Do you ever have those instances in life where you just know you were meant to say something, do something, be something? This comes from one of those moments. Where I quickly grab my phone and jot down lines that come to my head, because I know I need to write about them later. (Thank God for the iPhone Notes app that contains so many random thoughts from my brain, and that my girlfriends don't judge when I sprint to grab my phone mid-conversation when I have one of these moments).
It doesn't seem adequate that I can truthfully tell you that I can sum up the best experience of my life in just one song, from one summer, that was TWELVE years ago. What?! How 2004 was 12 years ago truly blows my freaking mind. But I can, and I will. So today, I dare you to move.
John's Island, South Carolina, Summer of 2004
Up until this point in my beginning of high school life, I had been on various mission trips since seventh grade. I was familiar enough, but it was still an adventure of its own each year. I was a freshman in high school, surrounded by older classmates, that I looked up to more than I realized at the time.
We were in the heart of low country South Carolina. An area so close to Ohioan vacation spot Hilton Head Island, that you almost can't believe how impoverished this beautiful (and extremely hot) area actually is. But here we were. For a week, divided up into groups, set to serve in the community. I found myself in a group of somewhat strangers and acquaintances. But to sum up the absolute most impactful week of my entire life: I found my faith, in the heat of the South Carolina sun, through the friends that were next to me day in and day out and through the guidance of the God-driven leaders who took us on this path to serving others and to Christ. God bless this mission trip and the people who were with me, because I know for certain it has shaped me into who I am this very moment, 12 years later.
I will absolutely admit that mission trips are almost as stereotypical as they're sometimes portrayed. Yes, we spend the days serving (building houses, playing with kids, eating packed lunches). Yes, we spend the evenings planning and participating in worship. And yes, we end up becoming best friends with strangers and becoming, quite literally, obsessed with the trips and with each other. It's kind of just how it is, and I'm thankful for it.
On this trip, I was blessed with, what I will still defend as, the best group ever. We became best friends. We learned about each other. We were open and honest about things we normally didn't speak about. We found our faith through one another. It truly was as beautiful as it sounds (and a fun fact, two of those members are now married, after meeting on this very trip, this very week that I still think about. God moments, am I right?!)
And through this incredible group, we found a message to share. Around this time in the early 2000s, Switchfoot was killing the Christian rock scene (aren't they still?!) so it was natural we were drawn to the contagious song, "I Dare You to Move."
And I'm going to tell you, and I truly mean it. This song changed my life. Maybe not just the song, but the people who were around me when I became obsessed with it, and the people who I still think about this day when I hear it. During this week of mission, I was dared to step out of my comfort zone and dared to find who I am and who I wanted to be. Dared to use power tools and not kill myself or anyone within wood-yielding distance from me. Dared to pray openly in front of others, and to encourage others to do the same. Quite frankly, dared to live in a church in the middle of nowhere and use outdoor showers for a week (yes, these are real, and yes, they were one of the best and funniest parts of the trip).
We found love, we found God, we found best friendships. I'm not sure everyone will understand this feeling. I'm not sure you'll understand the nostalgia that I feel to this day, just thinking about this time. But maybe that's the point. Maybe it's up to people like me to spread that feeling, to make you want to know what that gratitude and accomplishment and pure love feels like. To want to serve others, to serve your community.
Being dared to step outside your comfort zone is not easy. It wasn't then and it still isn't now. The difference is, I know it's possible. And most of the time, it's what I know I'm meant to do. I know I'm meant to stop calling my book club/bible study just that, and have the confidence to tell anyone and everyone that yes, I'm in a bible study, and yes, we drink wine during it, and yes, a lot of times it's the highlight of my whole week. I want to be brave enough to have the courage to say that with confidence.
So I dare you. I dare you to move, just as I'm daring myself.
And so here I am, bringing myself back to the summer, southern heat of 2004. The naivety of being young and faithful and confident in who and where I was, in a time of life where confidence isn't always easy to come by. I'm daring myself so much it hurts. I'm daring to speak up about my bible studies, my faith, my relationships with others and with God.
Because, I hope that having courage, and having bravery, and having faith, will encourage you, too. No matter what your faith is and no matter what you believe in, I hope you can dare yourself to do so proudly. After all, aren't we meant to live for so much more than ourselves?
I promise to try, so hopefully you will, too. Let's do it together.