Several years ago, a fifteen-year-old girl came to camp who had never been to Daystar. Laura was brought to counseling because of her explosive anger at home. Her teachers said she was a model student. She was well-liked by her peers at school. All of her disappointment, hurt, and anger was stored up during the day and poured out at home each night. Her parents were not only concerned—they were exhausted.
Through the beginning of the ten-day term, Laura was delightful. She quickly developed friendships with the other girls. She was helpful, kind, and encouraging. But on the seventh day, something shifted. Laura's responses grew shorter and had an edge. That afternoon, we had our traditional sixteen-mile bike ride. When Laura couldn't get her gears to work properly, she snapped. She yelled at several of the girls around her, threw down her bike, and stormed off.
That night, we gathered as a group for worship. Up until this week, Laura had never really bought into her parents' faith. As we began reminiscing about our day, Laura spoke up. "I didn't really want to come to camp. My parents told me Daystar was Christian and counseling, and I didn't want either one. But something happened to me today. I was a brat out there on the bike ride.
And you all were kind. Even though I yelled, you stayed with me and wanted to help. You didn't go away because I was rude, even though I probably deserved it. It's one thing to be loved when you are nice, but it's a whole other thing to still be loved when you're a brat."
That day was a turning point for Laura. She accepted Christ the next evening. And she went back to that day as her first real understanding of redemption. Laura felt loved in spite of her messiness—her sin. God's redemption seeped through the other girls who stayed with her in her anger. Their love for her paved the way for God's redemptive love to work in Laura's heart.
One of the kids' favorite hymns at camp is "Amazing Love" by Charles Wesley. Listen to the words and you will understand why.
He left his father's throne above; So free, so infinite his grace, Emptied himself of all but love And bled for Adam's helpless race 'Tis mercy all, immense and free; For O, my God, it found out me! Amazing love, how can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me?
This song, and in particular this verse, speaks to the redeeming love that girls from twelve to fifteen desire so desperately: "'Tis mercy all, immense and free, for O, my God, it found out me!"
Being found out is much like Melissa pointing out Elizabeth's dark side or Laura being loved in spite of her anger. These girls long for a redemptive love.
It is not a coincidence that we have more children say that they want to experience a relationship with Christ in seventh- and eighth-grade camp than any other. These adolescents are aware of their sin—their messiness—and they are longing to be loved in spite of that messiness, in ways that are both redemptive and relational.
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