Lessons from a Screaming 10-Year Old

Soundtrack: Passion Pit - Manners

"'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" Matthew 18:3-4

This week was the fourth annual St. John Spring Break camp that the Stone puts on every year for the St. John community. It was also my fourth time volunteering at this camp, with each year teaching me new things and sanctifying me in various (usually painful) ways. So this year, of course, was no exception.

Therefore I present you with this year's camp lesson: REBELLION.

(Note the use of red, italicized, all caps font to emphasize the dramatic-ness of the subject which I'm about to discuss.)

You see, in past spring break camps I've been with the 2nd/3rd graders, but this year I looked forward to working with the 4th/5th graders, mostly because they're older and more capable of carrying conversation than the lil ones (by the way if you ever want to get a 4th grade girl talking, just ask if JB stands for Justin Bieber or Jonas Brothers). Aside from their ability to converse, however, older kids also tend to have more of an attitude. So out of about twenty 4th/5th grade kids, fifteen of them were boys. And out of five leaders, four of them were women. Can you guess where this is going?

These boys were loud, rambunctious, intentionally disrespectful, and rebellious in every way possible. They had little respect for the male leaders, much less the female leaders who had no strength left to deal with the miniature mafia that was the 4th/5th graders.

To say that my structured, rule-following, control idol nature was freaking out all week would be an understatement.

On the last day of camp, as I watched the dozens of children screaming, running to places they weren't allowed to go to, ignoring leaders, breaking rules, wrestling, crying, pushing each other, cheating in games, and whatever other form of rebellion they could come up with, I realized how similar my relationship with God can be.

I look at how rebellious these children are and how exhausted, frustrated and hurt I am from trying to get them to obey. Why won't they listen? Why do they think breaking the rules is so much better than following them? Don't they know I'm looking out for their best interests? How do they know exactly what buttons to push to get me worked up?

And then Jesus reminded me that I'm this child.

I blatantly disobey God. I think that breaking the rules is more satisfying than following them. I throw temper tantrums when I don't get my way (spiritual temper tantrums, I don't actually throw myself on the floor screaming, at least on most days). I hear God tell me not to do something and do it anyway. I push limits and boundaries, see how far I can go before I get into trouble. I choose not to listen to him when he's speaking. I intentionally ignore him.

It was extremely humbling to watch the children who were driving me insane and realize that I'm no better. If anything I'm worse because I know Christ and I know scripture yet I still choose to rebel against him. But God was so good to show me that no matter how rebellious my heart is, he is mighty to save.

There was a boy that came to camp this week (we'll call him Jose) who I knew from my 2nd/3rd grade group last year and had moved up to my 4th/5th grade group. He had been quite the troublemaker last year and enjoyed rebelling against me more so than the other leaders. He would be my friend one day and refuse to speak to me the next (if I recall correctly he went two full days without speaking a word to me, which I gotta admit takes some intense self-control for anyone, let alone a child). He constantly complained and would go out of his way to break the rules and get my attention.

So I was beyond shocked when he showed up to camp this year and immediately ran up to give me a hug. From that moment on Jose was my best friend. He sat with me, hung out with me, listened and followed the rules. He would give me high fives and tell me I did a good job after leading camp cheers. At one point he gave me a high five for making a goal in soccer against his own team. The boy I met last year and the boy that came to camp this year are two completely different people. Seeing the change in Jose was a beautiful reminder that God can change the most rebellious of hearts, mine included.

Take a moment to praise God for the incredible love and grace he's shown you by changing your heart and making you his child. Dwell on it. It'll blow your mind. Promise.