Field Story by Chris Cox, Back2Back Cincinnati
Every year, Back2Back hosts a retreat for teenagers in Monterrey. We invite youth from children’s homes and teenagers from the Hope Program to spend a weekend in the mountains. Day one of camp is always full of energy and excitement. The 2017 retreat was no different. Everyone was having fun, laughing, and learning. One of the objectives of the retreat was to help teenagers find their voice.
The boys from the retreat had gathered at a makeshift amphitheater overlooking a ravine separating two beautiful mountains. I asked them before sitting down, to find a rock representing the weight they were carrying. Many had experienced darkness. We started our time together each holding a unique rock in hand.
“You can ask any of us two questions, about anything you would like, and we will answer honestly,” I began. The boys from the retreat looked questionably at me.
“Anything?” One boy asked.
“Yes,” I replied, “but there is one thing I ask in return. We can ask you one question and you, also, must answer honestly.” They were in.
The first question asked was, “How old were you when you first saw something bad?”
There were three of us guiding the conversation, and we each answered honestly. That’s when it happened, vulnerability was born, the unspoken agreement of our shared experience.
It was their turn to answer our question. “Why that particular rock?” I asked them.
The boy who had asked the first question spoke with sadness, “This rock is ugly, big, and horrible. I’ve seen so many ugly, horrible things.”
Everyone offered their answer, but I was locked in on that first ugly, horrible rock. What I heard in his voice was an overwhelming pain, as he expressed shame for what had been inflicted upon him.
After the others had finished answering, we read Psalm 103 together: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
The pain we feel from sin doesn’t always have to be a direct result of our own sin. The weight of shame isn’t ours to carry, whether it be our sin or someone else’s. God hears our voice when we cry out. The Bible says He throws shame as far as the east is from the west. We directed the boys to the edge of the ravine and encouraged them to surrender their shame. My young friend stood and took his ugly, jagged rock and threw it off the side of the mountain. Then he walked away lighter.
God promises, as children grafted into His family, He will hear us when we cry out to Him. What ugly weight are you shouldering, even when you don’t have to? Are you like the young man Chris writes about? Are you holding onto something you weren’t meant to carry in the first place?
You may experience instances where you feel a heaviness you don’t know how to handle. Are you crying out to the Lord, readily admitting when you cannot handle it alone? He hears you, loud and clear – even if it’s a mumbled cry of hurt and disappointment. He is always listening.