Student Ministry

On Becoming a Grown Up

The invention of the teenager was a mistake. Once you identify a period of life in which people get to stay out late but don’t have to pay taxes — naturally, no one wants to live any other way.
 –Judith Martin

Kids these days are so quick to grow up. I watch and listen to the choices they are making and the information they have stored in their brains and think, “Oh my gosh! Slow down!” And the things that they look to as “grown up” activities…well, let’s just say that many of those things haven’t been experienced by some adults. So what is the true rite of passage? How do you know when you have become an adult?

Great question. I’m not sure there is a generic answer that we can slap on every person. But, I’ve made a list of the defining moments in my life. The palpable moments when I thought, “Oh my gosh! I’m an adult!”

 


1. Writing that first paragraph.

I mean, honestly. I just typed the words “kids these days”.  If thoughts like that are so strong they are making it through my “cool” filter, I’m definitely not a youth any longer. My days of thinking, “Old people just don’t get me” are over. When I did have those thoughts, “old people” were 35 or beyond. I’m now incredibly near to being “old people”

2. Driving a van full of middle school kids on a mission trip.

   I was 23 years old, interning at a church in Austin, TX and they gave me the keys to a 12-passenger van. We loaded in and the kids frequently loaded up on Monster energy drinks and I was never more terrified to be behind the wheel. I was a 23 year old who was responsible for safely transporting the precious (combustable) cargo of other people’s pre-teens! By the grace of God, we made it safely to and from Arlington. Although, at one point, I informed them that I was cutting them off…no more energy drinks. At the next stop, they were allowed water. WAH-TER.

3. Apologizing to my parents for being an entitled brat.

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I made this decision. It was in my later twenties. I just realized that I’d spent so much energy carrying around the boulders of how “unfair” life is. My brother and I have had plenty of “who’s the favorite kid” conversations. Naturally, we disagree on this topic. I am completely the older brother in the prodigal son story. “I did things right! Treat me better! Give me more! This is so unfair!” And one day, the Lord just pressed on that hard place in my heart until it cracked. I went to my parents house and apologized. It was strange bringing that to the light. But I knew it was right. It was taking responsibility. It was what a mature person would do. (Parents, hang in there. You may see a day like this down the road, too.)

4. I didn’t cry when I met with my boss.

    Y’all, I had this….um…issue(?) well into my twenties where anytime an authority figured wanted to discuss something with me, I automatically felt like a twelve year old. Really. I dreaded any conversation with a person of authority because I did not know how to handle feeling unheard or corrected. I went in expecting a lecture every time. Once I began to realize this unhealthy relationship I had to authority figures, I started asking begging The Lord for help. One day I knew I was going to have a meeting with my boss for my annual review. This boss in particular never seemed to hear me. (He made an declaration one day as though he had made a great discovery…I’d been telling him that exact thing for an entire year.) As I prepped myself for our meeting that day, I just kept telling the Lord that I wanted to be able to communicate clearly and maturely in our meeting. After we wrapped up, I walked back to my office with a title bounce in my step as I celebrated not having shed a tear. Progress, y’all.

5. I quit my job in obedience.

We all have those jobs that are training jobs. The jobs that we never would choose but God uses to shape us. I had that job for much longer than I’d have liked, and while I learned much about being responsible there, there came a day when I just did not think I could last another moment. I actually left work one day and wept with the Lord the entire way home telling Him that I didn’t like myself when I was at work and that I couldn’t do that job any longer. His response, whispered to my aching soul was , “Then quit.” Quit?! He hadn’t given me another job! It’s irresponsible to walk away from benefits and a paycheck with nothing lined up. I couldn’t quit. But over and over the Lord would ask, “Do you trust me? Then quit.” So I did. I was nervous but felt so much peace once I moved in obedience. And of course, He provided. But in trusting Him enough to know He would take care of me even if I didn’t have income for awhile, was evidence that my faith had matured. I was an adult.

6. I found a job doing what I was made to do.

Living in your calling, is a completely different feeling of being grown up. In some things, you feel like an adult because you are doing things out of necessity and obedience even though you would just really rather not. But, when you get to live in the job that God has wired you to do, you feel like an adult because the pieces of your heart don’t feel severed. They seem to come together in a way that is brand new. You feel a little more whole than before. And that is where I am now. Oh, don’t get me wrong, living in the career I’ve dreamed of since my teens is not easy. In fact, youth ministry is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. However, I feel most like myself here. And in feeling authentically me is a very grown up thing.


What were the moments for you? When did you find yourself looking around at your life, realizing you had grown up? 

Celebrate!

In this post we touched on the idea of writing down the victories for the days that criticism buries us alive. In the days since, that idea has been percolating in my heart. Here’s why…

As we acknowledged in the aforementioned post, there is no shortage of criticism. The fount of those who point out our failures (real or perceived) is ever flowing with boundless opportunities to practice self-control while the fount of those who have come to thank you for your hard work is an intermittent drip from the faucet. If I had to guess, most of us, if asked, would be able to list 15 ways we’ve been discouraged this week, 15 negative words spoken to us,15 areas where we aren’t seeing results. But how many of us could list even 3 victories we’ve had in the last month, much less this week?

In my typical approach to life, I would be in the camp of those who could easily tell you my faults, places I’m failing at work, at life. And most of that would be based on how I perceive how others perceive me. My natural bent, my factory setting, is to not be satisfied with anything less than something better than this. There’s a problem there, because “this” is always changing. Even if “this” is a million times more effective and successful today than it was a year ago, I am still not satisfied. And if the critics are louder than the supporters (which is usually the case), I take out the magnifying glass and find the errors. We, most of us, human beings as a creature, are fixated with improvement.

Don’t misunderstand me. Improvement is a great thing. Working toward better physical health, deeper relationships, increased effectiveness is an honorable and necessary endeavor. However, when we constantly are striving for better than “this”, without stopping to check in, we may just be killing our effectiveness unknowingly.

Consider Orthorexia Nervosa. No, it’s not a spell from the wizarding world of Harry Potter. It is an unofficial (for now at least) eating disorder. What starts out as a desire to make wise choices in one’s diet, turns into a fixation on the quality, quantity, and purity of food. According to Dr. Karin Katrina, for those who struggle with this obsession, any failure to stick to the rules, any moment of bending to temptation, leads to self-punishment. And this…THIS is what really gets me about this disorder….

“Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.  Eventually, the obsession with healthy eating can crowd out other activities and interests, impair relationships, and become physically dangerous.”

Eventually, the desire to improve oneself, to be healthier, make wiser choices, without stopping to assess what is and isn’t working, what progress has been made, actually becomes more harmful than helpful. Telling, isn’t it?

Just like we need regular physicals, or dental cleanings (which we all know means appointment for dental judgment), we need to have those moments in every aspect of our work and personal lives as well. And while those check-ups serve to bring to light the areas where we still need work, they should also serve to point out what is going well. And unlike physicals and dental visits, these check-ups need to happen often. Daily even.

So, I’ve been trying to make it a point to celebrate the victories. They may be small. They may not seem like victories to anyone else but me. There may even be some who would tell me my victories are actually failures. But with all respect, and rarely out loud in real life, I tell them they are wrong and they don’t get to define victory for me. Much like the medical world may tell a woman who is 5’3 that the goal waist measurement is 25 inches. And women everywhere answer back with a resounding “HA!” and begin to define healthy goals as something besides inches and pounds. Experts have all sorts of ways to measure our lives. But you are an expert in you. You know what success is for you. You know what is cause to celebrate.

Here’s what I’ve been celebrating lately:

  • Students trusting me enough to tell me they don’t believe in Jesus or sharing their pain and mistakes with me
  • Parents knowing that they can call me and will be heard, and even asking me for advice about parenting even though I don’t have kids of my own
  • Ten first time participants in our High School mission trip
  • Seven 5th-7th graders going on their very first overnight mission trip
  • Being brave enough to say yes to some scary opportunities
  • Taking a class that is life-giving and discovering ways to put to use what I’m learning
  • Losing 12 pounds
  • Not having a soda in 25 days
  • Finding the floor of my closet

Some of those may seem silly. In your life, maybe it’s no big deal. But in mine, those little victories deserve a party. And so I’m breaking out the confetti!

What are you celebrating these days? If you don’t think you have reason to throw a little party, just slow down long enough for a check-up. Great things are being accomplished. Don’t miss them.

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Photo by Amanda Tipton (No changes have been made to the photograph)

Navigating The Goo of Change

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird. It would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. -CS Lewis

My co-worker, Ashley, is leaving us. She is following Christ into a new season. This is will bring change and my last two years have been full of change. In September 2013, I began a new job, working along side and beneath the authority of 2 friends who both then left 4 months into that new job and handed me much more responsibility than I’d anticipated so early on. And,of course, I lead differently than they did. Then we hired Ashley and a couple months following that, we brought on Ron, our new director.  A few months later, I moved from the house I’ve lived in for 4 years to an apartment in Kingwood. Now, we are saying good-bye to Ashley and in a couple months or so, someone new will join the staff (maybe…hopefully). I have experienced a lot of change in the last two years. And I have ushered in change for others in the last two years. Change is hard. Change is exciting. Change is inevitible. And change is good.

I learned awhile ago of a podcast called radiolab. They ask these philosophical questions that relate to science or folk lore and then meet with experts to try to unravel the mysteries. While it isn’t a Christian podcast and they usually scoff at the idea of God, they almost always end with no answers, only awe. One episode I listened to recently was called “Goo and you”. It was about the change of a caterpillar to a butterfly.

They were wondering what happens inside a chrysalis. So the expert sliced one open a couple of days after the caterpillar had finished building his cocoon. Inside, there was no longer a caterpillar. There was nothing but a yellow goo. The caterpillar, it turns out dissolves during this change. No more legs, no organs, just goo. And as I listened, I thought, “That is sometimes what change feels like”. We know what we are going into the change, but once we get all wrapped up in a season of change, sometimes we just feel like goo. No structure. No foundation. Life feels a mess. And somehow, like the caterpillar goo, this messy soup of change, produces something new and beautiful.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. -Alan Watts

But this change, isn’t complete death of everything old. They discovered that there is some memory preserved. So there is something, core to the creature that survives. And for us, too. As God gives us vision, that vision will go through changes. And in those changes we find moments when it feels like everything we thought was going to be, is dissolving and there is nothing left. But in fact, if God is in the change, the core of the vision is preserved, even if the structure is completely new.

And wait, there’s one more magnificent truth we can see in the creature.  The expert also pointed out something else, just beneath the skin of a caterpillar… before it’s even begun the process of change is the structure for a butterfly. Very thin, transparent, not fully formed, but there, waiting for the moment to become what it is fully intended to be. And somehow these thin little pieces of the future survive the goo of the change.  And again, I believe this is how God creates vision in us. He gives us vision and begins to form it from the beginning, but we cannot see it. It’s there. It may be very fragile, but if it is a creation of Yahweh, then it will survive every change that comes. When the rest of it dissolves, the structure of what is meant to be, is actually becoming reality.

It’s amazing to me that one little creature can teach us so much about God and his design for our growth and the growth of His Kingdom purposes.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them-that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. — Lao Tzu

I want to turn now to scripture. Because as much as we can learn by looking at the world God created, it is more important to look to His Word. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

And Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So, while we may not always get to choose when or how things change, we always have a choice of where to position ourselves in change.

The reason that there is no shadow due to change in God is because He is the source of light. Just like the sun lights up the earth. The sun has no shadow, only the things it shines on can have shadows. If my back is to the sun, then all I will see are shadows. My path cannot be fully lit up when I stand with my back to the sun. Shadows will darken the path. But, if I turn my face to the sun, the shadows will still be there, but now my path is not blocked by them. Now, everything is lit up and I can see what is really before me more clearly.

There is an old hymn that says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”

When we turn our faces toward Christ, it will not stop circumstances from changing. But, The Light of the glory of Christ will give us proper perspective and it will illuminate the path through the changes. But how do we practically turn our faces to the sun?

The Thessalonians were wanting to know how they were supposed to be living in the space of the already and not yet. Christ had come and brought salvation, but he also said he would return, and they wanted to know how to navigate the in between time. I think Paul’s instruction applies to us as we navigate change as well. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-23, this is what he says,

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So how do you prepare for change and how do you navigate it when it comes? 

You look to Christ by

  • respecting one another and submitting to your leadership
  • seek peace in your relationships here
  • correct each other when you get lazy
  • encourage each other when you get tired
  • help each other learn when there is a weak place
  • be patient in all of it
  • be kind
  • rejoice always
  • pray in every moment
  • look for reasons to be grateful rather than to grumble
  • if the Lord is doing something among you, don’t distract from it
  • hold up every decision to The Word of God to see if it is right
  • And believe, that if Jesus really did conquer death, and he has called you to something, He will do it. If he really rose from the dead, than nothing is impossible for him. And he has laid out visions, plans, purposes for us as individuals and as a ministry family. So even when changes come, He is faithful and He will accomplish the things He has called us to.

Remember, we can’t control when and how change comes, but we can control where we position ourselves in the midst of the change.

What changes are you facing these days? Are you practicing turning your face toward Jesus? Try intentionally doing some of the things listed above and see if you find walking through the changes a bit easier.