In June, the youth group went on our annual retreat to Breakaway on Hilton Head Island. It’s a truly amazing week of worship, learning, miracles, goofing off, pranks, and sea creature attacks. Breakaway is a milestone for us as teenagers to look back over the past year and see how God has moved in our lives and what He has promised us for the coming year. It’s a week where great leaders come to us and lift our eyes to the Cross and really help us dive into all that means for us personally. It’s a week where the Holy Spirit moves in really radical, sometimes scary ways. I think any one of the youth will tell you that our speaker this year held nothing back from us. God used his teachings to utterly and completely break us…but what happened when Jesus put us back together…THAT was the coolest part of Breakaway. Because – like Moses – we came home with a little bit of God’s glory burnt into us.
We came home from this mountaintop experience and got smacked in the face with real life. We came back to broken relationships, back to strained families, back to work, back to bad habits and addictions. Back to darkness. And I think every single one of us said, “I wish we could just stay at Breakaway. I want to go back to Breakaway.” But alas! Jesus prays in John 17, “My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of this world, just as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth…”
Well, here’s the truth. We are a different youth group today than we were before we went to Breakaway this year. We got home on Friday and as soon as we got home, we missed each other! I seriously have five pillows in my bed, one for my head and the rest are spread around me because I got so used to sharing a bed with a bunch of girls! I can’t sleep alone anymore! Call it what you will but that’s what happens when we’re all living together, eating together, worshiping, praying, and crying together. And that kind of energy spent together makes a bond that is not easily broken. Like the soldiers who sweat and bleed together find a brotherhood that lasts forever through the fiercest battles, we have found that bond in the blood of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t our blood spilt, it was His. Our blood isn’t enough to keep us together but His is.
The Friday following our return home we all met up in one of our basements. For about an hour we just hung out, danced a little bit, talked about whatever. One of the really cool things was that as more people would arrive, everyone went, “Oh my gosh! It’s so good to see you! I’ve missed you so much! Ahhhh!” Lots of hugging. Lots of genuine, heartfelt rejoicing to see each other. Then we all sat down in a circle and started talking about Breakaway, about what we learned there, about what God had done with us since we’d been home, whatever came to mind. Aside from “God’s awesome,” and “I love you,” do you want to know what the most commonly uttered words were that night? “Knowing that I was going to get to spend time with my friends who live their lives for God and talk about Him tonight got me through the week.” I’m sorry, these are 14-year-olds through 18-year-olds saying this. “Knowing that on Friday night I was going to get to be with my piers who love Jesus got me through the week.” Do y’all have any idea how ridiculous that is?! Do you have any idea how exciting that is! This is what your kids are saying. This is what your brothers and sisters in Christ are saying.
After about another hour of recanting the total awesomeness of our God, we worshiped through song. We didn’t have power point, or amps, or mikes, but beyond the shadow of a doubt, we had the Holy Spirit with us. There were probably twenty of us all crammed in the sitting area of the Chaney’s basement, which is beautiful and awesome and thank you for opening your home to us, but it was not designed to hold that many of us! And the way we roll at IDX, we throw our arms around each other or hold hands when we’re praying and worshipping because it makes that connection to the Kingdom of God all the realer and more passionate. So we’re down in the basement, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, packed like sardines, and we’re just singing our hearts out. I was overwhelmed. I could feel the Holy Spirit moving in that room because my body was covered in chills and you can bet it was not because it was cold down there! There was a song a lot of us heard for the first time at Breakaway called “True Love” by Phil Wickham. It’s a beautiful song. Y’all should go look it up. But this has become our new favorite at IDX, our anthem, if you will. We sang it at Breakaway, we’ve sung it in youth a few times, and we sang it in the Chaney’s basement and felt the Holy Spirit sweep through our hearts.
“Come close listen to the story / About a love more faithful than the morning / The Father gave His only Son just to save us / The earth was shaking in the dark / All creation felt the Father’s broken Heart / Tears were filling Heaven's Eyes / The day that True Love died / When blood and water hit the ground / Walls we couldn't move came crashing down / We were free and made alive / The day that True Love died, the day that True Love died / Search your heart, you know you can't deny it / Come on, lose your life just so you can find it / The Father gave His only Son just to save us / Now, Jesus is alive / Jesus is alive / Jesus is alive / Jesus is alive / Jesus is alive / Oh, He is alive / He rose again.”
This is what God is doing with the youth at Intown. This is where He’s leading us. At Breakaway, Jesus convicted our hearts of our horrible brokenness so that our only option if we wanted to live was to fall at the feet of the Cross, was to get on our knees and break our idols at the feet of Jesus and weep for the forgiveness and safety and peace and love and joy and the freedom we found there. We learned at Breakaway this very startling thought that conviction is a beautiful thing. Conviction is when you see yourself and go, “There’s no way I can be ok without Jesus,” and then run towards Him, knowing He is the only One who can fix it. Guilt and shame is when you look at yourself and say, “Yuck,” and then hide it away and run from God and His ability to clean you off. Conviction is what pushes you towards the Cross. Guilt and shame is what holds you back and makes you think you can’t approach Him. Conviction is what brings us to our knees before the Father. And because He loves us, He lets us grovel on the floor for about a millisecond before He scoops us up into His arms and cradles us like we are the most precious things He owns…because we are!
This is the vision the youth group has. We know we’re messed up, trust me, we know. We have our failures shoved in our faces – by piers, by family, by the voices in heads – all day long because Satan wants to guilt us into believing that we are not good enough and we could NEVER approach the Cross of Jesus. But that’s not what we learned at Breakaway and that’s not a lie we are going to let ourselves believe. We are the dearly loved children of God Almighty and He holds us to His heart because we are the most precious things He created and He longs for us to run to Him no matter what kind of day it’s been. We are more than children, though. We’re soldiers. We’re conquerors. He’s been training us, He’s been fitting us with armor. He’s been whispering in our lives, “I’m fighting with you…I’m fighting for you…I’m coming to rescue you…We’re going to have a great adventure…” And now, we are here to proclaim that God is moving in our lives and at Intown through us. Here’s what we learned about Jesus at Breakaway and what we want to pump into this church: He is not a tame lion…of course He isn’t safe, but He is good.