Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Life Essay

So my friend is putting together a bunch of essays from her friends about their life at the present moment. I thought I would share mine here for you all.


I'm tired. I would even say exhausted. The kind of tired where you lose all focus and stare off into a haze whenever you sit down. It's because I am working at a camp this summer. Except for this past week, I didn't work at camp. Instead, I worked at (another) camp...

Let me explain. I am a part of the summer staff at Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters (SWO), a Christian camp in Andrews, North Carolina. But for this past week I was a volunteer leader at SharpTop Cove, a YoungLife camp in Jasper, Georgia. Yep, that's right. A 23-year old with a debt-free degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill working for $125 a week. I don't even want to see what that calculates to hourly. It wasn't always this way. I spent ten months working for Gurlitz Architectural Group, a legit “real job.” I had to dress up, bathe regularly, and pretend that I liked semi-fancy overpriced Indian restaurants better than my beloved Bojangles. The office job was great, and if I desired to be an architect, it would have been the jackpot. But I don't want to be an architect; I want to be a rock star. So, I packed up my things, said my goodbye to Chapel Hill, and moved up to SWO for the summer. SWO has a special place in my heart; it is where I began my journey as a Christian and has consistently been a place of great encouragement and joy. Therefore, I decided to work there one last time before really striking out in the fall in search of “rockstardom.” But this is not about the future; it's about the present. And presently, I am doing a lot of thinqking.

I have been thinking about happiness. What are those things that make me happy? Brownies and ice cream, my dog Rocky, convertibles on warm days, people who dance to music, mustaches on young men (creepy...), headshots / melee kills on Halo, motorcycles, techno music, Bojangles' biscuits, Bojangles' sweet tea, anything else by Bojangles, Zaxby's, laughing until my stomach hurts, wearing pajamas until lunchtime on the weekends, making baked goods with friends for friends, skipping in fields whilst running my hands through the blooming flowers around me, and making lists of seemingly meaningful but in reality pointless things that I can put on Facebook so people can supposedly learn about who I am through my “interests.”

But seriously, what makes me happy? Music. Rocking out. I love everything about music, whether it's jamming with my boys Nick and Erik at Cat's Cradle or the “Band Room,” recording dumb songs with my friend Grant, getting my face melted by some sweet local band, or just blaring it in my car. It really does make me happy, and some of the fondest memories I have are those when I was playing songs that I helped to create on stage with my best friends. But there is one problem...

This happiness is fleeting. It's awesome when the amps are roaring, but what happens when the show is over? The reality of life comes back. The things that make us happy can so easily be made nothing. I love Zaxby's and Bojangles, but all it takes is a sore throat or upset stomach and it's not even good. I love my dog Rocky, but sometimes he takes a slam in his cage and I gotta clean that junk up in the morning. The truth is that what we think of as “happiness” is more often than not a fleeting and deceptive emotion.

I have also been thinking about joy. Joy and happiness are not synonymous, and this fact was made clear to me last week at SharpTop Cove. I was a leader of some guys from inner city Durham. The whole camp was filled with kids from the streets of various big cities around the country. The stories they had made my heart break. One particular friend of mine has only known his father outside of prison bars for two years and now he’s serving several life sentences and will most likely be incarcerated for the rest of his son's life. Another guy prefers not to even connect with his father because of the way he treats his mother (and the mothers of his other five children). They have turned to the street life for an escape: violence, drugs, promiscuity, and even gang activity, all in the search for happiness and, ultimately, joy.

It was a hard week for me. There were moments of great fun and laughter, but for much of the time it was hard. Hard to be confronted with the fact that I have a cushy life that I do not deserve, hard to try and relate to them all week, hard to be confronted with the fact that these guys have such tough situations at a young age, and hard to think that there are stories out there that are far worse than the ones told to me. Though there was not much “happiness” for me this week, I had great joy. I had joy in the fact that I was able to communicate hope to them; hope that flows from faith in Jesus Christ.

My goal was not to tell them to grit their teeth and work hard, that one day they could make it out of the hood, live in a nice house, have a stable family, and a nice bank account. Those things don't matter in the end. What a disappointment it would be to gain those things, only to realize they can only promise fleeting happiness! No, my goal was not to help them achieve these things. My goal was to point them to Christ, and that gave me joy.

I have also been thinking about my agenda. How do I want to spend my life? I will pursue both happiness and joy. I will enjoy my life as much as possible; as I move away from North Carolina and pursue a career as a professional musician I will enjoy every note and drop of sweat along the way. But when those things fail me (or succeed wildly), when bad things happen and life throws me curves, I know that I have deep joy. I have my identity and my joy and my security in Christ, and I will share that with others. SharpTop was such a blessing to me that I have decided to be involved in urban youth ministry wherever I end up, that I may multiply my joy in sharing the hope of the Gospel with those who have lives vastly different from mine. With those who I may not be able to relate to, but who I care about and want to see changed. I find that far more fulfilling and valuable than a nice salary and a retirement plan.

So, as for my life right now, I am hoping and dreaming and planning on a grand and adventurous future. A future that is filled with face-melting guitar solos, CD release shows, crowded tour buses, and good times. A future filled with new youthful urban friends, street ball games, Michael Jackson dance parties, and real talk about life, hope, and Christ Jesus.

1 comment:

Madison said...

Hey Chad,
How encouraging, and well-written. I actually had a similar experience at the camp I've been working at, Camp Lurecrest. We just had a group of kids leave from inner city Charlotte who are all in the Social Services system. I've been wrestling with, how, Lord, is it that I grew up in a loving home full of opportunity? These kids lives are broken by the age of 8. Nevertheless, the Jesus that rescued and continues to rescue my mess, however high class that may seem, is the same Jesus that is fiercely pursuing these kids' hearts. The truth of the gospel penetrates every domain and class of society. Incredible.

I've only been home a day and haven't had much time to process things. So, I just wanted to write to say thanks for thinking out loud for me through some of these issues.

Take care.