Monday, August 8, 2011

Looking back

When I first started in Youth Ministry, a verse kept popping up for me.  It was 2 Corinthians 5:7 "We live by faith, not by sight."  It wound up with a necklace with that verse on it.  It became a theme verse for my life at the time.  I was doing a lot of faith walking at that time, doing a job that I knew God had called me into but I felt ill-prepared for at times.  I was up for the challenge though.

A few years in a young man and his dad started coming to church.  The young man was very quiet.  Really, really quiet.  He had a way of kind of bobbing his head as if agreeing or understanding people just to get them to stop asking him questions.  He had a hard time making eye contact and guarded his emotions carefully.  I heard from his dad, that the young man had a temper, that it was just the two of them and his dad was very insistent on his son coming to youth group.  I knew that this young man had two paths that he could go down.  One that might be tough but lead to success eventually.  The other was a path I didn't even want to think that would bring him a lot of heartache and most likely jail time.

The young man came to youth group, at first because his dad insisted, but more and more because he found a safe place to land.  He began to make friends, he went on big trips with us, he began to change, become less angry and distant and began to open up.  I broke a "rule" and drove him home many times, just because I knew he would open up more and more as we drove in the car.  It was on a summer trip that a huge breakthrough happened.  It was our annual houseboat trip.  One night he approached and asked if the two of us could talk.  We headed to the top of the houseboat and sat out under the stars for at least an hour without interruptions.  He talked about his life, his family, his feelings about his mom and more.  It was an hour that every Youth Minister hopes for but rarely gets to see.  An hour where God was talking to the soul of this young man and the walls of his heart were beginning to soften.  I will never forget that hour.

Life did indeed deal the young man some hard blows in the next few years.  He graduated high school and moved away and for the last few years I didn't know what had happened to him.  I heard rumors, I saw his myspace page, I prayed hard for this young man.  There was a picture in my office that I looked at daily of some of my favorite youth kids and his face was one of them smiling back at me.  I thought of him often with fondness and yet that feeling of regret that I didn't do enough, try enough to help him find his way in life, to help him find his way to God.

A few months ago I opened my Facebook account and there was a friend request from this young man.  I couldn't hit the "confirm" button fast enough!  We've left comments on each other's page.  I've seen that life has been a challenge and he's dealing with the consequences but yet there is something there.  His path is taking an upswing, things are going well.  Today I received a message from him that made me cry.  He just found out I'm quitting and wanted to check in.  Amongst the couple of lines was this, "You've made a big difference in a lot of people's lives.  If you need a recommendation, you know who to call."  I didn't know.  I really didn't know...but I'm so grateful to know now.

I've spent a long time living by faith and not by sight.  Faith that God will work through me, in spite of me.  While I don't know this where this young man's faith lies, I do know that good has been done, that I've been faithful to God's call and that in the process I've been blessed to be a part the lives of some amazing young people.  Live by faith, not by sight.  Every so often I appreciate the sight.  Kind of helps me to keep blindly walking.

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