We have the great pleasure of having Matt Thomas guest blog for us. He’s the co-founder and Executive Director of Expedition Backcountry Adventures. He has a heart for teens who are struggling. If you have a young person who is making some bad choices, this post is for you. (And added bonus… you can connect with Matt if you are looking for some encouragement and help during this challenging time. Be blessed.
With faith, hope, and love,
Lori & Becky
After a tough 8 mile push our group of high school girls was ready for a break. It was day 3 of 5 and I could sense a few girls in the group wondering if signing up for this backpacking trip was a good idea.
I noticed one of the girls, Kate (name changed to protect identity), had been unusually quiet the past 24 hours. I knew bits and pieces of her story. She was a junior and hadn’t had the easiest go in high school thus far. Difficulty making friends, isolation, loneliness, and an ongoing battle with an eating disorder had left her wondering who she was and why she exists. She came from a great family, had a relatively strong support system, but just couldn’t seem to figure things out.
We ate a great backcountry dinner and as the sun began to set we headed for a rock outcropping with a view you can only find in sacred places like this. I encouraged the girls to sit there in silence and think about moments in their lives that had marked and shaped them. After 20 minutes of stillness, with no sound except for the wind rushing through the trees around us, I opened my bible to Psalm 139 and began to read aloud:
“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me….You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me….For you created my inmost being…I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
It was a powerful moment.
Several of the girls were in tears and I watched my hyper masculine co-guide try to fight back emotion. The female leader of the group was praying over a few of the girls while others pulled out journals and wrote with fury.
Then I saw Kate. She was doing everything she could to keep it together. There was a war going inside of Kate. A war between what she and the world around her had convinced herself were true: “You’re worthless. You will always be lonely. No one loves you,” and the truth etched deep in her heart as one made in the image of God: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
The love of her Father in heaven meant freedom from the shame and the lies her years in high school had heaped upon her.
In moments like this one it is tempting to jump in and shed light on all that is happening, to help rescue a broken heart, but we forget that “it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God wanted Kate to walk in freedom and peace more than I ever could have.
So I watched and prayed.
I pleaded with God to set this young girl free to step into the fullness of all that God created her to be; to be transformed.
So what is this recipe for transformation?
Adventure, pristine views, a forced temporary community?
Space for good conversations, introspection, honest engagement?
Yes. Yes to all of this.
Turns out my prayers were too small and God had bigger plans. Kate went on to figure out who she was and why she exists. She now leads a non-profit serving the homeless in Denver, Colorado. Kate doesn’t walk in freedom… she is sprinting.
Do you have a teenager having a difficult time navigating the rough waters of middle or high school? How are you helping your teen navigate this time? Do you need some support in doing this?
Matt Thomas is the co-founder and Executive Director of Expedition Backcountry Adventures. After 10 years in youth ministry, Matt and his wife Shannon set out to start their own outdoor adventure company. The desired outcome at Expedition is for the participants to step into the fullness of what they were created to be. We do our best to foster an environment for these things to happen, while partnering with the Lord as He ransoms hearts back to Himself and turns them loose on this world to usher in His Kingdom. Expedition runs trips year round for executive teams, struggling teenagers, non-profits, and families from all over the country. You can read more about Expedition at their website: www.expeditionba.com