Last night I sat by some teens in church. I was instantly given a bunch of hugs. One teen asked me about my new book that just came out. I passed a copy to Aaron, sitting at the end of the row. He's a teen who always finds me and lets me know how much he misses me in youth.
After nearly 18 years of hanging out on Wednesday nights with teenagers, I no longer am a youth staff member. I no longer teach a d-class on Sunday mornings to college students, or go to the Saturday night college ministry.
I was on the road, speaking. I was trying to write a book or an article. I was preparing. I was working as a community mentor. I got to the point that I was so bogged down that something had to give. I often spent time on the airplane on the way home, trying to prepare for the next morning's D-class. One day I got alone with God and set it all before him. Take a good look, Father, and tell me what I need to give up. I expected to give up many things, but the last thing I expected was to give up my Wednesday, Sunday, and Saturday night ministries.
But that's exactly what I knew God was saying.
But, God, who will teach them? This is what I'm called to do--to impact teens with your Word.
It didn't take long for me to realize that God knew exactly what he was doing (isn't it funny how we often doubt this?)
This is what I found. God allowed those same teens to do something amazing for me. Now, when I'm on my way home from a conference, exhausted, or just ready to be home with my family, I'm not preparing the next day's lesson, but I'm excited about the next day. Because I know when I walk in the door, I'm going to get refilled. Instead of giving to teens, God is showing me how powerful it is to receive what these teens give me.
Stepping back has allowed me to see the "fruit" in the teens around me. They are ordinary teens, but they are extraordinary in so many ways.
Glorianna leads a Bible study in her school. I love to hear what she's doing, and about the one student that was impacted that week. Hailey is getting ready for college. She's scared, but excited and asking God to show her what's next in her life. I love to hear her enthusiasm. Tyler's family has been through tough times, but he's living his faith with courage and strength. He goes out on his own to minister to people, telling them about Jesus. Aaron's dad is sick. It caught them all by surprise. His dad is the one who always is giving to others, who helps people go to camp when they can't afford it, and now he's facing chemo and radiation. And yet Aaron finds me wherever I am and crushes me in a huge bear hug, letting me know he's read my latest book, or just letting me know that he's thinking about my ministry and praying. Others leave comments on my facebook or myspace when I'm gone, letting me know they are praying.
The tables have turned and these amazing teens have become the encouragers in my life.
I miss teaching the teens in my home church, but their support allows me to reach out further--teaching teens across the nation, with their help.
Many of you are just the same. You leave comments. You let Julie or Sarah or Mitali know when they say something that resonates with you. You aren't afraid to be honest. You visit this blog every day. Just as we minister, you minister right back.
Teens rock. They really, really do. Thanks!