me to get baptized again – as a way of professing my love for him and desire to keep on drawing near to him (although this was relatively early so I don’t think I expressed it as eloquently as that to him.) He just looked at me and said if that’s what God’s calling you to do then I think you should do it. So Thursday morning at 6:30, Billy and Adam baptized me.
I felt slightly unworthy in comparison to the leaders around me because I had been wrestling but God completely stamped on that. Immediately after he presented me with the opportunity to baptize girls from our youth group. What an incredible honor. He said Amy I’ve ordained you to be here – the wrestling is just as much a part of your testimony as anything else.
Thursday night, the holy spirit fell upon the students in a powerful way – I still get chills thinking about it because we witnessed teenagers falling to their knees in complete adoration of God. The Bible talks about the enemy having to flee, and flee he did. We covered one another in prayer – as Kristian sang, as the auditorium cleared and we were the only group remaining – we wept together, crying for the hurt and the pain. We thanked God together. Students broke off in groups all over and loved on each other, truly being sensitive to God’s voice. I was weeping…to pray over those dearest to me and see their hearts set free was overwhelming, breathtaking, and praise-inducing all at once. I had an image of a battlefield during that time. Students really were dropping to the ground left, right, and center. As leaders surrounded the fallen and spoke words of healing over them, our side, God’s side was victorious in reclaiming freedom and justice.
But God still was not done.
We gathered as a group on the beach afterwards and as the wind blew and the stars shone we took communion by the sea. Fierce Grape Gatorade and crackers is how it’s done.
These moments of revival and healing are the moments that set my heart on fire. We cannot be silent. I cannot be silent. God moves most powerfully within me when I stop caring about what those around me think and embrace the running mascara. I have to lessen myself before him, I have to humble myself and accept that I am clay in his hands. I have to breathe in his truth and let myself go. There is power in the name of Jesus and boy did we feel it in action this week. Amy and the beautiful Kim Brown led us in worship and if you’ve never sat in the sand at night, stared at the stars, and sung to the one who hung them in the sky you are missing out. Students continued to break and respond, asking for prayer and professing Jesus as Lord.
The theme for me this week was vulnerability. Again I felt God prompting me to be open and talk with somebody about the emotions, the life change, and the doubt. I found Amy’s mum who is truly a wonderful mentor and asked her to pray with me. Again I was filled with peace and joy indescribable. I came home today forever altered and reassured that God is who he says he is – and He. Is. Good. Glory be to him for all he accomplished in the lives of us all over the past few days.
So much more happened but for now I think that’s all I can adequately share. If you’ve read this far you’re a trooper – I hope my story blessed you in some way.