MONSTERS…we talked a lot about monsters this first week of camp at Hopetown. Not the one-eyed, scary, scaly kind of monsters but the kind of monsters we hear in our heads every day.
You know…you hear them, too. It’s not just the high school kids we had at camp last week. It’s the voice in your head that says “You blew it.” You can internalize it as the voices of those in relationship to you or even God’s voice. Rather than “I love you and am for you,” it’s more like “You fell flat on your face.” “You are such a mess.” “Try harder.” “I’m frustrated.” “You’re in trouble.” “You deserve this.” “I’m not going to love you anymore.” Henri Nouwen said, “One of the reasons we don’t trust God is the negative, persistent voices we have inside of us.” The VOICE OF TRUTH gets lost in the wake of these lying, powerful monsters that do their best to defeat us.
When Thomas Merton was teaching the new monks in his monastery, he said that he wanted them each to imagine a large, dark pool, with all sizes and shapes of monsters lurking beneath the water. As those monsters each rose to the surface, he wanted the monks to give them a name.
And so that is exactly what we did at camp this last week. We talked about our monsters and gave them names. The names these high school juniors and seniors came up with involved words like apathy, laziness, perfection, control, anxiety, anger, failure, unworthiness, guilt, conforming, vulnerability, purposelessness, abandonment, burdening others, insecurity, pressure, and weakness. Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?
St. Augustine said, “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know Thee.” John Calvin echoed the same idea when he said, “There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self, and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God.”
Melissa talked about not only the importance of knowing the monsters that have the loudest voices within us, but where we go with those voices. In fact, she asked 3 questions:
1)What are your monsters?
2)How do you typically respond?
3)What would it look like to trust Jesus to defeat them?
Basically, these kids walked through the Gospel around the metaphor of monsters. So many of them talked about pulling away or lashing out in response to the monsters. One girl even said she sometimes gets in the pool and swims around with them for a while. Our response—aka—our sin is different for each of us. But the fact that monsters are there is not. They do exist. Hopefully, as we grow and learn to understand their voices, they have less and less power. But it is not just our understanding that defeats them. It is, as one high school boy said, pressing into Jesus in a way where we trust His love for us more than those terrible voices.
Charles Stanley said, “No one can conquer us without our consent.” But, oh, how those monsters try. Paul has an answer in Romans 8:31-37. “What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Melissa ended this teaching with having us sing, “Jesus loves me.” It was a powerful, mysterious thing to watch 35 high school students sing that simple, elementary song. But, how very true it is. “When we choose to believe what the monster says about us,” she said, “we go down in defeat. But when we choose to believe what God says about us, we are never ultimately defeated.” We are more than conquerors. Jesus loves us….so much so that all things, even our monsters will work together for our good and His glory. And that is the final Word.