Miserable = Memorable: Reflections on the Most Miserable Youth Retreat Ever!

Wrote this for the FAC Newsletter. Love making memories with you guys, especially miserable ones 🙂

Miserable = Memorable

Why is it that some of our best memories are memories of some of our worst experiences? In the spring of 1986 a tornado ripped through a number of towns in eastern Indiana and left our little town of Lynn looking like the ruins of ancient Ephesus. I remember the day vividly, but only as an image of my whole family huddled up in sleeping bags in our flittering candlelit basement. For all I knew, the world was about to end. And it is one of my fondest memories.

I’ve had similar experiences in everything from hurricane warnings to blizzard hikes to summer jobs in the inescapable sauna called the South to all-night seminary study sessions to hammocking with FAC teens in a torrent of misery. I think what all of these experiences have in common is an unusual combination of discomfort, on the one hand, and camaraderie, on the other.

I would call it fellowship, but I think that word has gotten a little too domesticated in our culture. If it is fellowship, it is fellowship that arises from the thought that “Well, at least we’re in this together…”—like the fellowship that gave rise to the prison songs of Paul and Silas (Acts 16) or the fellowship that gave rise to the faithful last words of 21 Coptic Christians (see the incredible story of a family member of two of those men here). It is fellowship that is characterized by surprise: the surprise of discovering that what Jesus says truly matters—people—is the only thing that truly matters, even when all else is stripped away.

I can’t help but think in a culture that teaches us to orient our whole lives toward seeking pleasure and avoiding pain at all costs, that we are perhaps in danger of achieving the most forgettable legacies in history at the cost of the only thing that truly matters. Why is it that some of the most “successful” people in our culture also seem to be the most lonely and full of regret?

Think about those times when the luxuries of life were stripped away and all you could say was, “Well, at least we are in this together…”, and I bet you’ll remember that the least you could say was in fact the most that could ever be said: we’re together.

Winter Ski Retreat 2015 Highlights

  • Heater on overpriced charter bus would not turn off—50 or so sweaty, agitated teens and leaders on five hour trip
  • Inadequate heater at retreat center—50 agitated human popsicles
  • Frozen water lines at retreat center—50 awkward conversations about restrooms and smelling bad and bathing
  • A group of 50 people at a ski resort—enough said
  • [Confirmed] Youth pastor breaks a rib snowboarding—better me than them
  • Youth pastor plays Beethoven documentary on charter bus on ride home—I actually enjoyed this one

In the end, I think the consensus is that this was the most miserable youth retreat in FAC history. But ask any one of the kids who went and see if they don’t immediately crack a smile. We certainly encountered a lot of discomfort, but hey, at least we were in it together. And I hardly remember a better time of being together. It is already one of my fondest FAC retreat memories.

Live to make memories to remember together.

Miserable = Memorable



2 thoughts on “Miserable = Memorable: Reflections on the Most Miserable Youth Retreat Ever!

  1. My comment to the kids while all this was happening was, “this is the stuff memories are made of! Enjoy!” They had a great time! Appreciate all you do for my kids and our youth at FAC! God is faithful and you are being used by Him to shape lives. It doesn’t get any better than that!

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