Full time youth ministry (or any ministry I'm sure...) is a unique category of work.
Hours of labor are nearly impossible to log.
The duties of your job description seem to become irreversibly intertwined with your "real" life.
You go from having your life and your work...
...to your life and your work being your work and your life.
It's an awesome thing when that happens, really it is.
It's not a workaholic type of mentality.
What it does is prove how much you love the work you do--to the point that you simply consider it "life."
And you labor.
You spend hours planning.
Then you spend three times that number of hours enacting those plans.
taking long car rides.
staying up hours and hours and hours later than you ever would have liked.
making a fool of yourself for the sake of a lesson.
listening to music you'd never choose to listen to.
laughing at middle school jokes.
mediating in teenage drama.
watching school band concerts. soccer games. track meets. musicals.
And you love every minute.
You look forward to that doorbell ringing a half hour before youth group starts.
And not saying goodbye to everyone until at least 45 minutes after youth group ends.
You love seeing parents literally dragging their kids out of the door because the students just don't want to leave.
You are excited about spending 24 hours straight with 24 pubescent teenagers.
You realize you're insane.
And you love it.
But sometimes, there are dry spells.
When you wonder if the work you're doing really matters.
Or if anyone even notices.
You realize that some adults don't see what you do as a job because you're "hanging out and having fun all day."
You get frustrated because they don't realize the hours of preparation you put into the events and the lessons.
Or how there are moments when you think of all the other ways you could be spending your time.
And yet, you know, always, that those TEENS are why you do what you do.
They are under your skin.
Deep in your heart.
And you'd do anything for them.
No matter how much praise you get or how much money you make--
all that matters is that THEY know you love them.
And you love Jesus.
And you want them to love Jesus too.
You're sure that much of what you say goes in one ear and out the other.
But you pray fervently that something sticks.
That your "labor for the Lord is not is vain."
And then, one evening, out of nowhere, one of them gives you a note.
It's all decorated on the envelope of course.
Because gel pens ROCK.
It's addressed to "Mel and Kev" and you've been given explicit instructions to not read it until you're together.
So you take a walk--just you and him.
And you read the most heartfelt thank you card you've ever been given.
And you instantly realize "THIS is why we do what we do."
Because even when that teen seems to care less or has an attitude or doesn't like listening to tough love,
everything has sunk into their soul.
Knowing that she's thankful for "the smiles, hugs, laughs, advice, clothes*, food...all of it."
That she thinks we "rock" and she doesn't know where she'd "be without you 2."
To read that she "looks forward to youth group all the time."
*I've found a couple cute items at garage sales for "my girls."
My soul has been watered.
And moments like these are what keep me going.
They are fuel through the valleys, the deserts, the mountaintops.
I will likely treasure this card for decades.
To remember that THIS is why we do what we do.
And it's SO worth it.