the last night of summer

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What did you do on the last night of summer? I spent it by the sea with some of the most amazing teenagers I know.

This weekend I, along with some stellar youth advisors, took 45 of our youth on a beach retreat. Our theme was “Called to Be…” and we asked youth to consider just who and what God is calling them to be in the world. What gifts and talents do they possess that can further the Kingdom? How will they let God use them?

I’m not sure anyone answered that question fully this weekend. Or at least I hope they didn’t…that is an ever-evolving answer. But I caught a few glimpses of what their answers might be in the here and now.

Saturday night, my high schoolers begged to go back out onto the beach after our program time was over. So, I went along with the plan, eager to see where the sound of the waves and the veil of darkness would take their conversations. I watched as they hit the sand and  formed a circle, instructing one another to move over and let everyone in. Listening to their comments made me smile and hold my breath a little…

“Let’s talk about deep stuff!” one said.

“We could tell our secrets.” another offered.

“What about talking about stuff that makes us cry?” proposed one.

A giant “ummmm” fell over the group as they weren’t quite sure how to move forward.

Finally the conundrum of which conversation would bring the group closer was solved: “Ok. If you could have coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?” said one youth. And I whispered a silent “thankyoujesus” for a conversation that was both organic and natural instead of forced.

And with that, they were off. The answers varied wildly as each person took a turn and an amazing thing happened. No one was told their imaginary coffee date was stupid. No one was chastised for being geeky. No one was judged for just picking their celebrity crush. The youth simply shared. And with every answer was met with a “YES!” or “ohmygod, me too!” or “that’s brilliant!” or fun-loving laughter.

After these imaginary coffee dates broke the ice, I witnessed youth asking one another for dating advice (and got honest answers spoken with love). At the risk of looking silly, they sang made-up songs for one another. And they even pondered questions such as whether or not the Egyptians went to heaven after being engulfed by the Red Sea.

While I pray these youth have many days of discernment ahead of them, I am certain that in the darkness of that damp beach on our last night of summer, they were living out exactly what God calls them to do and be right at this very moment.

Make the circle bigger, so everyone has a place.
Don’t force it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Affirm the imaginations of others.
Encourage trust.
Ask honest questions and be open to honest answers.
Take risks to be real with one another.
Dive a little deeper into the stories of our faith.

They get it.

While this is a small slice of the weekend’s conversation, it not only gave me confidence that they truly understand what it means to be a part of this church community, it reminded me of my calling to be the adult making space for those conversations with youth.

What are you called to do? Who are you called to be? Instead of coffee, if you could spend the last night of summer discerning and living out God’s call for you, where would you be and with whom? The answer may surprise you…listen to it.


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