This past week I spent in Sophia, North Carolina. On 52 breathtaking acres, lovingly named A Place For the Heart, my heart was reminded. My body was remade. My thoughts were realigned. My creativity recaptured. My confidence re-established. I learned what my story meant and how to tell it. God can do a whole heck of a lot in five days.
When I signed up for the 18 Inch Journey Youth Camp (hosted by Cageless Birds), I had absolutely no idea what I had committed myself to. First of all, when I was driving up the gravel roads into the land, underneath the green summer canopies, seeing the people who’d become my family the next few days, an overwhelming peace came over me. Peace can be tangible. I had no idea, but thats probably because I had not felt peace in so long. In fact, peace and stillness scared me.
Thats one of the many things I learned in Sophia. Stillness is not scary. Stillness does not mean complacency. It doesn’t mean giving up. I was afraid to be still because I thought to be still was to give up dreams and ideas and stay at home, do nothing but be a good Christian, only love those who came into my vicinity, into my small bubble of being good. But no, stillness is an action. Stillness isn’t giving up on dreams, its giving into them. Its giving into the thought -the truth- that His dreams are your dreams, and that you can trust Him with them. Peace is the action of trusting God and stepping into where He is patiently leading you. Peace takes movement and complete trust.
Along with peace comes happiness. To trust God you have to know Him. To know Him is to know His smile. Even if you’ve never necessarily thought about it, you’ve felt His smile over you when you worship, when you cry out to Him, when you listen and let Him speak to you. His smile is yours for the taking. Thats one of my favorite things I discovered this week.
During the first dinner, the gave us all a specific place at the table. Intentionally gifting us with the place to sit, enjoy the meal and talk about ourselves and our story. Then they took turns excitedly reading over us. Each staff member had been praying over us for weeks ahead of time, asking God about what He wanted to say to each of individually. They wrote letters about what He desired for us and what He wanted us to know and read them aloud after the meal. Mine stunned me a little bit. It was specific to me in a way that only I and God could know. We continued the night with worship sessions and dance parties until 11:00, when they sent us with our new acquaintances to our cabins, bellies and hearts full. There’s a lot I could talk about in the first full day but I’ll skip to the nightly worship session. I stood there, swaying to the beat, singing out loud and praying in my head. Then something happened that I’ll never forget. God basically dropped a love bomb on me and it gave me the hugest grin. I literally could not stop smiling. My cheeks hurt and my eyes watered but I didn’t care. He told me “My smile is yours”. And the lyrics were:
“Your love has ravished my heart
And taken me over, taken me over
And all I want is to be
With You forever, with You forever
Pull me a little closer
Take me a little deeper
I want to know Your heart”
I heard Him start singing those words over me and then it all clicked. I believed Him. For the first time, I believed Him without hesitation, without fear that I am not enough or that I am too much for Him. I made a subconscious decision in that moment to be open to Him and to allow Him to know my heart.
That night, back in the cabin with my journal open in my lap, I looked at all the words He spoke to me that day. I was telling one of my counselors about it when she said “You’ve changed. You’re radiant. I can see it all on your face and the way you carry yourself.” And I realized how little I smiled before. My mom had always commented on my countenance but I never really considered that I was noticeably sad or fearful. I was. But thats all I knew. I hadn’t been genuinely happy in so long. I thought I didn’t deserve it. I thought that because of the things I had done, the thoughts I had daily, even the actions I considered doing, that I didn’t deserve to be happy. I thought I would have to go through a process of growth, that I’d have to get to a certain measure of maturity before I could be truly happy. And because of this I hardly smiled, I didn’t love myself and I pushed away God. All it took was being still enough to see His smile and to hear Him sing over me. I could go on and on about this but I’ll save some for later posts.
Photo by Cageless Birds
Song: “Closer” by Amanda Cook