We’re out on a date for the night and our kids are home alone. Here’s our address and a map to our house.
Mom and Dad
That’s ridiculous. No parent would ever say that.
I would never say that.
Except we do it all the time. Sure, we don’t do it intentionally, but the fingerprints we leave on social media do indeed tell the world where we are, what we are doing, how long we’ll be doing it, and how to find the people we care about.
He spoke to the Woman: “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?”Genesis 3:1b
O, the temptress. I hear you in the shadows. You slither into my lonely moments and whisper in my ear.
And yet… despite you. To spite you. Stomping you out! Ignoring your coy tactics! I make a choice. I rest in my choice. I cling to my choice.
I will not allow your sneaky voice of doubt a defining foothold. No whisper, seeking clarity, will recast my mission. I will not be defined by you, I will define you!
If in doubt… I’ll teach the Bible.
If in doubt… I’ll say I don’t know.
If in doubt… I’ll take the challenge.
If in doubt… I’ll spend time with people my own age.
If in doubt… I’ll compliment and encourage instead of criticize or question.
If in doubt… I’ll be bold with what God’s laid on my heart.
If in doubt… I’ll invest in people instead of projects.
If in doubt… I’ll go with less planning, more doing.
If in doubt… I’ll say yes to a wild idea.
Yes, these are scary times. And scary times make counter-productive doubts seem reasonable.
I’ve made a choice to stand as a crazy man, convinced that God can use me to change things. Circumstances mean nothing. Opposition is a joke. Logic is often illogical. Realism is veiled fatalism!
While it seems natural to teeter-totter, like Thomas, between faith in what God can do and doubt in what I can barely allow myself to dream about God doing– I reject doubt’s gravitational pull and fling myself forward in faith.
Let doubt not define me today. Instead, allow me to define my life as one who overcomes doubts with radical, ridiculous, simple, and audacious faith.
One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to climb trees.
From first grade to sixth grade the most consistent place you’d find me (When I disappeared, which was all the time!) would likely be up in a tree. Until fourth grade it was all about hanging out with friends (literally) and seeing how high we could climb or if we could be quiet enough that adults would walk by and not notice us. When we got a bit older we got more brave and would try to jump from tree to tree. It was a place where I learned how far I could push myself as well as if I could trust myself as I explored various trees.
But in my later elementary years I discovered the trees could be a wonderful place to be alone. They became a place to perch and listen to birds, watch squirrels, and one of my favorites… read books. I remember reading Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and Shel Siverstein poems and everything by Jules Verne in trees. It was high in a pine tree in my back yard that I discovered that a book could take me somewhere far from home in the space between my ears.
My childhood wasn’t filled with horror but it wasn’t a parade of awesome either. Like a lot of families today– we had our messes. And for whatever reasons hanging out in trees and loosing myself in a book (or later, in a video game, or at the golf course) was a form of respite or escapism from the hard realities of my situation. While escapism is probably not the best way to deal with everything, disappearing from a place of disorder to one of order was healthy.
As I work with emerging adults who have lives strikingly similar to my own experience I wonder what their places of respite are. I’d like to think its our youth group or times when we’re together doing something fun. But more likely, they are off to their own set of trees, wherever that may be, to find sanity in chaos.
What was your place of respite as a kid?
How would you discover the place of respite for the students in your ministry?
About 10 months ago a group of people sat on Chris’ back porch talking about starting a youth ministry for our church, Harbor Mid-City. As we chatted, dreamt, and prayed about this ministry one of the things that came out was… “We want it to be a safe place for students to explore a relationship with Jesus.”
That phrase stuck. It actually became a part of our ministry description which we recite during every meeting. “IOB is a safe place for students to explore a relationship with Jesus.”
That phrase got tested a bit last night.
Stephen, our teaching/senior pastor, came to youth group last night to teach on and invite students to participate in baptism. His teaching was pretty simple… this is what baptism is, this is what it symbolizes, this is who should get baptized, this is how our church does it, we’d love it if you would consider getting baptized. He did a great job.
I could tell during his teaching time that some students were uneasy about this whole thing.They didn’t feel safe. It wasn’t that Stephen was teaching anything bad or that they were intimidated in any way or even that he was manipulating them to make a decision they didn’t want to make– there was just something about the truths of Scripture that Stephen was saying that gave the room a funny, rare vibe.
You could see it in their posture. You could see it in the way they looked at him. You could see it in the way they listened to his talk.
To follow-up, we broke up into small groups and the leaders were asked to dig a little deeper with the students and ask if any of them would like to be baptized.
Three responses from my circle that tested me in my response.
Is there any way I can get unbaptized? My parents baptized me as a baby and I don’t want to follow God.
I’m not ready to get baptized. I understand the Gospel and I get what Stephen was talking about, but I’m just not ready to put my faith in Jesus yet.
Why did my parents baptize me? If they made a covenant to God than they didn’t live up to it at all.
Mince no words. These were questions that pushed me back to that discussion 10 months before. Was IOB really a safe place to explore Jesus? If so, how I responded either validated that statement or invalidated it.
Open questions for readers:
What would be answers to these responses which would communicate that IOB isn’t a safe place?
What would be some “this is a safe place” answers to these questions?