When I decided to take time off before the surgery and just hang out this summer, I began to wonder how I would fill it up. I'm not very good at waiting. Some days feel like they will never end, but I appreciate the freedom to sleep in and read a book, to walk in the morning, to go to the river, and to think.
This week I've decided to take a little pilgrimage to Lake Junaluska. Lake Junaluska is a Methodist retreat center and retirement community in the North Carolina mountains, outside of Asheville. It was at this place that I fell in love with North Carolina. I went to two "Youth in Missions" week-long camps there. I remember having intense spiritual experiences in this place. The first time we went, we were sent on a faith/trust walk... you know the kind. You are blindfolded and led in a line. You must trust the person leading you as they guide you on steps, over rocks, or whatever other obstacles are in the way. At this particular walk, we were walking for a long time... we were led from one side of the lake about a quarter the way around to the lighted cross above the lake. The cross is not particularly beautiful. It is literally round light bulbs attached to a large cross. I don't remember what they said to us that night or what was preached. I imagine we sang songs like Lord I lift your name on High and Shine Jesus Shine. I remember tears streaming down my face as I embraced others in my youth group. I remember being on my knees and praying. I don't know what I said to God that day, but it was real and fervent. The kind of prayers you pray when you have no doubt God is holding you. The kind of prayer you pray when you are in your early teens and your passion for the Lord overwhelms you.
It isn't that I think that passion goes away, but there is a growing up that happens and a loss of innocence that changes us. Once you have seen certain things in the world, it seems virtually impossible to return to that place where your heart burst for Jesus. So, I'm going back. I'm going back to see it, to feel it, to remember. I know it will not be the same, nothing ever is, but I am looking forward to climbing that hill and walking around the lake.
I know that it will remind me of being in youth group. It's funny to think back on youth trips- the wildness of couples kissing in the church van and the powerful songs that became themes of the summer. The way you saw people's true colors, for better or worse. I'd be curious to see what people thought of me when I was a youth. Did I smile a lot? Was I shy? How did I talk about God? Did I include my neighbor? Did I seem to know what love meant?
I get pretty nostalgic when I think back to that time in life. It was before divorce, before marriage, before sickness, before heart surgeries were on the table. It was before I knew what a child with cancer went through and before I saw a dead body. It was before all of the things that made me wonder how the world could really be good.
I think this is why we pray for new birth and new life each day. We have a desire and a hope to see the world anew and to believe in re-birth in all things. Revelation 21 has been one of my favorites for a long time. "Behold, I make all things new." I pray that God will continue to give me new eyes and restore my soul that I might return to a place where hope is my breath. Can we be innocent again? Can we see others how God sees them? Can we remember that each of us was once a helpless baby and only grew because someone fed us and took care of us?
God, take care of me. I am still a baby, an infant. I cannot live without you. I hope each day that you will pick me up, feed me, change me.... teach me about the world.
"New every morning is your love Lord, and all day long you are working for good in the world."