I can remember vividly the excitement of going away on a Youth Retreat for the first time. Everything was thoughtfully packed away in my bag. I made sure that I had the right clothes, the right makeup and hair products. I thought about who I would sit with on the bus and where on the bus we would park ourselves for the three hour ride to our destination. I was so excited.
The details of that weekend are a blur now. After all it was over 20 years ago that I boarded the bus that first time. But many other weekends followed and I eagerly anticipated each one during my years at youth. They were weekends spent with friends, old and new. Rushing to look my best at breakfast in the morning. Eyeing up the boys sitting together, trying so hard to look cool. Countless campfires and hikes and Games of capture the flag and snow volleyball. Services where my heart was moved and altar calls where we prayed together, cried together and grew together. I remember trudging back to cabins with friends, talking until late into the night. I remember pranks we pulled on the boys and the ones they pulled on us. Incredible memories and monumental decisions were packed into those days away from home.
And where did the time go?
Was it just yesterday I turned around and that life, my youth, was gone? The years slowly pile on each other, one by one, until you finally start to feel “grown up” but a small part of still feels 17 with all the same intense feelings that define those times in our life.
And now I find myself at the other end of the spectrum. My son will go away on his first youth retreat this weekend. Its hard for me to believe he’s old enough but underneath the boyish face I look at a young man is starting to emerge. I’ll send him on his way understanding just a little of the excitement he’ll be feeling. I’ll be the one to wait and pray while he begins his own journey to independence. I’ll start to trust others to begin to help influence and shape him. I’ll (try to) pry my fingers, ever so slightly, from the tight grasp I have on him. Knowing the One who loves him best has a secure handle on every detail of his life.
And I’ll anticipate the minute he comes back home full of stories and his very own memories. Oh. I’ll bask in those moments, knowing how fast life moves and how very few years I have left to keep him this close to his home and his mom.