This past weekend, I embarked on a journey as a leader to Frequency, a camp designed for seventh and eighth grade students to further their relationship with Jesus Christ. I have served as a leader for the past three years of my life and watched these girls grow into young ladies. It's safe to say that this experience has changed my life.
I knew at the beginning of last week, I would write about Frequency 2016 and share my experience with all of you, but the way I planned to write changed as the weekend unfolded before my eyes. Below you will read details from the weekend and a few powerful points that hit home as Gerald Fadayomi (the speaker) shared.
It’s summer vacation and you have been waiting for this trip to Europe for around a year. Your excitement boils over until you remember: you haven’t started packing yet. Your stomach drops (uh-oh) and you wish you had never even thought about it, because it squashed your excitement like roadkill. As you pull your suitcase off the shelf and wipe off the dust, you sigh, knowing what’s ahead: a nightmare. I think we can all agree that packing is the worst part about going on a trip. It’s a bunch of questions jumbled together like a barrel of monkeys.
What do I pack?
What do I leave out of my suitcase?
Do I need this?
Why am I even packing this?
Did I forget anything?
Why is my suitcase so heavy?
These are all questions I bet you have asked yourself in the midst of a packing frenzy.
Packing is not an easy task, no doubt, but have you ever thought of your life like a suitcase? Everyday, no matter where you are, you personally decide what you put into your bag. Do you put in: sports, family, friends, academics. a job, a relationship with husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend? We have so many choices of ways we can spend our time daily, but note I said choices. Nobody is telling you what to pack in your bag daily, because it’s your decision. So, the question is: what are you packing that bag with?
Ultimately, this is a question you will have to ponder for a while, but in the midst of thinking, I must ask you an even harder question.
Are you putting first things first?
You could say this in other words, too; in your packing frenzy, are you placing things like tee-shirts and shorts inside before an extra pair of shoes and your fifth book? You see, if you don’t pack just the most important things to you in your bag, your bag is going to weigh a million pounds because you can’t do it all. Some things, you are going to have to leave behind, nestled in the past, and God says this is perfectly fine; he didn’t create us to be superheros able to participate in every activity known to man.
But where is your faith in the midst of all of this?
Are you electing God to take up some space in your bag or is there something keeping you from packing Him inside?
Is there something dragging your load that you should be leaving behind?
Is this “thing” causing you to hide from God and ultimately keeping you from growing in your relationship with Him?
I learned last weekend that while there are positive and uplifting things we can pack in our bags, there are also things we are packing that weigh us down and we are not designed to carry this weight alone. When we carry this weight alone, we begin to feel shame. We question why God would give us this to carry and eventually we begin to have doubts.
They fill our bags with a weight that becomes too much for us to carry.
They weigh us down; they keep us from feeling God’s ultimate joy; they force you to collapse; they convince you that you are alone and they convince you that nobody cares, but I am here to tell you that my experience last weekend proved there are people who care.
Earlier, on Saturday morning, every student was handed a red sticker; they were asked to spend time praying to God and determine the brick in their life, holding them down, and write it on the red sticker. They stuck them in an envelope and carried them with them throughout free time, so they could metaphorically feel the weight of their brick.
After free time and dinner Saturday night came; the eighth graders and all the leaders got to participate in a life changing activity that I will never forget.
We quietly left Mobley worship hall that evening; I heard not one word spoken. The staff had placed tea lights inside of white paper bags; they lit our path unobtrusively. A crowd of students followed the lit path down to the lake; my girls remained by my side. Darkness of the night surrounded three crosses on the hill, illuminated by pure white light. Blankets lay soundly on the grass, spread around the lake, and all facing the stage where the band would later play powerful worship songs. When arriving down at the field the four hundred and fifty eighth-grade students broke into their small groups and sat joined together on these blankets. Sobs filled the cool air as the band played music softly.
What they did know is that they had bricks.
What they didn’t know is how badly they needed to be surrendered.
Minutes passed and I could feel the tension surging in the air. I glanced at my girls: their shoulders and faces were tense. One by one, groups stood up from their blankets approached the crosses, illuminated by white light. Tears stained their cheeks as they walked; I could see in their eyes the weight pressed upon them. Timid, but yet with so much power, they peeled the back off of their brick, and stuck it to the cross. The black ink jumped off the red sticker as I read some of the bricks; the bricks middle school students in my community carry. Things like were sex, drugs, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, depression, eating disorders, porn, divorced parents, and insecurities, among others.
God had tapped at every emotion in me; I held it together the best I could as I turned away from the crosses and walked back to the blanket. I gazed from our spot as groups continued to approach the crosses and surrender their bricks to the cross. Wow, there was so much power in this moment. I looked away for a while to comfort those girls in my group who were crying; when I looked back up, the last group approached the crosses. The white crosses, once illuminated by the light of purity, were covered in crimson red bricks. Sobs filled the air and soon, Gerald’s voice soared over it all. He spoke and reminded everyone that God sent Jesus, His and only Son so we may never have to carry our bricks alone. “Remember this moment,” he repeated over and over again in a deep and low voice, “remember how it felt to surrender your brick at the cross. Remember. Remember. Remember.”
It is safe to say I will never forget.
I share all of this to ask you: what’s your brick?
What are you currently carrying that is weighing you down?
Throughout the weekend, Gerald kept repeating Matthew 6:33; this verse speaks so much truth into my life because Matthew is so clear in his purpose for writing. He says:
If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
He is calling you to seek God’s kingdom first, above all else. No more worries about things you cannot control. No more getting worked up about things or feeling as though God forgot about you. Rather, Matthew craves for God to be the first thing you put into your bag every day; He longs for you to trust God’s perfect plan for your life. This trust is the kind of trust in which we may feel peace; in surrendering our brick to God, the dark shame fades against the matchless light.
You may not be able to fix it, but I promise you that you don’t have to carry it alone anymore. He is standing there, patiently waiting for you to come home, straight into His arms.
He is working His best in you, just as Matthew says.
This week I have a challenge for you:
One: Think about the brick weighing your bag down and pray for God to help you surrender it to Him; ask for the ability to trust. Yes. I know this is so much easier for me to sit behind my Mac and type, but believe me when I say to you that I have my own bricks currently I am trying to surrender.
Two: If you do not currently have a brick you need to surrender to God, I am so excited for you; God truly has placed you where he has planned. So, for those of you in this boat, I challenge you to pack your faith first in your bag and watch as God works. The things you will learn may blow your mind.
Because when we surrender and trust, I believe that eventually you will see your bricks broken, your relationship with God soar, and you will find freedom like none other.
We were designed to let God fill our hearts, but sometimes we chase other things: relationships, jobs, school, boyfriends/girlfriends, sports. But when we are running on empty, we need to do as we are designed to do: allow God to refill our empty hearts.
In faith, we get to feeling stuck in the rut, feeling distant, feeling as though God is stagnant or absent, and being unsure of what to do next. This obvious silence and distance is often what turns people from Jesus, but we must persevere and remember that we live on God’s timing in God’s world.