There is something about the innocence and joy of children that tugs on the strings of our hearts and reminds us of days long past: Days of running around the neighborhood, making mud pies or my favorite, the surprise drink (basically combining everything in the fridge to make the grossest drink ever lol).
I kept moving forward, but the hardest part was and still is hearing God’s voice in the middle of everything and following His direction. Everyone has an idea for what a “successful” youth ministry looks like. It’s helpful to have an easy to remember goal for the day, songs with arm motions, games, activities and a hands on lesson to explore God’s truth. Those are all REALLY GOOD ideas in the right context. I tried all the different ideas and MANY times failed.
Do you ever feel like you have no idea what to do and the cards are just stacked against you? However, sometimes you just have to change your perspective. With each “failure,” these amazing kids reminded me on a regular basis that sometimes even the best of plans need to be thrown away so you can just be present in the moment.
Those amazing kids taught me so much more. They taught me about God’s love as they would embrace me on some of my worst days. On the day I put my cat to sleep (she was with me for over 12 years and the only constant in my life for that time) I went out to the outreach (very begrudgingly but with the encouragement and persistence of my colleagues) and they all just loved me as I got to love them. They comforted me, hugged me and made me laugh numerous times. It was never about having the best plan or the perfect lesson, it was always about love. They teach me about love every time I am with them.
Each laugh and moment of joy with every one of the kids and the teens is a blessing. Yet, there are some truly special moments that will forever remain in my heart. Moments when God gives me this little window into what He is doing and showing me that while I choose to stay, He will continue to use me.
This past Friday night, I had one of those moments. We began talking about Christmas and why we celebrate the holiday. It sparked conversations about Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit. At one point, one of the girls quietly asked me “how do you know what God is saying?” I wish I had the perfect answer for her. The reality is most of the time I have no idea. I tried to articulate it to the best of my ability. However, rather than focus on what I did say, could have said, my lack of a theology degree, etc., I instead focused on the moment. Witnessing the moment of a young girl probably around 7-8 years old seek to know God.
We ended the night as she let me pray for her. I asked her if she wanted me to pray that she would know God’s voice more. She said yes. When I asked if there was anything else I could pray for her, she responded, “for a lot of presents.” I said well how about I pray that God gives you what you need. She responds, “yes, I need a lot of presents.” LOL
While I can chuckle the reality is, this little girl was treating God like her Abba, her daddy. She wanted to go to him with all of her wishes and who I am to say that is not a good thing to ask. The reality is I think we all need a lot of “presents” this Christmas. Maybe my little friend’s idea of a gift is different from ours, but it doesn’t change the fact that we all have wants and needs. Someone getting a washer and dryer in their home may mean they get more time to spend with their kids. Someone getting a dishwasher may mean they can entertain and bless others more. Someone getting a bright red scarf may mean receiving the gift of someone’s love and thoughtfulness. Some of our needs can’t be wrapped in a bow. Some need a house or a job. Some need love and hope. Maybe we should all take a lesson from my little friend and just go to our Abba and spend some time with our Papa.
There is a saying that “it is better to give than to receive.” However, if we never receive, we can take away someone else’s blessing to give. So in this season of giving, give what you can and give generously. However, don’t forget to receive. You may receive more than you anticipated.