Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dig a Little Deeper

This was a picture my niece Hayley gave her "papa" for his 70th birthday. To the outside observer it's a cute picture. Something any child may give to mom, dad, or "pa pa" so they can hang it up on the refrigerator. But, when you dig a little deeper in to the history of this drawing, you'll find out that it is so much more than merely a "cute" picture.
Hayley was born pre-maturely with a hole in her heart. She had to have open heart surgery before she was a year old to repair this hole. This has caused some physical problems for her as she has gotten older: low muscle tone and sensory integration disorder. Because of this she has been in physical and occupational therapy for 2 years.
The "cute" picture above is the culmination of $75,000 spent on over a thousand hours of therapy for Hayley. Just two years ago this picture would never have happened. It would have been nothing more than a few scribbles on a piece of paper. But, hard work, persistence and dedication has paid off with words, a face, and a smile. Sure, for someone on the outside, it's a cute picture, and that's nice and all. But for those on the inside this picture represents so much more.
Those of us in youth ministry have a unique opportunity to be on "the inside."  Each of our teenagers has a story.  When we're willing to dig just a little deeper in to a life, we'll often find stories ... stories of successes and failures, joys and pains, fear and courage ... there is always more to their life than what we see on the outside.
That teenager who is one of the leaders in your ministry may have had countless hours of somebody pouring in to their life, guiding them and helping them become a leader while that "one" ... and we all have that "one" ... who causes problems or who seemingly just doesn't care about anything may represent a life of hurt and pain and they are acting out because no one has spent time trying to invest in them.  Understanding this means we won't be so quick to criticize but more willing to listen. We won't be as quick to expect a non-believing student to act as a passionate Christ-follower. 

As we learn to do youth ministry together, let me encourage you to be willing to dig a little deeper in to the lives of others and to realize that each life has a deeper story.  Part of our role is to help students see how their story is woven in to the God's greater story.  But, unless we're willing to dig a little deeper, we'll never have the opportunity to do that. 

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