The whole point of a Johnny Jump Up is to actually “jump.” Ana seems to think it’s a giant swing. (And a boring one at that, since it requires a Mommy on hand to swing it.) Oh, well. We’ll keep working on it, and I’m sure she’ll be jumping in no time at all!
Two years ago, one of my teenage students from Namibia came to the US and visited me while she was in Texas. Her visit was a great blessing in a lot of ways. I remember, though, one conversation with her in particular in which she recounted what all of the members of our youth group were doing, where they were, etc. One by one, these teens who I thought I saw make genuine life changing decisions for Christ, who I thought I saw God work in and through… all completely fallen away, some even claiming that there’s not a God at all. Hmm. One had been radically saved that first year I was there and had grown so much in that second year, but since then had faced some very difficult times that left her bitter and angry with God and not at all willing to acknowledge any Lordship in her life. She and I have talked about it, and her reasonings and claims reveal shallowness and self-centeredness that characterized her life when she initially met Christ. But this is five years later! Was there no growth at all? She should be sounding differently, thinking differently, LIVING differently!
So, the question is… was I wrong? Did I imagine it all? I’m thinking through these things today especially, after hearing from some old high school friends who, like my teens in Namibia, once appeared to know and seriously follow Christ… and now just follow whatever the wind blows their way. One of them was called to ministry! Or was she? Did we all just emotionally think/believe/promise things that we didn’t mean?
What was I doing while I thought I was doing ministry, being involved in God’s life changing work, being on mission with Him? What was really happening? Was I just running programs for a bunch of kids who never understood what in the world I was talking about? Or if there really was life change… why did it fall all to pieces? It couldn’t have really been life change if it didn’t withstand time.
And perhaps the most troubling question of all, especially looking back at high school friendships and where we are all now after being in the same place then — why am I any different? I don’t think it’s been my own effort. Wes would pull out the fifth point of his Calvinism (which I would tend to agree with)… but is there more to it? What, apart from God’s undeserved grace, made the difference in my life? IS the call of Christ to grow and know Him more intimately? If it is, what’s going on with the stagnant and unregenerate nature of all of these students? Were they even saved to begin with?
I’m wondering all of this because in another thirteen years or so, Wes and I are going to be youth ministers again. What can we do in leading Ana and Emma to Christ, in discipling them, in showing them who He is, that will have more lasting results than a couple of emotional summer youth camp promises that amount to nothing in the end? I don’t want my girls to be deceived into thinking that they have assurance of something that… well, that they never had. If their lives leave question of Christ’s Lordship, is there any Lordship at all?
I’m not looking for pity or for assurances that I did what I was supposed to. I’m not capable of changing hearts or lives. I just wonder. What do you think about it all?