One year ago I woke up to a sunny day on the bottom bunk of a cabin overflowing with high school girls, some of whom I had been walking alongside for a few years and some I had not had more than a hello with. We were at Young Life Camp at Sharptop experiencing Jesus & uncovering the longing for Him in our hearts. The geography was a fitting place to begin my first day on a new adventure of officially being on Young Life Staff.
Young Life was a wooing of my heart & soul that began a little over three years ago. I fell in love with Young Life much like a couple decides they want to make a commitment to one another- it started in the hallway of the school in which I taught. My friend, Sarah, who knew and loved Young Life already asked me to be a part of it as it was starting in our school district. It was in between classes, kids at the water fountain, lockers slamming shut, a cacophony of junior high voices wanting to be known, and here we were having one of the most like changing conversations of my life. It went something like this:
Sarah: “Hey, did you know Young Life is starting here in Hamilton Southeastern?”
Me: “No, I don’t know even know what that is.”
Sarah: “That’s ok, but you should totally do it. It’s going to be awesome.”
Me: “Cool. I’m in.”
That was it.
Isn’t it funny how the craziest of things are birthed with simple words such as “awesome” and “I’m in”?
Our family had a life changing experience the prior year with the adoption of our son Jesse from Ethiopia. Like the shaping of clay, our hearts had been stretched and pulled by that experience, & we found ourselves very uncomfortable with the comfortable in which we called home. We were longing to know how the Lord was going to use us, what a new normal could look like, & then came this conversation ordained by Him.
As I continued in conversation with people who have become amazing friends (Jon Houghton & Michelle Devoe), I realized what great company I was in. I was being handed an invitation to be a part of a ministry that not only spoke to the present of my heart but also the past. I was a teenager who did not know Jesus, & I certainly would have told anyone who tried to tell me that Jesus was what I needed to go to a few inappropriate places with inappropriate words. In many ways, although I was struggling in so many ways in my adolescence, I thought I had things figured out; I thought I could do it on my own, in my own wisdom. I wanted to draw my own map.
Young Life is not about telling you what you need. It’s about loving teenagers where they are, celebrating them for their creation and uniqueness, & earning the right to be heard. We do not ask kids to perform for us, & we do not demand a response in a certain way. We invite, we listen, we ask, we walk alongside, we show up because we know that every kid, every where is worthy of experiencing the Gospel, no matter what. We do that through friendship. To many, Young Life looks weird. Why would we go out of our way to hang out with kids in football stands, Taco Bell, Friendship Bracelet Club, awkward lunch tables, etc? Because that’s exactly what Jesus did for us. He showed up, He invited, He listened, He asked, He walked alongside. And He changed our world.
Thinking back to my teenage self, I probably would have made fun of Young Life, but I probably would have been secretly intrigued. What kid, what person is not captivated when someone sees them; I mean, really sees them, and says you’re worth my time? If this was who Jesus was and is, that would have made an impact on my own teenage heart.
If you know me, I’m a risk taker, a dreamer. I love anything that is out of the ordinary to share Jesus in an authentic way. Doing something authentically means doing it uniquely. It often means flipping the script and not doing things on a “set” way all the time. It means I’ll go where you go: to your prom pictures, your volleyball & tennis matches, your graduation open house, & an ice cream shop when you just want to cry. I’m willing to fight against the “should” in my own heart and others’ to say “what if.”
It’s a reliance on His plan, not mine. And I’m all about that.
I’m blessed to be a part of this community of Christ followers, dreamers, dependents on the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us over and over that we were worth dying for. I just want more kids to know this, every kid, every where. I’m thankful to be a part of a conversation, a movement, a story that is more than I could ever imagine. Our family’s new normal is purposeful, intentional, & yet way out of the ordinary. In many ways, we’re even still figuring that out, asking the Him to guide and lead into unknown territories. It’s good; it’s very good.
*For the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year. I truly believe the Lord has done a mighty work on me this year, and I’m grateful for it. Talk soon & many blessings.