I grew up through many youth camps in my life. They were amazing weeks and I usually left on a mountaintop in my relationship with God. And for many kids this week, that’s exactly what happened at Camp United.
These days I look at camp through a different life lens. I’m no longer a teenager, the beneficiary of all the “awesomeness” or even in my 20s, when I spent many years working as a counselor in the middle of the “awesomeness.” These days I am a forty-something mom with two tweenagers who are in the middle of the action. I watch, work and listen as part of the support team, making sure I give them the space they need to be teenagers.
I am also at a very different stage in my walk with Christ than I was as a teenager or even as a young adult. In those years everything was about feelings. I often equated feeling emotionally high or emotionally low as a gauge for the strength of my spiritual life. When I was down and depressed or having a bad day, obviously things were not right in my relationship with God. Or worse, if I screwed up and made mistake, then I was obviously drifting away from God even further. And when you use feelings and mistakes as a spiritual gauge for your life, it is easy for us to look at our spiritual life and determine that as a Christian, we are a failure.
But what I’ve learned (especially in recent years) is that God is often more present and working in our lives during our spiritual valleys than He is in our mountaintop experiences. If we are willing to trust him and let him use those experiences to perfect His work in us. In the times we are at our lowest, we are the most vulnerable and moldable to his character corrections.
Which is why I love how Matt Larsen finished our final session at Camp United this morning:
“There is a difference between failing and being a failure.”
Matt made it clear to every teenager in the room. As a Christian…you will screw up. You will make mistakes that will challenge you to think that the decision you made for Christ really didn’t change you. But making mistakes in your Christian walk does not make you a failure.
It is part of being human, but how I address my mistakes can make a big difference in how God can use me. I can give up and walk away from God thinking that I can never be good enough to be used by Him, or I can do what might be the hardest thing of all. I can allow God to use my mistakes, my failures, my spiritual valleys to shape me into the person He wants me to be. The person He can use to build His kingdom here on earth.
“We must be willing, if necessary; to abandon the life we’ve planned and dreamed of in order to receive the life our God has authored for us. And we must keep our eyes on the cross remembering that our faith is born out of darkness and confusion. Remembering that trouble is a given in this world, but that Jesus has defeated the world. Remembering that God has been faithful to us and demands our allegiance in return, that he wants us to pursue Him even over our dreams and desires (which we’ve seen make lousy gods).
But remembering most of all – in the midst of the darkness and confusion of Plan B – that God is our passionate lover, willing to go to extreme limits and pay a huge cost so that we can enter into a relationship with him.” Pete Wilson, Plan B