September 15, 2009

The One with the Phone Call(s)

I'm not sure how this happened.
Or when.
When did I fall in love with my job?
With teenagers?
With the soul-searching, heart breaking work known as the ministry of Jesus Christ?
It's hard for me to comprehend.
I worked with teens before.
When I was a teenager myself, I was leader.
Throughout college I was a camp counselor.
I did the Wellspring thing (the "traveling college worship team" thing. go to camps. lead worship. love teens. et cetera).
But I guess I kinda just pushed all of those experiences aside.
Just something I "did."
Who knew it would become my life's work.
Or at least my life's work as of today.
And for the last year.

Yes, people, that is why I am writing.
That is why I am all sentimental.
It was a year ago this month (next week specifically) that I was officially announced youth pastor at this lovely little church in Southern Michigan.
It was hard.
Correction: It is hard.
This work is draining.

There have been countless moments in the last year when I wept.
I cried because I felt like a failure.
I didn't think I would ever get the hang of this.
I was certain all of my work was falling on deaf ears and hard hearts.
But then, the very next moment God would show me changes.
Miraculous changes in the lives of these students.
Even (and especially) in the students who I thought I'd never ever ever get through to.

And I know it's not me.
I am nothing.
I don't know what I'm doing.
I say the wrong thing.
I talk over their heads.
I get frustrated.

But God is working.
His Spirit is softening their hearts.
He is using my lame words and my miniscule efforts for his glory.
That's kinda his thing.
You know. Moses. David. Joseph. Paul. Peter.
They all fell short.
They were all scared.
But they were obedient.
They let his passionate fire sweep through their spirits.
And He worked.

It's too big to understand.

But here I am, a year later.
And it's no longer just me.
Well it never was.
Besides this being His work, He gave me the best partner I could have asked for.
Kevin has exceeded all expectations in "helping."
We've morphed into much more mutual positions.
Co-directors, if you will.
Thank you, Love, for being the greatest leader.
An amazing male role model.
For showing them how to love a wife well.
How to love God with every part of your life.

And I'm thinking of all the work God is doing because of last night's conversation.
One of my girls called me yesterday evening.
She said she had a "quick question."
Now, you have to know she calls rather frequently and talks about this or that.
She shares her struggles. Her heartaches.
And I'm so thankful.
She was so hard-hearted.
She actually made me nervous.
She was in fights at school regularly.
She could care less about classes or grades.
She was bitter.
And I wouldn't give up.
I did my best to love her.
To prove that love to her.
To remain committed.
Never untrue to my word.

And so she calls.
She tells me things I never thought I'd hear.
This relationship is what youth ministry is all about.
So challenging.
So heart breaking.
So encouraging.
So real.

Her quick question turned out to be "should I break up with my boyfriend or not?"
"Quick question"?
Umm, not so much.
But our conversation went well.
She called again later, but I missed her call.
Then she called again.
This is not like her.
I picked up the phone and knew something was wrong.
Her voice cracked.
"What's up" I ask.

She pours out yet another painful occurance.
This precious girl.
Oh how I wish I could take the problems away.
They keep happening she says.
"Just when I think things are getting better something awful happens.
All's I want to do is get through this school year, and work hard and get good grades."
(inner cheering!)
She hasn't been in a fight all year.
Since I began talking to her about how she's better than that.
How to have self control.
Not to give them what they want.

She's done so well, and I encourage her.
I tell her how much I love her.
The moment seemed right.
She's not the sentimental type, but she needed to know.
I tell her how proud I am of her.
How great she's done.
Not to give up.
That Satan is coming at her from all sides because she keeps doing the right thing.
That years down the road she's going to see what an incredible woman she is because of what she overcame.
That she'll have the ability to help girls going through this stuff.
That she's so strong. That I could never endure what she has.

I pray for her.
Right there on the phone.
I pray for real.
And I promise her I'll keep praying.
And I'll keep loving.
"You know my number," I say.

And I am thankful.


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