Posted by Tyler Kirkpatrick | 2/28/2019

The Saturday of “Snowmageddon” Brittany and I affixed tire chains to our Ford Escape and dawned heavy ski jackets to drop in on the Kitsap Youth Conference at Island Lake (we only came for a few hours; but our group was fearlessly led all weekend by Amanda Warfield and Jake Riley our awesome youth directors, as well as a team of stellar youth leaders; Bryce Anderson, Doug Bacolini, Tristan Hartman and James Kettenring). There were, of course, plenty of snowballs thrown, and the wintry conditions did not deter our students from blasting each other with paintballs, scaling the high ropes course or practicing archery. But of course, these weren’t the real highlights.

He is jealous for me, love’s like a hurricane

I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy

There were three other churches besides ours present at the conference, so there were considerably more students than we typically have at one of our events, and naturally, a lot of unfamiliar faces. It seems that the newness and unfamiliarity of the situation had a significant impact on our students—and our leaders. After the main sessions with everyone, there was debrief time with just our church group… and our students opened up with each other in some big ways. It’s never easy to be vulnerable with someone else; fears, insecurities, temptations and struggles are not the sorts of things we like to share with others. This is only more true for teenagers, but this is exactly what our teenagers did; sharing with and affirming one another through tearful embraces, pulling down the walls that felt safe, only to discover deeper and truer connections with one another.

When all of a sudden, I am unaware

Of these afflictions eclipsed by glory

And I realize just how beautiful you are

And how great your affections are for me

That evening, there was no doubt that the Holy Spirit was present as we sang songs of worship together. Some students who have often been resistant to participating in worship on Sundays or Wednesday nights were visibly stirred. One leader who has been facing some tumult in their personal life shared that it was the first time they felt they had really worshipped, as if they were purging all of the wounds they’ve carried from the past few months and were casting them all on God. We sang:

We are his portion and he is our prize

Drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes

If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.

Afterwards we reflected together that perhaps all of the walls the students had been courageously working hard to tear down over the weekend had something to do with the powerful movement of God they had felt during worship. Maybe the walls they (we) put up that we think will keep us safe not only block out other people, but block out God. It seems counterintuitive that being put in an uncomfortable and unfamiliar situation would lead us to vulnerability, and often it doesn’t. Oftentimes we close up even more. But if we lean into the newness and unknown, surrendering our desire for control, sharing our fears with our friends and fellow believers and trusting God to hold us… we may well discover God moving in a way we’ve never expected or experienced before.

So heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss

And my heart turns violently inside of my chest

And I don’t have time to maintain these regrets

When I think about the way

He loves us


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