Friday, March 14, 2014

A Young Life Experience- Megan's Reflections

You might have seen some Young Life related Instagram shots this past week.  I may or may not have flooded your Instagram feeds a few times with blurry shots of feet, human pyramids, soda challenges, and other ridiculous things.  But don't worry, it was just an Instagram-themed Young Life.

Young Life is amazing and I want to pour my heart and soul into so many posts describing why it is so, but I first put up a picture of it on Instagram.

I first decided to become a leader with Young Life because of my friend Michael but I was really moved to see that Young Life was a part of many of my friends' lives as they were growing up.  Admittedly I was a little jealous because little Catholic Kim would have loved to have gone to Young Life as a high school student.  Now I didn't go girls gone wild in college, but I definitely wanted a stronger foundation with the Lord and Young Life gives high students that opportunity if they want it.

After I saw the comments, I asked a few of my friends if they would be interested in being a guest blogger and talking about their experiences.  Megan responded right away!  She and I grew up together and one of my favorite memories was her love of Nsync and performing in talent shows together.  Today is an incredibly confident, fashionable, smart, trendy, and lovely woman who is a very witty blogger.  Big thanks to Megan for sharing her Young Life story.

Megan, blogger at I Prefer Heels

Rock climbing at Windy Gap. Terrifying, but oh so cool

I’ve always struggled with certain aspects of my Christian faith. I went to church growing up - regularly, not just Christmas-ing and Easter-ing it. I learned all about Noah and the Arc, and made all sorts of beautiful macaroni noodle frames. Well, more like rudimentary, but cute for sure. As a kid, that’s what’s important. Sunday school is more like a weekly playdate where there’s always a snack and a corner full of toys. Then as I got a little older, I started going to church camp every summer. For that blissful week away from distractions and play rehearsals and soccer practice and homework - I was on a faith high. I’d make all sorts of promises to myself that after camp, I’d be more vigilant about studying the Bible, about praying. I promised myself I’d be a better person, cut out gossip, and help the poor. But inevitably, about a month after the big camp farewell, I’d forget. My intentions were left to collect dust alongside my Bible and the emails and phone numbers of camp friends I’d probably never see again.

But still, every summer up until I was about 14, I’d gear right back up again for the next round of camp, knowing that this time it would be different. See, there was one consistent theme in all this - camp was awesome. It was a place where I could be myself, where I was accepted for who I was. I loved it. But what I was missing was the follow-up; the support after camp to make me feel that feeling again and again. I never really found it. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t really have a “home church.” My parents had divorced, we’d moved around, and in the process had changed churches at least four times. I never really felt a connection. Sure, I sang up on stage every week, but to be honest, sometimes it felt like my adrenaline rush was more from the act of performing than from feeling spiritually challenged. Something was missing.

Got a chance to go horse-back riding. Familiar with Lord of the Rings? This horse was Gandalf’s in the film. No kidding. His real name is “Tango,” and he is awesome-sauce.
I was jealous of my dad, who was lucky enough to grow up in a place where there was this thing called “Young Life” - a ministry for high schoolers across the country that ran these amazing camps and programs. He went on to work for YL a few years post-college in the Chicago area, and took countless groups to camps all over the country. He would tell these hilarious stories of skits and pranks and all the things that I had loved about going to camp - just not the kid-version of it all. I wanted that like you wouldn’t believe. So since I didn’t have that based where I lived, I went in search of it. My dad got in touch with his old YL leader out in California, and my cousin and I hopped a flight and proceeded to get on a bus with a group of total strangers (who all knew each other) and drive 10 hours up the coast to Woodleaf. And you know what? It was just like my past camp experiences - but 10 times better. I had so much fun, I went back the next summer to Windy Gap way over on the east coast.

What I loved the most was that there was no pressure to be the “perfect” sinless person. They even had smoking areas, which oddly enough, I found to be the epitome of respect. Christianity isn’t supposed to be about putting people down for their faults or getting them to fit some sort of mold everyone thinks one should aspire to. It’s about accepting people for who they are and loving them no matter what. Young Life wasn’t just chock full of Jesus songs (which are great, don’t get me wrong). They played The Fray, Britney Spears, and all sorts of other pop songs you’d hear on any radio station across the country. The evening get togethers were total 90’s flashbacks for all of us campers - we danced around and sang at the top of our lungs without a care. Christian or not, YL accepted campers as they were. And yes, there was always inevitably a message about Christ and his love, but you know what? There was never any pressure to accept that belief.

Tree swingin’ it. I wanted to put one in my backyard but the darn tree just wouldn’t grow higher than 7 feet. ‘Tis a cryin’ shame.
In that week I saw more relationships strengthened and more people discover something new about themselves that they’d never before acknowledged. A large majority were Christians already, but a lot became new Christians. And still, there were plenty of people who walked away uncertain and not at all convinced. But the beauty of it all was that they saw Christianity for what it was - a method of acceptance relayed by an awesome group of people who didn’t care to judge but instead cared to show love. That’s a pretty powerful thing, if you ask me.


My cousin and I with our YL leader, Emily. She was one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Oh yeah - we’re wearing bandanas with drawn-on freckles because that was the style then. JK, it was square dancing night. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! Hilarious fun.

I never really found that “home” to be a part of when I came back from camp, and haven’t to this day. But I do have a group of amazing friends and family supporting me 24/7 who’ve become my own little Young Life. I’ve pulled away from the church in recent years, much of it consistent with the unfortunate hypocrisy I see in the daily media streams. More than anything, I want affirmation that religion is about love - I want to see that same attitude of acceptance I saw at Young Life camp years ago. And sometimes I do. I see it in the churches who stand up for human rights and support issues they may not be entirely comfortable with, but they choose to do so out of love rather than condemnation. I see it in the people who work tirelessly to help the underprivileged and the victims of domestic violence and abuse. And that gives me hope. One day I hope to find that magic again. Maybe it’s in a church, or maybe a small women’s group. I’d even love to find a Young Life group to volunteer with around here that will again inspire me in the way it did so many years ago.
I’m not perfect. But it’s about the journey. And it’s one heck of a ride.

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