I have been putting off writing this particular vein of thought, because I’m one of those types that subconsciously puts off dealing with things until I absolutely have to. Okay, maybe sometimes not-so-subconsciously. I don’t like sad things, or things that frustrate me, or things that are going to make major changes in my life. Which is why today’s subject has been bouncing around in my head for at least a couple of weeks, and I’m just now getting around to writing it down.
It hit me like a sucker punch to the gut on Friday night, as I was standing talking to 2 of the guys from our youth group – or who have been part of our youth group in the past. I have known these guys for years! I’ve watched them grow from junior highers that were kind of annoying to intelligent, handsome, mature young men who are about to graduate high school and go out into the world. And I literally had to check myself to keep from tearing up because I’m so doggone proud of them!
I’m proud of all of our graduating seniors this year – and we have 4 from our immediate church family, as well as a few more that I know personally from the area. I have worked with youth for, wow, nearly 12 years now, and I’m nearly as proud as any mama out there as I watch “my kids” grow and become the fantastic adults that God made them to be. I’m tickled beyond imagination to see them get married and have kids and venture out into the things they dreamed about (and a lot they didn’t!).
I don’t know why this year’s batch is hitting me so hard. Maybe because I’ve been there through so many of their battles and victories – my husband and I began working with the kids at our church here in Arizona 7 years ago, and most of these are the teens that were here when we began. It says something about how much you can care so deeply about a person after knowing them so long – something good and bad! But I have watched the struggles with family and faith and God and school, and I feel privileged to have been an active participant in so much of the journey.
If I’m this bad with these kids that are not even my “own” – how on earth am I going to be with my own kids? Scary thought. But you know, I am so grateful to have the chance to be around youth all the time. They give me perspective: on where my kids will be someday; on how the world and culture works around me so I can’t be content to live in my bubble; on valuing each individual and the way God made them; on learning when to talk and when to shut up; and on knowing how to be passionate about someone other than myself.
I’m getting to the age when I may soon be classified as way too old to know anything about the world they are in (though I hope not!). And so I am passionate about being involved with each of these teenagers as long as I can, to show them that living a God-filled life is real – with all its ups and downs and doubts and failures and fantastically awesome victories! I reserve the right to butt in when necessary – but only because I have earned the right by being there for them, no matter what.
I know that my influence on their lives may not be much – but it may be enough. To some kids, it’s a lifetime of change. Only God knows for sure. So until He tells me to stop doing what I’m doing, I’ll keep doing it. Showing up for games and concerts and shows, being there to talk to at odd hours of the day and night, hanging around waiting rooms of emergency rooms and providing rides home after every event: it’s all part of caring and loving every one of the kids God sees fit to let me have in my life. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So if I cry at graduation, it’s okay. And if I’m trying to put off saying good-bye to any of them as they fly off to do their thing, that’s okay, too. As long as you know that no matter what, I am doing what God told me to: caring about every kid He drops in my lap, no matter where they are at – or where they are going.
God’s richest blessings and greatest mercies to each and every one of you, my current and former “kids”.