Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Greatest Weekend of My Life

People are always exaggerating in their speech- "That was the best cheeseburger ever!" "That was the best day of my life." "You saw that movie too? It was the best!" And so when I heard my friends from Young Life talk about going to the annual Fall Weekend camp and it being the best weekend of their lives, I always assumed it was just an exaggeration of speech. What could happen in two or three days that would really be life-changing and make it the BEST weekend of their lives? It must be just a really awesome, fun-filled trip, I thought.

Of course, until I went on it myself. It's one of those things you have to experience to believe. I literally just came home four hours ago from the Fall Weekend trip, having spent three nights at Saranac Village where the Young Life camp is located. The lake is right nearby and the cabins, though extremely nice, are dwarfed by the beauty of the trees and the rocks and the dirt paths and the Adirondack pine-infused air. I've been camping before a couple of times, but this was just different in all respects. There were about four to five hundred high schoolers at the camp, split between cabins and grouped by the areas they came from. At any given moment there was always something fun going on between the Game Room and the Club Room and the gym and the trails and the store and the hot-tub and the cabins and the lake, something exciting in the air emanating from all the high schoolers and their awesome leaders. Time was structured well- it wasn't a camping experience where the kids were just left there on their own for two or three days. It was a rotation between free time (which ranged from twenty minutes to an hour or two), meals, cabin time, crazy fun activities, and club- the congregation of everyone in the camp for passionate music and worship, hilarious skits, powerful messages/lessons, and all-around good fun to start things off. I don't want to spoil anything but it's beyond anything you can imagine (five contestants from the crowd were pied in the face within the first half hour of club Thursday night. And even then, though pieing makes everything better, it was tame in comparison to the things and competitions we had later on).

For club, we were all put into one enormous cabin, complete with a stage where things took place. I really gained a lot from the talks we listened to from Max, our speaker, who led us to the Bible and the Truth while telling us entertaining stories about his own life. The truth that was shared with us was that as humans, we're all people that are broken with sin. But as he talked throughout the days about Jesus healing people and saving them and giving them life from leprosy and fateful death, the execution of Jesus and his Resurrection, and his mission to give us life and forgiveness, I was able to get a better look at myself and my life.

My favorite talk was the one about chapter 5 in John. Near Jerusalem was a pool of water, where the blind, lame, and paralyzed are left hanging around and hoping that one day when the water stirs, they will be able to jump in first and be healed. With nothing left in their lives and no one to care for them, the disabled people there place all their hopes and lives into the pool, which in reality does nothing to heal them. Jesus comes in and doesn't even acknowledge the pool in the passage. He asks a man who had been lying there for 38 years, "Do you want to get well?" When the man responds yes, Jesus simply says "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk," and the man was healed. Max talked us through the story and related it to our lives as high schoolers, as adults, as humans in any point in our lives. Very often we place our hopes into these "pools," aspects of our life that we believe will give us satisfaction and healing when in reality they do not. For me, this would be music, sports, academics, relationships with others, and just about everything that a high schooler  deals with during their life. But like in the story, these "pools" do not heal us. They don't help us achieve God. They don't help us from our brokenness. Only our relationship with Jesus and his miraculous healing will give us what we need to live. That concept was hard to swallow.

Max had to explain that those things we do, schoolwork and extracurriculars and time with people, aren't necessarily bad. In fact, many of the things that we do are worthwhile and really great. But the important part was to understand the places they hold in our lives. These things shouldn't become our entire lives, the things we go to to feel good, the things we turn to for help and encouragement. They should come second to Jesus. And that really struck a chord within me. As a senior I had been stressing over applications and my future and which college I would get into. Hearing that message and story made me realize that if I place all my life and all my faith into Jesus, he'll take care of the rest. The other things that I do, the "pools" I sometimes dive into to seek fulfillment, really do nothing to help me without God. And Jesus, he's right there for me. In the story, Jesus walks up to the man and asks him if he wants to get well. Like that man, I want to get well. Before Fall Weekend I had been distracted- and I mean, horribly distracted, by just life in general. Soccer, college essays, fights with parents, whatever... everything but God seemed to find a way into my life. Having a few days to forget all of that, to have the most fun I've had in several years, and to be in the presence of such amazing people, was like a fresh breath of air. It was a relaxing break from life that I really needed. At one point I took a walk by myself through the trails to a spot where I could sit and look out into the lake, moved by an emotion within me to get away from everything and to find some quiet. Having time to be truly alone with God was a great blessing, and that time sitting on that rock was one of my highlights of the trip.

And the way I see it, everything about being at Sarance Village was a blessing. Some of it was pure fun for the purpose of having fun, but still important to clear my mind of all the junk I've had prior to the trip. It's also just a time to unwind, a few days of carefree-ness that I'm so grateful for now. And to top it off, I almost wasn't able to go to Fall Weekend. I had signed up late to a packed cabin and was one spot off from being able to make it. The day our area departed for camp, I was told that someone called in sick and that I would be able to take his place. I packed within the hour and was able to go meet up with everyone else.

And so it was just amazing. After a LOT of thought and consideration, during the night when I lay in my bunk, during the peaceful alone-time I had with myself in the woods, during the ride back, and during my first few hours back from the whole trip, I can honestly say that it's been the best weekend of my life. I can't remember any stretch of two to three days where I've had more fun. I can't remember any stretch of two to three days where I've had more meaningful conversation with my friends and leaders. I'm not saying that going to Fall Weekend with Young Life was life-changing, or that sitting on that rock looking out into the lake gave me a "lightning bolt to the head" experience, but that it was simply a good and pure time.

There's so much I would like to describe about the rest of the camp that I can't possibly hope to fit in. Meals were delicious, the kitchen staff really outdoing themselves in preparing us such a variety of great food. The Game Room was always a frenzy of foosball, Saranac Ball (an unconventional but addicting game played on a pool table), ping pong, and shuffle board. And of course, who can forget Deathack? That game deserves a post of its own. We played it until we dropped from exhaustion, then got up and played some more. It was awesome.

But all in all, I truly believe that the experience was as good as it was because of the PEOPLE that were there. I was in such good company throughout the trip that I can't even describe my feelings of gratitude and love for them. The guys in my cabin room, the eighteen other guys from my school, the leaders of our area Young Life... it was absolutely amazing being able to spend such quality time together. And everywhere I went, being with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It was such a comforting and secure atmosphere that I wish I could spend the rest of my life there, with those people.  I remember playing foosball with people I've never met before and chatting with random people in the trails. Everything felt close and connected because we were all there for the same purpose. I have to give credit to the leaders and directors of the camp as well. They made club fun and memorable. My two leaders were both parts of skits and performances, and watching them onstage was both exciting and inspiring. Getting to see my friend Irish step dance and cat daddy onstage was priceless. And of course, the 80's in the dance party we had was a million times better when I was grooving it out with my friends.

There are so many moments I want to cherish. Pieces of them fly out at me as I try to revisit the whole weekend in its entirety. Hot tub, water bending, shaving cream, cookie pieces, leprechauns, lobby, deathack, singing, four-chord song, sodypop, naptime, sunrise, zombie!, blow dart, moose moose moose, ewok, conch, single fist, 'Alec don't let go!', spartans... all of them shared with these awesome friends and leaders I got to bond with during an entire weekend. Being with the guys I roomed with even made things like car rides, sleeping, and eating fun. Good company makes anything infinitely better, I can tell you that. And as I look back, I realize something else. God clearly called and led me to Saranac this weekend, to have such an amazing and unforgettable experience. It was because of His company, and His company alone, that truly made these past few days the best weekend of my life.

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