So I’ve been away from blogging for a while. No excuses really—maybe just uninspired. That is, until yesterday.
For the past month I’ve been trying to reconnect with a student—I’ll call him “Mike.” Mike had been coming to L1 on Sunday nights since the school year began. During the year he really experienced God for himself and he came to a place where he was ready to completely give every part of his life to Jesus Christ. Rarely have I seen the kind of pure desire to follow Christ as I have with this guy. But something happened a couple of months ago that rocked him pretty hard. Because of a series of events that may have led to uncertainty, Mike decided that coming on Sunday nights wasn’t really that important. I called him numerous times. So did his small group leader. I sent him text messages—“Just seeing how you’re doing, dude. Hope everything is ok.” Sunday nights is supposed to be like family. A healthy Christian family learns together, worships together, shares the good and bad stuff together, prays together. These are the kind of things that happen on any given Sunday night. So when Mike became distant and even seemed disinterested, it was obvious that something was wrong.
I want to go off on a slight tangent before finishing the Mike story.
I talk to students all the time that are just kind of checking this whole “God thing” out. They come to L1 with a friend and are kind of kicking the spiritual tires a bit. I tell them how glad I am that they’ve come and how I hope that they find truth. I may even go out to coffee with them and dive in a bit deeper, trying my best to answer questions they may have. But in the end their faith will be just that—theirs. I can’t make anybody believe, nor do I want to. It has to be their own. So when a student like that decides that they’re not really interested in coming to L1 anymore, I meet with them. I tell them how much I care about them. I tell them that I hope they find truth and that I’ll be praying that they do. I tell them the door is always open and that they can come back whenever they’re ready. But I don’t beg them to stay. If they’ve made a decision that they simply don’t want to accept the Truth of Jesus Christ, I can only pray that they will someday. And if what we do on Sunday night doesn’t resonate with them, I can’t make them come—nor do I want to. I do think there are situations in which children of Christian parents are rebelling for a season and tell their parents they don’t want to go to youth group. These kids have grown up knowing about Jesus and many have even expressed their faith in Him. I think these kids shouldn’t have the option to skip youth group and parents should make that very clear. I know not everyone agrees with me on that. Let’s just say I’ve seen both sides of it and it’s why I believe the way I do. But this isn’t who I’m referring to. I’m talking about the student who doesn’t believe and, at least for the time being, doesn’t really want to. Like I said—I’m not going to beg them to stay. I’m not going to chase them. That’s not what its about.
Mike is another story. I knew that he really believed, but he was taking a spiritual beating. He was engaged in a spiritual battle and when he pulled out of L1, well, he was left out in the open. Remember Forrest Gump? Remember when Forrest went back into the jungle to get Lt. Dan and Bubba? We love stories like that because they demonstrate fierce loyalty. I think deep down we all want to know that there is someone who has our back, someone who will came back to get us if we fall. But never mind movie analogies---how about Scripture? Jesus made it crystal clear about how we should chase after guys like Mike:
"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14
Mike finally answered my phone call the other day and we talked for about 30 minutes. Some great things happened during that phone call:
1) I had the chance to tell him that I missed him and that I felt that our relationship wasn’t the best at the moment. He was surprised and asked why I thought that. I told him that I had a book on relationships on my desk. It was really short—one page actually. It said that to have a relationship with someone you actually have to interact with the person! We both laughed pretty hard, but Mike admitted that he got the point. 2) He said he was planning on coming to L1 this week AND that he would be coming on our Mission Trip. I’m hopeful. 3) I told Mike that there were other students who missed him—who were asking about him. His response: “Like who?”
I told him the names of the students who had been asking about him. His mood changed. I could hear it in his voice. He got kind of excited because people cared. In Mike’s world, there are people that are likely to check in on him to see how he’s doing--it only makes sense. For instance, I’m going to follow up with him because I’m the Youth Minister. His Small Group Leader is going to follow up with him because he’s an adult leader within the ministry. So it also made sense to him that some of these students from L1 hadn’t called to see how he was doing. It’s not their “job.” Not only that, but we don’t see students doing that in our culture. It would be completely counter cultural for a student to call him or text him just to check in. And that’s what we want our students to be—counter cultural. I honestly think many of them are getting it. But my experience with Mike only reinforces what I’ve known for a long time. I want our students to do things that don’t make sense! I know that sounds funny, but in his book “Crazy Love” Francis Chan writes, “Having faith often means doing what others see as crazy. Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.” When our students start to realize the hope that they can bring to someone with just a simple phone call/text message I believe they’ll do it more and more. Mike, like all people, wants to know that he is loved. I can tell him that. So can his small group leader. But when students start showing him that—man, that’s when the doors are going to get blown off! When our students identify the lost sheep and go get them, loving them all the way, we’re going to see change happen. And I believe we’re very close!
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."--The Apostle Paul. Trying to be more like Christ--its a battle most of the time. Loving God and loving others--to REALLY do that--takes work. So I'm trying.