I arrived in Montreat on Saturday. I know I’m supposed to be on Sabbatical but for the past three summers, I’ve been on planning team, a recreation leader, then a co-director for this youth conference and haven’t been able to stay in the house with my youth. I’ve missed that – the ‘good morning’ grunts from sleepy teenagers; the excitement our youth exude when they return from small group and have made a connection with a stranger-turned-friend; overhearing the giggles and secrets that are shared from the comfort of lofts that seem so private to youth enjoying that space; the meals that serve to feed our bodies and spirits; and late night back home group where we attempt to voice our deepest thoughts of the day alongside belly laughs that are more about being sleepy than anything else. I’ve missed all of that! So I’m taking time to rejoin our group at Montreat Youth Conference. It’s the one thing that hasn’t changed a whole lot from when I was a teenager in those Anderson Auditorium pews (even thought it’s been 17 years since I first experienced the joy of Montreat.) Seeing my youth experience God in this place, much the same way I did as a teen, is priceless!
When I arrived to Montreat on Saturday, I kept myself busy with three trips to the grocery store in less than 24 hours to stock the fridge for my UPC youth. I did as much meal prep as I could before the youth arrived. On Sunday morning, I decided not to go to worship for the first time in a very long time. I did all the things I thought I was missing out on during Sunday mornings. I listened to NPR while I prepped meals for the week. I enjoyed a second cup of coffee (while sitting!). I took in the beautiful sights and sounds of nature from our Montreat porch. I attempted some “quiet time” while sitting in the morning sun (note: “quiet time” is not one of my gifts).
Well, by 11:05 Sunday morning, I had had enough of whatever it was I was attempting to do with my Sabbath morning! I couldn’t help but think about the folks at UPC gathering together for worship, greeting one another with warm smiles and inquiries about one another’s well being. I couldn’t help but think about my youth, all piled in the vans together, building community as they made their way along I-40 to Montreat. I couldn’t help but long for Church. Maybe I wasn’t doing quiet time wrong after all because I had a big realization during my Sunday morning porch sitting:
I have had just about enough of myself!
At this point in my Sabbatical, I’m over hanging out with myself. Truly. Don’t get me wrong. I was glad and even grateful to make the journey to Scotland alone. Traveling by myself was a gift and I’m so happy I did it! But, there comes a time when an extrovert just can’t take any more alone time. Sunday morning, I reached my limit. This extrovert was needing a serious infusion of others…and not just any others. I was in need of my faith community, holy community, and the community that exists for and because of communal Sabbath worship. As the minutes until the arrival of our youth slowly ticked by, I became more grateful than ever for these youth and leaders and for the community they have created for me and for one another. Sabbath isn’t about alone time! It’s about community. It’s about worshipping with others. It’s about coming together to praise God and to confess that we are broken people. It’s about hearing the word of God as the people, not individuals. It’s about praying for the deep needs of the world and its people, not only ourselves. It’s about living as God’s people in community with one another.
While I truly believe rest is a big part of God’s instruction to us, I’m becoming ever more certain that “me time” isn’t what God had in mind. Just as I was about to crawl out of my skin on Sunday morning, I got the call that the youth were near. Finally! I eagerly left the subjective serenity of that Montreat porch and headed down the mountain to greet them, deeply glad to be joining in holy community with them for this week in Montreat.
The house that offered a kind of quiet peacefulness on Sunday morning is now filled with
stomps up stairs
shrieks over spiders
a crowded living room, kitchen, and bathrooms
and raucous laughter.
And with that, I am now at peace.