As I sat around the dinner table with my family, I explained to my children that I would be leaving them for RYM’s annual Youth Leader Training. Sure enough, my statement prompted groans and despair from each one of them. “NO! Daddy, please don’t leave.” This is a familiar scene in the Perritt household.
One thing I’ve learned about this process is that I need to give my children fair warning prior to my departure. Usually about a week or so before I leave, I go ahead and tell them. When they give their sad response, I’m able to reply, “But kids, I won’t be leaving for another week. We still have plenty of time together.”
Prior to coming on staff with RYM, I would attend YLT, and it truly was one of the highlights of the year. I loved the preaching and teaching we received. My ministry benefited greatly from the gifted teachers. It did my soul good to get away from the ministry of the local church and spend time reflecting and feeding upon God’s Word with others in the same area of ministry. Which brings me to my favorite part of YLT: the other youth workers.
If someone forced me to pick only one aspect of the conference, it would be the time I get with other youth workers. Times spent around a meal together. Times when I get a quick five-minute conversation at the coffee table. Times when a youth worker pulls me aside and asks for prayer. Times spent in the cabin playing a board game. The fellowship is an exceedingly deep blessing which the Lord uses each year at YLT.
In spite of those benefits, this also leads me to something I hate about YLT.
One thing YLT reminds me of each year is that I’m separated from all these fellow youth workers for the majority of the year. To be sure, that separation makes the reunion at YLT all the sweeter. The old adage – absence makes the heart grow fonder – is proved at YLT, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hate that absence.
Getting back to my children for a minute. One truth the Lord has revealed to me has to do with separation. Whenever I say goodbye to my children for an extended period of time, I remind them that separation is unnatural. I explain to them that humanity wasn’t created to be separated.
In the Garden, God created a perfect existence filled with peace, harmony, joy, and unbroken fellowship. To say it another way, the word “goodbye” was foreign to Adam and Eve. Therefore, when I hug and kiss my wife and children at the airport and get that wretched feeling of sorrow knowing that separation is about to come between us, I’m reminded of my first parents’ rebellion that brought about separation. So, it’s been a good lesson to teach my children, and it’s a helpful lesson for me to remember. But it still hurts. I hate it.
And this is why I hate YLT. Each year it reminds me that my fellowship has been broken with my brothers and sisters. Yes, YLT gives me a taste of that reunion we will one day enjoy, but it’s only a glimpse.
However, in the midst of my sorrow and frustration over this separation, I’m also reminded of a greater truth – a stronger truth. You see, sin has brought tremendous frustration and pain, but Christ defeated sin.
Jesus loved us so much that he chose to be separated from the Father on our behalf. He left perfect communion and unbroken fellowship with the Father and Spirit to dwell with a people that broke fellowship with him. A people who denied him and chose fellowship with this world over him. Out of love, he took the experience of separation on himself…for us. But Jesus took separation on himself so we would be separated from those feelings of separation for all eternity.
Therefore, I long for the day that I never have to say “goodbye” again. I long for that eternity where I dwell with my brothers and sisters in unbroken fellowship forever. My finite mind shudders to think that I can embrace the One who purchased that eternity for me. That day is the epitome of peace and harmony, and I simply cannot wait to get there.
In light of that, I guess I don’t hate YLT that much after all.
© Reformed Youth Ministries