Laughter rang out across the grassy acres of the youth church. Teenagers, huddled in groups, giggled into the clear sapphire of the night, journeying their way across the playground to the bonfire. They came together, circling the roaring rage of the red, yellow, and orange beast. The youth leaders gathered the kids, ushering them through the crisp night, herding the strays together. The stars laid out like pin pricks of diamonds above them, the full moon a crown in the sky.
A cluster of kids sat on the picnic table. Two guys sat clowning around, trying to push the other off the table. A girl sat on the table, french braiding another girl's golden satin hair, as she sat on the bench. Several other kids sat on the swings, pumping their feet into the air, trying to see who could go higher. Instead they only rocked the swing set, causing someone to yell over to them to stop. Laughing hard, they bend over at the waist, one even slipping off the swing onto the ground.
Next to the swing set, was a group of lawn chairs. The youth leaders claimed these lawn chairs. Trying to settle the rowdy crowd, they shushed the teenagers up. Finally one of them sat up with his guitar and starting strumming gently, singing softly, "When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come… Longing just to bring, something that's of worth, that will bless your heart…" and slowly the others joined in with him. A soft chorus of voices grew strong and steady, lifting up into the air. A breeze danced past them, carrying their voices to the other side of yard, out into the alley way.
While the youth group sang, a young boy was traveling in the shadows of the night, carrying a heavy package in his heart and his pocket. Deep in his thoughts and troubles, he trudged along, determined to finish this journey soon. His aching body stepped silently, one foot after another, until a soft breeze caressed his soft brown hair, bringing the sweet melody across his ears. " I'll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what you have required. You search much deeper within, through the way things appear, You're looking into my heart… "
Without noticing, he stopped and listened. The breeze tickled his cheeks, and flirted with the branches above. He watched as they swayed back and forth, inviting him to come closer. He took a step closer, still set within the shadows, wandering towards the soft melody of voices. How nice must it be to be so joyful, he thought enviously. What would I give to trade my pain to be happy like them. Still stepping closer, they transitioned to another song. Entranced in the way the breezed danced with the melody of the songs, beckoning him towards the rise of voices.
"Well, I know this life is filled with sorrow. And there are days when the pain just lasts and lasts." The melody carried to his heart, speaking to him, drawing him closer to the crowd. Coming past a curve, through the shadows he spotted the source of the songs. Surprised, he saw a group of kids around a bonfire, some with their hands raised, others with their heads lifted towards the sky. What the hell are they doing? Caught off guard from his original set of thoughts, he curiously snuck his way to a old, wise maple tree that sat further back from the crowd. Under this elderly tree hung a tire swing, in which the young boy sat into. Watching the group of kids and several adults, he sat baffled and puzzled. Observing the youth singing passionately, he wondered what this was all about. A powwow, he thought bitterly.
His heart so heavily burdened, it ached like a set of bricks sagging inside his chest. He leaned forward resting his arms on the top of the tire swing, exhausted yet in wonder.
"Love has come for us all," they sang.
He tilted his head and closed his eyes, thinking of his long journey. Such deep troubles he carried with him. Weary of the abuse, alcoholism, and threats. Tired of the disappointments, drugs, and cold nights on the streets. Exhausted from it all, he ached to reach the end of it all. To his home where the solution awaited for him. Once again he thought, what I would give to trade my sorrows. Not contemplating on it any further, he got up, ready to set on home and achieve some rest.
Just than, the guitarist started strumming a different chord. Along with him strong set of voices arose.
"I'm trading my sorrows, I'm trading my shame. I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord." Widening his eyes in surprise, he tilted his head and sat back down. Resting his head once again, he just listened. "I'm trading my sickness, I'm trading my pain. I'm laying them down for the joy of the Lord."
Remaining still and silent in his movement and his thoughts, he just listened to them. They sang several more bouts of the song. Falling into the ease of the music, he closed his eyes, relaxed and at peace. In belief that it was because time was closing, he didn't question it.
Finally after some more minutes of singing, the youth leader set down the guitar and stood up speaking.
"That was a great song. How many of you think so? Give me a show of hands if you agree." Several hands meekly went up. "Aww, come on now. That is an amazing thing, and this is all of you that agree? You can trade your sorrows! You can trade your pain! You can take all of your burden and place them in the Lord hands. Is this not truly an amazing thing? Is this song not the truth that we sing? Now give me a raise of hands. Who thinks that that was a great song?"
Raising his hand in an upward motion, he encouraged a show of hands. This time, everyone raised their hands. Smiling in satisfaction, he grabbed his bible.
"Let's open to Psalm 55:22. 'Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fail.' " He glanced up and looked around.
Meanwhile, the boy sat under the shadows, listening intently, forgetting where he was destined to go.
"Who knows what sustain means? Anyone? It means support, to bear, to hold up… So he will carry you on, he will support you, he will hold you up… He will sustain you… Hold you up. He will not let you fail."
"Now to Matthew 11: 28. 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.' He will give you rest from all of your pain. Rest from your troubles. Please turn to 1 Peter 5:7. 'Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.' " Looking around the crowd, the youth leader reread each scripture, emphasizing each word. He will give rest and ease. He will sustain you and not let you fail. He will hold you up when you are weak. This is the magnificence of the Lord. "
"Today we are going to do something different. Today we are going to give up our burdens onto the Lord. The youth leaders will be passing out sheets of paper and a pens. On this piece of paper you will write what it is that you want to lay into the Lord's palms. What is it that you want to give onto Him."
Giving them a moment of silence while passing out strips of paper and pens onto each teen, he prayed softly with them.
"Dear Lord Jesus, Today we are here in your name, ready to move on with you. But first we must be rid of what weighs us down, before we can travel with you. Lord, we give up our troubles and our burdens. We hand our pains onto you, no longer wanting to be burdened of them. Lord, lift the weight from us, and give us peace. In Jesus name we pray, Amen."
Lifting his head, he and the other youth leaders walked around with woven baskets, collecting the strips of paper.
The young man under the wise old maple tree, sat in surprise as the youth leader headed his way. Suddenly knowing what it was that he wanted to give up, he reached into his pocket and grabbed a small thing of cold metal. The youth leader arriving to the tree, handed him a piece of paper and a pen. The boy took it and scribbled two words onto there. Wrapping the small thing of cold metal secretly and delicately in the shadows in the strip of paper, he placed it into the basket. He then got up and shook the youth leader's hand, walking away towards the back alley.
Feeling at ease, he walked home with peace. He wasn't going to home to rest now. In fact he was at rest. Walking in the bright moonlight, he whistled with the breeze, which gently tousled his hair, speaking soothing promises to him.
The youth leader watched the boy walk away. Curious to see what the boy had placed into the basket that had such weight, he picked up the tiny wrapped bundle. Unraveling the paper, he stood in shock as a bullet fell out into his hand… than he read what was written on the paper. "My life."