“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”
I Corinthians 13:12
From the back of the gym, I look over a sea of heads to the stage, where our speaker for High School Retreat 2012 is beginning his final session. It’s not often that I look over anyone’s head. At a cool 5’3″, my time in crowds has made me an expert in shoulders and elbows, all of them at face level. This morning, though, my rank of teacher and small group leader allows me a seat on the benches in the back. It’s a strange concession to adulthood–as if perching rigid on a low, backless wooden bench is more comfortable than slouching on the floor–but today I’m happy to accept because of this head-ocean view that it allows.
Before breakfast this morning I sat outside, reading Psalms and looking at the complacent blue mountains while my wet hair froze. You’ve become a spiral place, Switzerland, drawing me back and back with your magnetic majesty, this place of retreat where I’ve come at intervals to think and pray, and always to learn again what it means to share life in the close community in which I’m blessed to live. Last year, I began to feel at home around now, on this retreat, as I realized that I was beginning to know students and staff in more than just a surface fashion.
Now I’m listening to our speaker, Steven Ackley, speak on calling, urging our students to pursue the gifts with which God has blessed them, pursuing their passions in service of His kingdom. I pick out individual heads in the sea, some bowed and others glancing from side to side, remembering their gifts as I see each one. There are basketball and soccer players, painters and poets and party planners. Some will be missionaries, other entrepreneurs. As I look at them I pray for each, that all of our students, so unique, will take and give delight in being exactly who God made them to be.
It strikes me also that our students, so different from one another and in many ways from their more traditional peers in North America, share in common a desire to be known and loved. The weekend has been an important time of connection with students, especially the five tenth-grade girls that Emily and I have been leading in a small group for the last two years. There have been times of laughter and confession, as we grow in relationship and learn to challenge one another in love. At the end of the weekend, I feel that I know them better than I ever have, and that in the knowing there is love. How deeply we desire it, as humans, this feeling of being known by one another.
I’m humbled to remember that my knowledge of the students this room, so full of love and hope, is still imperfect, fragile and pale in comparison to the great love and intimate knowledge we all enjoy from Christ. How thankful I am to return each morning to this wellspring of love, content to rest in His deep knowledge of these kids I am blessed to serve.