I should preface this blog with a little background story of my Christian journey over the last six years. I’m going to be very vulnerable and honest with you, but it’ll help you understand how important this summer has been to me.
When I was 12, I decided to go to church every weekend. I had been to UCYC as a camper for 4 years leading up to my entrance to junior high, but never went to church regularly (or did anything in the Christian faith regularly). I didn’t really have a set group of friends at church nor did I really understand it prior to junior high.
In junior high, I was with my school friends. I loved the worship and every band member on stage. I loved communion and gathering with my friends. I was learning. Trying. I had started to get to know Christ, but I was confused on how to love. My way of loving sinners was twisted and hypocritical. I could do these things and apologize for it every week, but could condemn others more than myself. I was wrong.
I continued going to church weekly in eighth grade and was very excited to be leaving UCYC to go to CIY for the next four years. I remember my freshman CIY was exciting and new and inviting. For 6 months into the school year, I was on fire. I was reading, praying, worshipping with a pure heart and loving people the best I could by giving and serving. Starting in January of 2015, I hung out with a different crowd. I started to slip back into cussing and lost interest in my faith. I went on a cruise about two weeks before CIY and really lost it with my actions. Hanging out with people I shouldn’t have and tried alcohol for the first time. I hated it, but I think I was feeling angsty. You’ll notice a true pattern here with the upcoming CIY’s.
My sophomore CIY wasn’t much for me either. I mean, I had gotten back into the faith a little bit (3 months actually) and fell back out. My relationships with guys weren’t Christ-centered and I started smoking weed. All of sophomore year was about me and what I had wanted to do. A week leading up to CIY, I was in Portland. I didn’t want to go to CIY. I thought being a Christian was boring because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, but I still went and it’s a good thing I did.
Junior CIY was pivotal. I was engaged. I had broken down my sinful walls and loved Christ wholeheartedly. My relationship was Christ-centered, I was active in the Word, serving others and loving the way Jesus did. Junior year I was on fire. FOR 13 MONTHS!! It was continual and I had found joy in being a Christian again. Even going into my last CIY I was loving Jesus and it was new and exciting and I was so dead focused on continuing this love through my senior year, but as you can guess, that didn’t happen…
During the first 6 months of senior year, I had partied, drank, hung out with guys, smoked and started my addiction to nicotine. It wasn’t even that I didn’t follow God, I didn’t believe in him entirely. I considered myself at that point to be agnostic. As a lot of change was taking place in my life, I was scared and focused on my own reason for existence and whether I existed for myself or somehow by something in the universe. I was very off-centered for six whole months. I wasn’t going to CIY again, I wasn’t going to church at all and I settled with the idea of just not knowing and doing my own thing for the rest of my life.
In January, I received a text from my friend, Josh, inviting me to be a staffer at UCYC for a weekend winter camp. UCYC? I haven’t been there since I was 13. I’m not even a Christian so how can I lead people to a God I don’t even believe in? He told me it didn’t matter and I should come, so I did.
I did again for the remaining weeks of winter camp. By the third week, I had sold my wax pen and started thinking about my faith again. In February, I was set on trying at least to block out my selfishness and invite the God who has been chasing me relentlessly for 17 years back in. I broke up with someone I was in a very toxic relationship with on February 3rd and before I had done so, I remember being so heartbroken and unsure and making a decision for a God that I still wasn’t sure existed. It took a big leap of faith for a faith that wasn’t grounded. There was a dance party going on in the dining hall and I remember being so confused and lost that I walked to upper camp, listened to ‘All the Poor and Powerless’ in my car and cried. It was a pivotal point of letting go little by little and trusting what I thought was the unknown.
Over the next 2-3 weeks, I had gone to Mexico again with a changed heart and eager to serve the Lord like I had done during my junior year. The weekend after Mexico was YAW (young adult weekend) for young adults at UCYC. I was still 17, but wanted to go and since I knew the staff, I was able to sign up. YAW was the most life-changing event I’ve ever had. Bigger than CIY. Derek had delivered such a heartfelt message that I remember breaking down completely. Every wall that had built itself up over the last four years came crumbling down in that moment. I apologized to God for everything I had done and said against him and begged for a relationship again with him and that’s what I got.
Moving forward from YAW, I still sinned and continue to sin, but it’s not a hopeless pit that I trap myself in anymore. It’s a reminder that I am helpless without him and need to repent over and over in order to maintain this constantly warm and inviting relationship with Christ. Looking back to where I’ve been, I’m ashamed, but I’m hopeful and rejoice in my new identity in Christ.
All this to say, moving to UCYC in May to start a journey of introducing children to God and showing them the true love of Christ has been the second best decision I’ve ever made. For months, I’ve gotten to love on kids, hear their stories, dance and sing with them, joke around with them and ultimately serve Christ for them. The staff have been my family that I’ve bickered with, cried with, laughed with, served alongside and shared my heart with. Seeing how far UCYC has brought me over the last decade has been an incredible blessing to see and watch the transformation of myself from a kid to a young adult.
This summer has brought pain and a lot of it. Losing Carson to suicide in early June rocked my world. I’m sensitive to the topic, more so than I’ve ever been. My heart aches still knowing that he took his own life and I still feel guilty for not loving him more. His life and death has been a turning point for the way I love people and I’m so thankful I had the staff to lean on and cry with while I was hurting. A few days later, my world flipped again when I almost lost my job. It took three weeks of pursuing a man for a relationship that wasn’t promised, but it definitely revealed both of our determination for each other to prove how bad we wanted to be together. I also struggled with my rec lead. I had noticed that the rec was falling apart and I knew I had to take the first initiation to put it back together, and I did. All summer there have been setbacks and obstacles, but I didn’t give up or blame God for what was happening. Instead, I continued to lean on him for support, trust him, and give to him what I knew I couldn’t handle.
I learned a lot this summer about what it means to follow and love Christ with a servant’s attitude and heart. Tending after kids, hearing the stories and hurts of staffers and dealing with my own stuff, I learned there’s no way to see life without Christ in it and that, to me, is comforting. Every cloud, sunset, tree and person that I’ve looked at, I’ve seen Christ reflected through them. Watching kids make first time decisions, hearing them cry out in worship, serve each other and be so happy has inspired me to do the same.
Moving forward into college and the next chapter of my life, I’m scared. I’m so so scared. There’s so much change about to happen and it seems so unreal and I’m not ready for it. Although I’m physically and mentally not prepared, I’m spiritually focused on trusting God to carry me through college, my relationship with Isaac, my decision making for my career and everything else that is going to fall in the space of the next four years. I’m excited, determined, focused and willing to serve Christ for the rest of my life. After seeing how fluctuated my faith has been my whole life, I no longer want that. I don’t want to be another statistic of a college student dropping out of their faith. I don’t want to feel guilty or lost again. All I want, and all I will do is continuing loving, serving, speaking and acting as Christ would. I have a WWJD bracelet around my wrist and it’s a constant reminder for me to love and act in situations how Jesus would as well as encourage others to do the same.
This next chapter of my life is going to be an adventure and I’m excited to see what God has in store for me.
UCYC – thank you for everything. You were the start of it all.
Thank you, as always, for reading my nothingness. I hope you could find something here.
Melanie Rose 8/6/2018 1412h
Do It Again // Elevation Worship