We lived in France, the Alps of Savoy to be exact, about a decade ago. We were there to learn French before returning to west Africa. After living in the mountains, nothing else really compares. Every day I walked my kids to the French public school, and I could look up at Belle Etoile (Beautiful Star), a mountain rising 3,000 meters over Val d'Isere (pictured above).
The beauty of this moment--the memory of the sight of the crisp blue mountain air, the steamy breath of those walking up to the school, the invigorating bite of the brisk wintry breeze--brought to mind the words of the Psalmist, one of my favorites, in # 121:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains--
It was awe-inspiring. All I could think was, soak in this view because soon you'll move away, and it will only be faint memory.
So, I did.
Every day I looked up at this mountain; it held my gaze. I remember the weekend afternoon a group of us hiked the winding trail through the conifer forest up the side of Belle Etoile, and threading our way between the expanse on either side of the saddle all the way a to the summit. The view of the valley, and the surrounding mountains, including the majestic Mont Blanc seventy kilometers away but seeming much closer, cannot be fully depicted with words. If I tried to describe it, it would only be a pale comparison to the real thing.
A Teenager's View from the Summit
The experience of a group event--like Nazarene Youth Conference, summer camp, camp meeting revivals, music festivals, mission trips, ministry events like Catalyst--can be as indescribable as this mountaintop view. What can be said when nothing else compares?
There are photos and videos to aid our memories, but they do not always translate the emotion, the sounds, and the imprint of the context. Here is an example of what I'm talking about: it's a clip of worship at NYC 15 Louisville taken by my friend Jim Hampton, who as a teenager attended a similar Nazarene youth conference held in Mexico in 1983, and has worked as paid staff or as a volunteer at every NYC, except one, since then:
Describing the Indescribable
How do you expect a teenager to find words for something they have never quite experienced before? If they complain about the paucity of worship at their local church on Sunday, honestly, can you blame them? No worship band, even the best out there, could ever replicate this . . . moment.
I mean, words have trouble describing it, too.
After experiencing the mountaintop, it's important to try not to repeat it, or expect it to happen just like it did, ever again. Kind of depressing when you think about it, which is why the participants at NYC
--adults and teenagers-- are probably feeling a little let-down the week following the event.
The best thing to do as a teenager is simply remember it, rehearse it, tell others about it. Talk about what happened there. Don't hold it in. People want to know why you're so . . . different now. Take a deep breath of that mountaintop air, and talk it through to anyone who will listen, often and out loud. (Then, remember to live out these life changes even louder!)
If you're around a parent or mentor, let them ask about what happened, and how it felt, what went through the your mind as all of this was taking place, what your friends thought about it, what changes took place in your lives, the commitments you all made, what you hope to do now, as crazy as it might sound.
The best response from someone who is listening: nodding their heads, smiling a lot, and praying. Let them affirm what God has done, and is doing. If you can, pray that God will bring about the new life-changes and commitments you've recently made. Let parents and mentors pray for you even as they listen so that God will make it so.
Walking into the Next Step on the Path Ahead
A lot of people, and experiences, and just about everything about life back home could become major obstacles to following God's voice. Even good people and good intentions can get in the way of God's trajectory for your life.
Take care to not compare the home church or youth group or family life to the NYC experience. Nothing could live up to this expectation. Savor the mountain view, and live in the memory.
Don't let anyone talk you out of what God has done in you. Remember, it's His kingdom; and it will only come into this world through you.
"And the one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." This verse, though, only makes sense in context:
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NIV)
More posts are going to follow over the next few days and weeks to help you pursue the momentum of God's work in and through your experience at NYC and beyond.
A Parent's (Brief) Guide to the Aftershock of Nazarene Youth Conference