I don't talk much about the youth group that I've been pastoring for almost 8 years. Not as a means to negate its importance and weight in my life, but rather as an effort to protect these special hearts from the attention that might detract from their own personal journeys and awkwardly prying eyes of the interwebs.
But their journey in many ways has been my journey.
I was a cliche.
Let me explain.
Picture the ill-prepared Big City teacher thrown into throngs of Big Country Livin'. In certain ways destined to fail.
Completely out of her element in every way and constantly doubting if she could even teach given the new circumstances and eccentric characters at every turn.
The amount of times I wanted to quit out of frustration is almost comical.
And then this would appear in my email inbox from one of my teenagers:
I just wanted to tell you that you are a really great person. You are an inspiration to me. I know this is super random ... But you just don't complain and you don't choose to be a downer all the time.. even when times are really darn tough. I want to thank you for all of the time, love, effort, money, and emotion you've put into our youth group. God has got some pretty awesome stuff up his sleeve for your future. Alotta babies too. I appreciate you. I thank God for good people in my life like you. I really do. Genuinely good people. Those are the kinds I like. Hope you're alright xxx"
I would think to myself, do they know how absolutely bonkers and emotional I am in life at the moment?? That I actually felt as though I was lacking in love and skill on so many levels and yet...
It's so amazing how other people see us--when we let them.
Love is so much about being Seen and Heard.
And that was the main thing.
I was learning how to love, just like my teenagers were learning how to love God, themselves, and each other.
Since the beginning of my time as a youth pastor, almost all of my kids have had direct access to me: My cell number, email, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
That's been the main tool in my rusty toolbox. Invited Accessibility.
I knew that these tender and fierce hearts just wanted to be Seen --and Heard.
And isn't that what we all want in the end.
And now my heart breaks a little, but not without a fragrance of hope coming forth from its chamber. Many of my first generation youth groupers are struggling with addiction, depression, anorexia, and a loss of faith. And I long for them to come home.
And when I say home, let me be specific. It doesn't mean to necessarily come home to me and our old victories.
No. It means to truly come home to God, to family, to identity, to dreams, to truth, to love, and to new victories.
To my brave, beautiful, and worthy loves (You know who you are), I simply wanted to tell you once again:
You are always, always Seen, Heard, and most definitely and fiercely Loved.
“The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world.
There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor.
But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents.
Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give.
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It’s overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.”
― Leo Buscaglia