This semester, I am in a class called, "Pastoral Care with Adolescents." I also am finishing up a module tomorrow that also deals with faith in youth, children, and families. For the latter class, I had to read a book and write a paper about it. I chose the book, "Hurt" by Chap Clark. It was interesting, to say the least. The book deals with the issue of abandonment being the underlying cause for a lot of the things teenagers are having to face in today's modern world. Teenagers today are under a lot of stress, and it seems to be systemic from the family and other adults who are off doing their own things instead of being parents and mentors. I'm not saying all adults are hands off when it comes to the lives of teens, but it is a reality for many people.
Reading that book made me think about how teens don't have people to talk to whom they can trust to not just "tell them what to do" or to put all sorts of pressure on them. And that got me to thinking about how when youth approach us, it would do us all well to treat them with respect and love. Only with respect and love and grace are we showing Christ's love to them. We don't show the love of God in Christ when we beat them over their heads with our Bibles, or doctrine, or theology, but when we accept them, warts and all.
And then THAT got me to thinking about this time when I was in high school (the real point of this blog post). I was maybe a junior or so, when a young lady in the class below me came up to me one day. She was one of the girls who was not "popular" in the traditional sense of the word. She wore baggy clothes and didn't have "nice" hair or expensive jewelry, or this or that. She had a reputation for being a stoner/drinker/party person. She swore a lot, she fought a lot, and she skipped school a lot. But, we had P.E. together, and because I tried to be one of those people who would talk to anyone (The MAN isnt' going to tell me who I! can be friends with!), I guess we were on friendly enough terms. I guess I should also include the fact that there were maybe 350 people, tops, at my high school. Everyone knew everyone else, and everyone was always up in everybody else's kool-aid, but it was a pretty decent place to be. I also should include that, while I believed in the Triune God, I was not one of those students who was trying to be a "soul-winner" or whatever. That sort of thing is not my style. Instead, I just tried to live my faith, in the ways a 16-17 year old, mainline Protestant denomination, Christ follower can.
Anyway, back to the young lady. We shall call her "Jessica." She came up to me one day and said something along the lines of, "You believe in God, right?" To which I replied something like, "Yes, I do."
She said, "Well, this is going to sound weird, but I've never heard about who Jesus is. Who is he? What does he do? I've honestly never really been told about him."
And the class was over, so we were walking toward the hallway out of the gym and I told her a little bit about who Jesus is. That Jesus loves us; loves ALL people. That he gave his life so that we could be forgiven." And she said something like, "But what do you have to do to be loved like that?"
And I think I replied something like, "You don't have to do anything. Jesus loves all people." And then, we had to go to our different classes. And thinking back on it, I just think about how it could have seemed that I was dismissing her questions because I wouldn't STOP WALKING to class while she was talking to me. And I didn't ever follow up with her. And I don't think Jessica got the answers she was looking for that day, or that she ever changed.
But the sheer fact that she CAME to me to ask is something I am humbled about now that I have 7 or 8 years between me now and the me then. I wish that I could have been more patient, or more persistent (not in a crazy way, but in a, "I'd like to give you more time to discuss this if you'd like" way). I wish that my witness to Christ could have been more faithful in actions, instead of in just words. I wish that I would have just been more mature, and more cognizant that "rule following" and getting to class on time is not that big of a deal when someone wants to know what Jesus is like.
I'm thinking, "She saw me as someone she could talk to honestly and openly about faith." Holy Cow. Wow. It is my fervent prayer that I am still someone who teenagers can relate to, but I don't have much interaction with them (other than my old friends from Restaurant that I have on MySpace). And I am reminded to pray for Jessica, and hope and pray that she is still curious about this Jesus guy, and who he is. And pray that someone will be more gracious than I was, in order that the radical and life-changing love of Christ might be made evident to her.