In April of 1991, as part of a Confirmation process at my church, I was required to head down to MA with a few other kids from my town and a ton of other kids from all over the place for a weekend long Teen Encounter. The idea was that we'd go, and listen to other teenagers talk about religion, and their experiences and it would help us decide if in fact we wanted to be confirmed or not. I can't say that I was looking forward to it one bit. It was from Friday night until Sunday evening which meant a whole weekend gone, and I was only going to know a few people. I am not a fan of large gatherings, even of people I know, so it was very hard for me, but I went anyhow.
Every year around Easter my brain pulls the memory of that weekend out of the vault and throws it around a bit. The weekend I went on, was April 11-13th, and it was the first teen encounter weekend after Easter.
I remember the head spiritual director talked about how awesome that was and made a big deal about it. Of course, in the way of impressionable teenagers, I fell in love with that retreat center. Every Thursday after I would travel down to MA for a youth group (prayer meeting), and on Sunday afternoon's I'd go to leadership school, where they pulled the kids who ran the retreats from. I can't tell you how many retreats I was on, either as a team member, or a kitchen krew member, or working in the basement writing letters and making posters for other teens who were making their first weekend. My home life was a mess then, and through that center, and those groups I met other teens who were in similar situations, I found support, and love and made some of the best friends I've ever had.
In 1992 I went off to the Army, and due to a series of medical circumstances, was discharged in February of 1993. I was devastated. Some tests with local Drs determined the Army had a made a huge mistake (phew!) and after an established amount of time, I was going to be allowed to go back. In March, I was in an awful car accident, which ultimately ruined any chance I ever had of serving in the military again. All these years later I can tell you that things happen for a reason.. but at the time it was just tragic. After the accident, while I was still recovering, and on crutches and bruised and tattered, my brother S asked me on a Thursday if I wanted to go to a prayer meeting with him.
I almost said no. I had put that part of my life behind when I left for the Army, said goodbye to the friends and the people who had been such a huge part of the last two years, and I was crushed and beaten down and hurting, both physically, emotionally and spiritually. He convinced me that it would do me good to both get out of the house, and see some old friends, and besides I couldn't drive and he had just gotten his licence, so I went. He introduced me to some of his friends that he had met since his original teen encounter weekend, and then he introduced me to The Boy, who was home on leave to see his brother who had been diagnosed with Lukemia. He was being transfered back out here to be closer to his family, and had started coming to Thursday night prayer meetings to renew his own faith in life. He had made his weekend long before me, and had left before I showed up. Had I not agreed to go that night, I never would have met him.
Over the next few months, I threw myself back into life at the retreat center, but it felt a little forced. I was still hurting and angry about the military. A friend of mine had died in the fall before I left for the Army. My parents situation was getting worse and I didn't feel very spiritual. I would sit at a prayer meeting, or a leadership meeting, and feel like a fake. Then In late April, right after the anniversary of my original weekend, I got asked to lead the June retreat weekend. I would be in charge of the team, and running the show, and it was a huge, huge honor. During the next 7 or 8 weeks, through working with the team of teens that I picked, and listening to their talks and praying and singing and growing... slowly.... very slowly.. I was healed. Not physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
On the last day of the weekend, after everyone else has shared about faith and discipleship and morality and everyone is tired, and happy and pumped up on a lack of sleep and an experience they've never had before.. the team leader gets up and gives a talk about the third day. The theory is, that Friday night is the first day, Saturday is the second day, Sunday and every day after for the rest of your life, is the third day. Where you go, and what you do after you leave and go back home. I shared about my original weekend, and the struggles I'd had since then. I shared about my family and how I had begun to lose my faith, and then my friend dying and my military fiasco and car wreck. I shared with them how I had lost my way, and then through the process of working on their weekend, I found my way home. I played this song for them when I was done, and it was a very moving experience in my life.
Today I was reminded of it by Carly. She posted over at her blog about how when she was a teen, she attended a youth conference and the theme was It's Friday.. Sunday's Coming! To quote her (as she did a much better job of explaining then I could ever), "He put us into the mindset of the apostles... It's Friday now and things are dark, you are discouraged and everything seems bleak and hopeless. But Sunday is coming. Sunday all will be made new, and right." I don't often share about religion on my blog, but it is Good Friday after all, and I was inspired by Carly to take a trip down memory lane. Thanks C... Sunday is Coming!
*photo from last year, we only have crocus' blooming