Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Looking To Heaven

As I wrote in my last post, I helped out at a teen camp last weekend and was extremely moved by the experience. When the campers left to head back home, a wave of emotion came over me. I was physically tired, which was part of it, but the main feelings were sadness, frustration, and anger.

I had been thinking about how these kids were experiencing the camp, and reflecting on what it's like to be in their shoes. The stuff that came out of that was huge: it's not fair that they make these great friendships with staff and other campers only to have to say goodbye; how could God tease them with such a safe, fun camp and then send them back to their broken homes; and what is the point for me as a staff member for helping kids like these when I know it's only a moment in time for them and not lasting?

These seem like normal things to think and feel, which is fine, but the danger is in running away with them without consulting God first. One of my campers did this very thing - while he was struggling to sleep the first night, I came up to talk to him and in our conversation he shared that it wasn't fair that God took his mother (she died of cancer) and that he blamed God for it. The emotions were real, the question was fair and honest, but the conclusion was dangerous - for both of us.

I did some real thinking, praying, and reading afterwards. Like Job, I felt like God owed some answers. Unlike Job, however, I had Randy Alcorn's book Heaven. Reading both God's Word and Randy's book on Heaven (which is biblically based, to his best abilities as he admits), I realized my earthward focus. That is, I wanted answers for today, right now, as it applied to my life from my perspective. Unfortunately, that only fostered those difficult negative emotions I shared above.

When I started looking heavenward, I could see past those feelings to God's glory and purpose. Yes, it's not fair that these boys couldn't stay at camp forever, but they did hopefully get a taste of what eternity with God is like (to the best of our abilities, as staff). Nothing in this world can fully compare, but it can wet the appetite enough to turn hearts toward God. My own experience in Young Life up in Malibu, Canada was a great example. There I tasted God's greatness and love, and decided it was worth it to give my life to His cause. Malibu planted a seed that God harvested through other Christians back home in Seattle.

The truth is that God was not creating the brokenness in the world - we have been, as a result of our selfish choices in sin. God is simply opening His arms to invite us back into the perfect relationship He created us to have. The rub is that we have to accept that invitation; if we don't, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Last weekend reminded me that it was my sin that caused the brokenness in the boys' lives, and that it is God's grace on the cross that restores it and offers hope of eternal life with no more sin. How sweet it is to be broken at the cross, surrendering to holy God who loves and heals perfectly!

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