Life in Reverse

October 5, 2016

Two weekends ago, I was blessed with the privilege to attend Young Life College Weekend in Ocklawaha, Florida. For those who might not know, Young Life is a youth ministry that is fun-filled and devoted to strengthening each individual’s faith. Just showing up in the parking lot to head out for the weekend was a giant leap of faith for me. I barely knew anyone (I’m awful at remembering names), and I had no idea exactly what I was getting myself into. Taking the initiative to put myself out there and introduce myself to new people is awkward, out of my comfort zone, and just something I’m not confident in doing, but I told myself that college is a time for everything new, so I put on my brave face and got in a car with three other girls and made the 3.5 hour road trip to the campsite.

The weekend was everything I needed and more. Colleges from all over Florida attended the weekend, so I was surrounded by hundreds of new faces. The campsite itself was unbelievably beautiful, with a lake waterfront, beach volleyball courts, a three-story giant swing, and a giant pool with a waterslide, not to mention some super fantastic home-style cooking (a blessed change from campus dining hall food). The free time that we were given was packed with fun and exciting memories, from a choir of screams while free-falling from the three-story swing with two new friends harnessed by my side, to a stop-light red sunburn from playing pool volleyball a little too long, to learning that I am incredibly awful at whiffle-ball. I could ramble on forever about all the fun I had that weekend and all the relationships I created and strengthened.

The biggest part of the entire weekend that really stuck with me was all the talks that we had. A gentleman from Washington flew in and was the guest speaker for the weekend. He gave several talks throughout the weekend, much like listening to a sermon, but each one was very intriguing and opened my eyes to a new perspective. The longest sermon he gave was in explaining the creation story. He visually displayed each part of the story, having people stand up on stage representing water, land, trees, animals, Adam and Eve, etc. He then explained that God created the earth and all its byproducts as tools to live a faithful life, following in God’s footsteps. He explained that man and woman were originally created to look towards God for leadership, and all His creations are simply pieces of the puzzle that help fill in the big picture—a life surrendered and devoted to faithfulness towards God. He then proceeded to demonstrate how humans have developed a lifestyle that is a complete 180 of the original creation story. Instead of seeking God for a righteous life, we tend to turn to His creations and let them control our lives instead. Now, I completely understand that not all people have the same beliefs and some people don’t believe in the creation story or God in general, but this talk has a message that is important for everyone, especially in today’s way of life.

Humans have evolved into a lifestyle wrapped around the concept that we need materialistic objects and the perfect life in order to be happy. We need to have a good job, a good income, a family, a house, children, strong relationships, enough food and water, and attend college in order to be successful or get anywhere. We need to end world hunger, world thirst, and world poverty. We let objects such as money, jobs, sex, and relationships take over our lives and control our every decision. We are surrounded and consumed by problems and worries about the things that God created for us. We seek a “perfect life” controlled by His creations, rather than turning to God and learning to live as one with Him.

My world was completely shaken up after hearing this. When determining which of two colleges to attend, money was definitely a huge factor. My friend had told me just to follow my heart and money will eventually work its way out. I had never truly believed or understood this piece of advice until hearing this man explain the creation story to me. My parents and I were so concerned and analytical about choosing a college that I could afford to attend. I lost myself in 40-hour work weeks at my supposedly part-time job, as a full-time student, hopelessly trying to make every extra penny possible. I became a slave to my job, money, and good grades because I have been taught that living in debt is bad, and a college diploma will get me a better-paying job so I can pay off my debt, buy a home, and start a happy family.

I have been taught to live the “American dream”: working 40+ hour work weeks, having multiple jobs, going to college, winning all the scholarships and grants, having a high-paying career, creating a happy family, and paying off student debt for the rest of my life. But this is not the dream I want to live. I would much rather have joy, a deep satisfaction with life, than happiness, a temporary emotion dependent on other circumstances. Happiness is found by living the American dream. Joy is found by trusting in and devoting our faith to God. I believe that is the bravest thing any of us can do— committing to a life of joy.