Last night, I had the opportunity to help out a couple of our middle school boys. It didn’t look or feel like that is what happened, but I know it is. We have a couple of guys in 6th grade who want to be cool. I don’t know these guys well, they are in the group lead by Mike, our other youth pastor. But I know them well enough. They are scared, hurt, and uncertain little guys, afraid of life. They choose to deal with it by being “tough”, at least as tough as you can be when you’re 12, 5’4″, and 83 pounds. They roll in with attitudes that would make an NBA player proud. But they’re broken.
They push everyone away. They argue with you, no matter what you say. They have no problem arguing both sides of a discussion, at the same time, and telling you how wrong you are. Needless to say, they can get under your skin.
We’ve loved on them all year. We’ve tried to help them. We’ve taken about 30 different steps to show them a positive way, a healthy way to act. They don’t care. So, last night, they laid out their attitudes, and we sent them home early.
Man, the threats out of those two little mouths. The accusations. The feigned hurt. They are impressive, I have to admit.
Here is where my age is an asset. None of that matters. I know that if I don’t speak truth and hold a line which requires respect, they will never get Jesus. They just won’t. I ‘m not mean to them at all. I won’t argue with them. But I’m calling them to step up to a base level. I used to think if I did this, I’d lose them forever. Then I went through a long phase of “I’ll sacrifice a few for the good of the whole” idea. But now, now I know better. I know that God works beyond and outside of my ministry. I’ve seen it. Over and over, firsthand. Emails and letters from former students, now in their 20’s and 30’s, telling me how 10 years after they left our group for the last time, God has gotten hold of them. They tell of His grace and forgiveness, and the power to change.
It’s not that I think discipline and being “firm” changed them. I just believe in God. In His relentless love AND power. It is His to work in someones life. It is just mine to be faithful.
So, I don’t know if my latest pair of tough guys will be back. If they are, they’ll have to agree to live in community at a base level. If they don’t come back, I know that God has wonderful plans for them, and that this is all part of His plan.
Age isn’t all bad.