Usually, when you grow up in the church, you wind up going to camp. This was true for me. When I was 6, I packed up my things and headed over to a little christian camp in Lake Whales. This camp, little did I know, was going to be like a second home for the next 12+ years. The summer before sixth grade, I was introduced to a christian organization known as Christ in Youth, or CIY. From then on, I went to an event that they put on every summer. But once I got into high school, my CIY experiences took a turn.
When I entered high school, I came with a lot of baggage that I did not deal with in middle school.
Severe depression and anxiety are difficult things to deal with, especially on a big church trip where I had little close friends. Growing up in a church, one might think that I would have loads of friends, but the truth is most of my friends in elementary and middle school had either left the church or become distant.
Before I go into more detail, I want to set one thing straight: I am not trying to get you who are reading this to pity me. That is not my goal. My goal is simply to get what I was feeling across to you.
Getting back to what I was talking about before, I felt lonely in a place that I once called my safe space. This mentality made enjoying CIY difficult. Every year, I would go to another event, feeling more depressed and anxious than the year before. To be transparent, their were years that I considered ending my life on those trips because my loneliness felt magnified. Watching all these people moving closer to God and having friends their to support them made me feel awful.
Each summer, I had a “God moment.” A “burst into tears, feeling moved and changed by the Holy Spirit” moment. Truthfully, however, their was always a feeling of doubt that came with it. I recommitted my life to Christ every year, swearing off the same thing every time. But, each year, I came back to my pity parties, and continued to drift from God.
This past November, my plan was to not go to CIY.
I wanted to work at the camp in Lake Whales, which wouldn’t allow me to attend the conference. It didn’t bother me that much, considering I had felt like I had no one left that I really knew in my youth group, and I had already gone to Move for four years.
God apparently had other plans.
I wasn’t able to apply for the job because I was going to be in New York for two weeks on family vacation and in Tallahassee for orientation for a week. That would have required me to take 3 weeks off, which is a third of the summer. I ended up signing up for my fifth year of CIY Move.
Working up to the trip, I was excited. Obviously if you’re reading this, you know that God has called me to sharing my story through a blog. This has helped me develop a more genuine relationship with Jesus, and has allowed me to trust God with my mental health issues. Therefore, I went into the trip with a completely different mindset than I have in the past.
Those who have been walking with the Lord have been told time and time again this one thing: when you are in a good place in your relationship with God, Satan is going to come in and try to wreck it with all the force he has. This stood to be true the minute the trip started.
We arrived at the church to get on the buses 20 minutes late.
My dad didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. Usually we stood around and waited to get on the buses. However, when we got there, everyone had already picked their seat. Their were no seats on the bus my roommate was on, and no seats near my other best friend. I ended up sitting with my brother.
This caused me to go into full pity-party mode. I was mad at my dad for getting us there so late, even though he had apologized. I kept telling myself that I was the only one who didn’t get on the bus that I wanted with the people I wanted to be with. On top of all that, they told us that we couldn’t switch buses. I was furious.
Then I got a call from my dad. He apologized (again) and told me that if I continued with this mindset, it could ruin the entire trip. He told me that God may have put me on the bus for a reason, whether it was to meet someone new, or spend more time with my brother.
My experience changed as soon as my heart did.
My brother and I spent more time together. I talked (or texted if you will) a friend from middle school who I had drifted from. Things were going well.
Then we stopped for dinner, and things went wrong again. I have a gluten allergy, and that’s all that dinner was. Because of this, I couldn’t eat anything but chips, so that’s what I did. I talked to a leader and she said that my allergy wasn’t listened on my form (even though I had wrote it down) and that they would try and get me food when we got to our destination.
We arrived late at the college campus where we were staying for the next week and I found my roommate. We had lucked out of community bathrooms this year (yay!) and we got the suite mates we wanted. I still, however, had no food. They were giving students pizza (which I also cannot eat). I ended up with some rice cakes and a protein bar; the dinner of champions.
The next morning we went white water rafting. It was awesome, the best rafting experience I’ve ever had. Then things took a bad turn. I started to feel sick. I was nauseous and had a bad stomach ache. When we got back to the campus, I threw up what I had eaten that day. I missed both sessions and was in so much pain.
The first part of my trip was what some people might call a disaster. In past years, it would have been over for me. My CIY experience would be ruined. However, thanks to my different mindset, I didn’t get swallowed in self pity and I didn’t fall into a depressed state.
I struggled with feeling like I had friends, like I did every other year.
What was different was that I was able to give that anxiety and depression to God. I felt a peace that I had never felt before on a CIY trip. When I had my “God moment,” it wasn’t an emotional show (I bet you that a lot of people didn’t even know I had one). I was able to give my worries to God, but this time, my commitment didn’t follow doubt. It was different because I was willing to change. I was filled with joy provided by God, and I felt whole for the first time ever.
Because of this life changing moment, I was able to make the week about other people. I watched so many of my peers come to Christ, which was the most emotional part of my experience. My best guy friend on the trip made a decision to change his life for the better, as well as to get involved in leadership positions in student ministry now that he has graduated, and I am beyond proud of him. I made friends, as well as strengthened my current relationships. When I had those feelings of loneliness and doubt, I immediately gave them to God. I experienced so much joy and belonging in the same circumstances that I have faced the previous four summers.
All it took was a change in heart to get everything out of my CIY Move experience.
What the bible has to say about: the state of your heart
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)
I love this verse because I have always struggled to trust God and His plans for me. But it clearly says in the bible that if we trust Him and not ourselves that He will lead us in to the best path. But notice how it says the heart. Not the mind, but the heart. The state of your heart is important in following and trusting in God’s perfect plan.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (NIV)
I was filled with peace this past week at CIY because I accepted it. It was peace from God and not the world. In this verse, Jesus is comforting His disciples. He tells them that the world will give a false sense of peace and comfort in forms of worry and fear. God gives us true peace. He has the power to settle our hearts if we let Him.
Tip and tidbits about going on church trips*
- Be engaged. Fully allow yourself to absorb all that is happening around you, whether it be a sermon or spending time with friends.
- Don’t wait for people to approach you. If your’e new at a church or feel like you don’t have many close friends, insert yourself in situations to create those relationships. This creates a better chance of getting to know others. And who knows, someone could be waiting for a new friend to approach them.
- Don’t make it all about you. Most students go on church trips for the same reason: to grow in their relationship with Jesus. Allow others to experience that and try to support them in the process.
- Have fun and step out of your comfort zone. Participate in things that will stretch you. Step out of your comfort zone and do not worry what other people think of you.
*These tips and tidbits are specific to me and my life. Although they may work for the reader, I am not a professional in this area. These are merely suggestions that may or may not work for anyone.