That's why it's called a shortcut. If it were easy, it would just be "the way".

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Half Life

The difference is that I have lost hope. So much potential and beauty and meaning and purpose and destiny is written in the face and heart of every adolecent. Makes no difference who their parents are, where they grow up, how much money they are entitled too. They all get it. At least the ones I meet.

Maybe it's because when I meet them they are ready. They are expecting. They are hoping. They may be fearful or use pride and arrogance as a shield at first but they always lay down their weapons of protection with very little prodding.

They need to know they are loved. They need to know they are special. They need to know that they are the only one in life who can be who they are made to be. They need to know someone wants to see them when they are at their very worst, most angry, saddest, stupidest, beligerent and is there to celebrate the wins, the victories, the right choices and the hard road.

I gave up. I didn't realize it until tonight.

Quick background: Raised in church. Rebelled. Lonely. Self destructive. I realized I had betrayed the essence of who I was in my search to find who I was. Went back to my roots. Got sick of religion. Found God in life. Followed God. Ended back in church. In ministry.

I don't know what to say to describe the connection I had with the group of teens that I worked with. I invested so much. Realized so many of my notions about teenagers were completely wrong even though I had just recently been one and had been working with them since I was one. Something about this group captivated my heart. No matter what happened to them in life, they continued to press on in life. They got it. Circumstances did not dictate who they were. Their purpose was not tied to how people saw them. God created them. God knew. God led. They followed.

Josh died. People got ripped to pieces. Hobbling along they kept going. They inspired me. Moved me. Awed me. I loved them. I cried for them. I prayed for them. I encouraged them. I let them live with me. I gave them shoes. I bought them gifts. I fed them. I invested every molecule that I could into God and the love just gushed out of me.

One by one they started to fall.

I did not know that face by face and name by name my heart retreated. It hushed. I focused on the future, the next group.

They had all graduated. They made it. I wish I could carry them around in my back pocket and keep them safe. Instead I cried and prayed and fasted. I saw improvements, then backsliding, then hope, then a tapering off of growth.

Did God fail them? Did I fail them? Did they fail themselves?

I have a whole new group. Every last one of those first teenagers has now graduated. I recognize I do not have the passion, the drive, the hope or the connection that I once had with that first group at E.F.

Tonight it hit me as I lay praying in bed.

I don't think that what I do ultimately makes a difference in a single one of their lives. The prayers bear no fruit, the love has no consequence, the truth has been traded, the worship has been swallowed.

God, there was such destiny in that room. There was such greatness.

Now. Now what? Nothing different than any other person they knew. Same lifestyle. Same views. Same actions. Same reactions. Nothing different. They fell. They have not gotten up.

And so I sell short this new group. The next phase of teenagers is only getting part of my heart, part of my time, part of my prayers. I can't give it all. It hurts. It cuts. It despairs. It has no return. It is meaningless.

I have lost hope. Yet I am hoping that recognizing my problem is the first step towards recovery. Recover hope, recover love, recover compassion. Fully give without thought of the 22nd birthday.

Those teens still call, still text, still check in. When they are in need, the first group turn to me for advice, friendship, encouragement. But I don't see the difference it has made except that my heart hurts. Maybe they would say different. Maybe to them it has made a difference but I don't see any of them living with hope that they are what we told them they are- More than their circumstances, more than what people give them credit for. They forgot. They don't believe. It was too much for them.

I can't really make a difference beyond creating that initial environment of love and showing them Jesus. The rest seems immaterial.