Saturday, July 11, 2009

expect the unexpected

I just got back from a week at Barefoot Republic Camp, serving as a "Republic Leader" for 14 junior high girls. The mission of Barefoot is to facilitate relationships between kids from diverse racial, cultural and socioeconomic we had kids from inner-city Nashville at camp with kids from wealthy Williamson County. Very cool vision...and very few, if any, other camps in the country do what they do.

I went in to last week completely "spent". In fact, on my way to camp last Sunday afternoon, I almost called the camp director (who just happens to be one of my best friends) to tell her to have a back-up in line...just in case...I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually tapped out.

Had you told me what the week was going to hold, I would've told you there was no way that I would be able to make it without completely shutting down. I didn't really know what to expect out of the week since this was my first time at Barefoot. In many ways, it was exponentially harder than I thought it was going to be. But I had no idea that I was going to experience God the way I did.

It's weird because two weeks ago, I got to watch God supply our HCC students with the love and energy that they needed at Deer Run (see previous post). I thought I had rarely, if ever, got to see God take over in such a powerful way. And it's like this week at Barefoot, He told me it was my turn...not just to see it, but to experience it.

I don't think it's a coincidence that I ended up with the toughest group of kids at camp. These kids were coming from the poverty of the projects and from broken families. There was a lot of anger, a lot of hurt...and a desperate, desperate need for attention and for love. Sadly these needs tend to work themselves out in very negative ways. I have worked with youth for four years now...and although I'd worked with my fair share of hurt kids, I had never worked with this overwhelming amount of hurt kids.

But what was crazy was how God completely took me over and gave me, every minute of every day, exactly what He knew I needed. I truly experienced Him as my Provider in a way that I never have before. I was dependent on Him every moment of every day last week. In my fleshly nature, I would have typically gotten very frustrated, angry, and impatient with those girls. But instead I found my love for them growing greater and greater every minute I was with them...even though their behavior and their attitudes didn't really change a whole lot throughout the week.
Through that, though, I came to a new realization of what God's unconditional, patient, relentless love looks like. And how His love for me has nothing to do with me or what I do and everything to do with Him and who He is.

I prayed going in to last week that God would truly break my heart for what breaks His and that He would show me how to love like He's loved me. It was incredible to experience His heart last week. It was amazing to see His love in a new and real way. It was humbling to realize that the God of the universe chooses to use someone like me to pour out His love into this broken world. It was crazy to feel the way He took over my heart, my mind, and my body in every part of last week, reminding me that He will never call me to something without providing for me the whole way. I want to be dependent on Him like that every day. I want Him to take control of me like that all the time.

Although there were a few breakthroughs, I honestly didn't get to see a huge return on the love that those girls experienced. But you know, God had to remind me that that wasn't the reason I was doing what I was doing. I am not to love so that I can see results. I am to love because I have been so recklessly loved. And because of that, I cannot help but pour that love out onto a broken and hurting world.

I'm so glad God isn't limited by my expectations. He sure blew them away last week.


erin f. said...

Melanie, you are amazing, and God is using you for so much good in this world. I love reading about how He is working in your life!

Jamie Vance said...

All I really have to say is that God is completely beautiful, I think that is how I feel right now. I see how God is moving through you in such amazing ways and then through my experiences here in Ireland. God is an artist ;p He takes messy and imperfect people and paints a new and beautiful picture!