After two hours of a surprisingly quiet drive (at least in my van), twenty-one students and nine leaders arrived at Pine Cove Shores in Tyler, Texas. Students spilled out of vans, excited and slightly nervous for the two day retreat we had ahead of us. We were meeting up with two other UMCs from the DFW area, which meant the students were preparing to be around new people they didn’t know. They would be sharing small group time and game time with strangers and that reasonably creates some apprehension.
I had my own set of nerves as there was no part of the weekend I was in charge of! My only responsibility was to keep track of our students, and enjoy the weekend. For the most part this was an amazing gift and a wonderful experience. I wasn’t in charge of making sure worship started on time, supplying the snacks, planning the games or dealing with any issues that may have come up. For most people this would be nothing but a positive, but I have a tendency to crave control, which makes a lack of responsibility absolutely nerve wracking. I knew going into the weekend that I wasn’t responsible for any of the programming, but as the opening game begun I felt myself wishing I could take over. Wonderfully this feeling didn’t last long. The leaders in charge had done a fantastic job preparing and everything ran smoothly.
In the absence of programmatic responsibility, the weekend was completely filled with wonderful time with the students. Playing cards and games in the gym, braving the cold to go on the zip line, and participating in worship together. We had three sessions of worship filled with a time of music and a message. The speaker focused on a theme of identity, finding who we are in the truth of Christ. He shared about how God is big and loves each and every one of us. That the world doesn’t define who we are, Jesus does. That we should value ourselves because the God of the universe values us and longs to be in a relationship with us. That when we know who we are in Christ we should respond with sharing our stuff, time and story. What a beautiful message for the students (and adults) to hear!
Despite early nerves from myself and the students, the weekend was a wonderful success. It’s amazing how being away from our normal environment and routine can help us better connect with God and each other. As we piled into our vans to return home early Sunday morning, I was filled with thankfulness. Thankful that we had this experience together. Thankful for a weekend of not being in charge. Thankful for a time to make new friends and strengthen relationships. And thankful for the identity I have in Christ and the confidence I have that the God of the universe loves and values me.