My dog embarks on a new journey of discovery every day, even though we walk almost the same path. She is in very familiar surroundings and yet around each corner (and especially at every signpost), there are new discoveries to be made. Scents I cannot detect. Communications I cannot understand. Connections I do not make. Sometimes I’m annoyed by it all, but I’m starting to think I have a lot to learn from my dog’s way of experiencing the world. Perhaps I need to focus less on “the destination” and more on what is right in front of me.
This realization dawned on me with special clarity when I was biking around Standing Bear Lake. I’ve biked around that path many times and know the way quite well, but this day I went the other way around. As I reversed direction, the journey became a completely new experience! Sometimes I wasn’t even sure exactly where I was and familiar milestones snuck up and surprised me. I saw things from a new perspective–things I had not even noticed before.
Taking a trip with young people can provide a similar kind of experience. I’ve been on something like thirty youth trips over the years and while each one is unique, there is a familiar pattern with all of them. There is much packing… and driving… and improvising… and singing of songs with uncomfortable silences where the “bad words” are. In that respect not much has changed over the decades (although rental vans have improved considerably).
Yet youth trips are like going down a familiar path in a new direction. I am always gifted with a new perspective from the very people I’m supposed to be leading! Young people sense things that I cannot. They communicate in ways I don’t always understand. They make connections I have failed to see and this is the great gift they have to share, including with the church.
We are all on our own journey of discovery and each of our stories are at different points along the way. Some of us are just starting out. Some are trying to figure out who we are. Some are wondering and questioning abut why things have to happen as they do. Some are lonely or feeling lost. Others are grieving or hurting. Some are rejoicing and excited for what lies ahead. Some are nearing the end of their journey.
In each case, I believe we can gain from the perspective of others. If I were to make a list of the things I gained from the young people of our congregation this past week, it might look something like this:
  • Don’t be afraid to feel what you feel. Be bold to cry or laugh and everything that is in between. Pretending otherwise takes way too much effort!
  • Don’t be afraid to be who God made you to be. Again… pretending otherwise is way harder.
  • Live in the moment as best as you can. Sometimes, of course, longer perspectives are essential but too often we miss the opportunity to LIVE that is right in front of us.
  • Young people are smart. They are thoughtful. They are caring and considerate even though they test the boundaries. But then again, that’s their job. Boundaries will get too hardened otherwise.
  • Young people see the world as it is and the world is changing faster than ever. But in the middle of that change, we all seek attachment and grounding. That’s where the church needs to live.
  • The “oldies” are now songs from the 2000s. The classics are songs from the 1980s. Anything beyond that is the stuff of legend.
  • And, finally, there is a difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip. People feel strongly about it. Preferences matter, whether that is condiments, pronouns, hairstyles, or socks. Diversity is a gift from God that makes the whole body all the better and stronger.
There is more to share, of course, but this is a start. Let us each continue to be open to the perspectives of others and, in that way, perhaps discover something new about our own journey in life. I truly believe that is where God meets us.