Often people, when asking what do you want to do with your life, spit out the question; “Well, what do you love to do?” I’ve been asked this before. And I scrambled my head for all the things that just popped out.
I love…..watching movies.
I love….hanging out with my friends.
I love….being on a film set.
But once I was asked a far better question.
“What makes you angry?”
What, when you see it, makes you boil inside. Makes you want something to happen to this thing. Makes you wish somebody would do something about it.
This question struck me. It kind of took me off guard by its brilliance.
Could God be using my anger to call me to his great plan. Could my anger actually be a way to discover what I am passionate about?
I’ve thought about this question and a way to clearly give an answer to it. And it’s been about a year. But I have that answer now.
I work with kids on a daily basis. Let me clarify.
I WORK WITH 4th-8th graders EVERY DAY.
Yes, I am a Saint, thank you.
10-14 year old kids. My life is filled with their lives.
I work at an after school program where for three hours every day I hang with this hyper, loud, chaotic breed of the human race. I see them fight. I see them cry. I see them “in love.” I see them heartbroken. I see them afraid. I see them in all of their joy.
This is not only my job. But it is what I do with my free time. I also lead a program called Wyldlife at a Middle School called Swift Creek. Every week I see, interact, and am friend to a large handful of the coolest kids on this whole Earth. And I have been doing this for four years now. For four years I have made friends with kids ten years younger than myself. For four years I have made friends with kids going through some of the cruelest years of life.
Is where my anger lies.
Middle Schoolers have sex.
Middle Schoolers smoke pot.
Middle Schoolers get drunk.
Middle Schoolers get beaten.
Middle Schoolers blame themselves for their parents divorce.
Middle Schoolers commit suicide because they feel like they don’t belong.
These aren’t my assumptions these are my experiences.
My anger lies here.
I know these kids. I hurt for these kids. I love these kids.
Wyldlife is a branch of Young Life. Young Life is a relational ministry. If you have no idea what that means I will define it through scripture.
1 Thessalonians 2:8
Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well.
Because of our love for these kids we don’t just talk about Jesus on a set day of the week. We live and share our lives with these kids. And not just some portion of our life but we are real with them. They know us. They know we aren’t perfect. They know our past and they see what is becoming of our future.
Because we love them SO MUCH.
So to ask an obvious question. Why Middle School and not High School? “Yeah but High School is where the SERIOUS stuff happens. That’s where the deep stuff goes down. Kids are more mature and are better capable of understanding things.”
I’ll be honest I was not called to Middle School students right off the bat. For most people who become a leader through the ministry of Young Life it is because they were a product of Young Life. A leader poured in to them and therefore they wanted to do the same for someone else. It is easy therefore to find people who feel called to High School students because they once were this exact brand of High School student that they now feel called to go after.
But Middle School that’s a different story. The honest truth is that it is a very rare thing to find a person who will say with much clarity “I want to do ministry to Middle School students!” In our own organization you are placed on Wyldlife because usually, you are not “opposed” to working with Middle School kids. That you are “open” to it. Most people who are placed on a Wyldlife team feel called to the ministry of Young Life itself and are therefore willing to see what Wyldlife is like. While there is a larger majority that will claim I just can’t see myself working with Middle Schoolers. Neither is wrong and both are honest.
And with this honesty I will say I had great reserves before being placed with Middle School kids. “Well Chad, I’m actually worried that I may not connect with them. I’m like 18 years old and I’m just not that in to Spongebob.”
But you know what!
God wanted me to be with Middle School kids.
The other night we had a panel for new coming Young Life leaders and they asked another leader from Swift Creek Wyldlife if they originally wanted to do Wyldlife. Her response without haste and laughter resonating over it was “ABSOLUTELY NOT.”
But what followed I believe lies true with all who have been placed with this task. She continued “But now there is honestly nowhere else I would rather be.”
There is something special that happens working with these kids. You discover much of life itself. You begin to understand your friends. You begin to understand behavior of others. Because you see how life is shaping these children. Because these kids are at the point in life where they are beginning to figure out what it means to be a person on this Earth. Where they start to decide what role they will play.
So many would look at these kids as insignificant when talking of ministry. “Ah, but they have their whole lives ahead of them. Lets wait for them to get to High School and plug them in to our big Youth Group.”
I was even in this position once. I consider myself a pretty deep person. Meaning the conversations I have tend to be very serious. And this is a true challenge with Middle School kids. They get distracted easily. They laugh at things you want to be serious. (By the way if you ever are serious about learning patience hang out with Middle School kids.) I was talking with a friend about how I just really want to have these deep conversations about God with these kids. That it was something I was greatly longing for.
My friend replied “but that’s not what they need. At least not at this point in their lives. They need someone to be there for them. And they need that someone to be Christ.”
For starts, think of your years in Middle School. Mine were miserable. I was picked on for my lunch meals, the girls I liked, the amount I wanted to talk to people, and I was incredibly sensitive and it affected every bit of how social I was. Before a group found me I didn’t hang out with kids that people were anxious to include in the groups. I was constantly upset. And there was no leader who was there for me to explain things or guide me. I didn’t want my parents to know that I was picked on because I wanted my parents to love me and think I was the cool kid. So I kept it all in and never saw an exit to the tunnel that stood before me.
These were the years of my life however that made me stronger. Because of all I went through it shaped who I would be in High School. And those years shaped who I am today.
Imagine Jesus Christ showing up in the years you are trying to figure yourself out. What that would mean for who you would become.
THIS is where I find my joy.
Being there to talk to my 13 year old friend who’s dealing with the problems of sex in his relationship.
Being there to hear this twelve year old tell me about how he wants to give up smoking pot but he just doesn’t think he can.
The numerous children who are going through their parents’ divorce.
Kids who never knew their parents because of the parents problems with drugs.
Kids who lost their father last year.
Kids who lost their friend because she couldn’t continue life having to hide the fact she was gay.
Jesus runs to these kids. I run to these kids.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
I am coming to the end of my years at Swift Creek Middle School and it truly hurts to think of my last club as a part of this incredible and blessed team. It hurts because no greater joy has found me in all my life than introducing these kids to Jesus Christ. But because I love them so much. I will not end here. I am moving up to be a part of Young Life with the kids that I have gotten to know over the last three years. I will follow them into the temptation filled world of High School and I will walk these trials with them.
My anger lies when these kids are hurt. Or their parents aren’t there for them. Or they behave in ways because they just don’t know any better.
My joy lies in showing these kids Christ. Showing them the best way to live. Entering their world of questions and struggles and showing them truth and life.
I am called to go to them and be there for them. I will walk hand and hand with them to the white shores. I will walk them to the place where all this pain is forgotten. Where celebration is your life. Where relationship with the Creator is fully restored. Because they have been given the right to become children of God.
Because we loved them so much.