Over the years I have really grown to enjoy lists. On my fridge are pinned lists of Go-To meals for breakfast, lunch and supper. Beside those lists are lists are chores I should make sure I do every day, and another list for the weekly ones.
In my google drive are lists of my daughters first words, lists of typical prices for the groceries I tend to buy..
One of the reasons I like lists so much is because they give me a safety net. I am not a naturally organized person. As a kid I was always forgetting things, misplacing things and showing up at the wrong time for things. Because this behaviour is generally seen socially unacceptable (and seen as “irresponsible”) I think I have grown to cling to lists as a way of compensating for this strong Myers Briggs “P” in me. As long as I stick to script, no one will be able to accuse me of not fulfilling my responsibilities, of not being the person I am “supposed” to be.
For this reason, I feel an embarrassingly close identification with people like the Pharisees. Whenever I read about one of these characters interrogating Jesus, I hear my own lingering questions.
“So. Jesus. There’s a lot that you seem to be emphasizing right here. If we could just somehow sum in up in a “top ten” that would be really helpful. And when I get fearful that I am not measuring up again, I can refer to those points on my fridge than I’ll know that I am OK”.
This desire for a safety net follows me from parenting, to faith, to my health- it creeps into everything.
I was meeting with a friend who is a personal trainer a couple years ago and I asked her, OK so what is the one thing? It’s bread right? I know its going to be bread. More push ups, and no bread… Sigh, but I really do love bread!!
She looked at me, and suddenly I had the sense that she felt very sad for me. “Woah there. We need to start over. I am not here to give you another list of rules”.
Her response caught me off-guard because I had arranged to meet with her thinking that she’d be able to pierce through the fog of my schizophrenic nutritional experimentation (eating clean, vegetarianism, veganism, paleo.. )and just give me the top 5 things I should eat or not eat and send me on my way.
For the next hour with her we sat and we talked. She talked for a long time about her journey in learning to bless her body, to nurture it and take care of it. To stop shaming herself and rewarding herself based on what she was eating. She talked about health and wholeness beyond food rules. She pointed to a bigger, wider path of caring for yourself.
And I have to admit, when she started going on about drinking 8 glasses of water a day and getting enough sleep I almost tuned her out 😉 But I am glad I didn’t because by the end of it I felt a shift happen in me. I felt like someone had really seen me and seen that my questions came out of a place of Fear. But better yet, she pointed me to a different way of Being.
So as I look at scripture, I can really empathize with a guy like the rich young ruler talked about in Mark 10. He comes to Jesus and says,
OK. So I’ve done the whole honor your father and mother thing, I haven’t slept with my neighbours wife or stolen his cow.. – is that it?
What is the bottom line here? Can I have a list, a safety net to know that I am “in” with you Jesus? What must I do?
And I love how Mark describes Jesus’ response to him. It says that, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
No check list.
Just a big open road with Jesus.
When I read Jesus’ response. I want to give him a big ol’ hug and say “Bless you Jesus!! I knew there was space for the Myers Briggs Ps in the kingdom!”
😉 Following Him involves us abiding in Him, growing ears that are attuned with the Shepherd’s voice. It involves taking risks, making mistakes, sifting through our circumstances and tracing His finger prints.
Its messy and wonderful. Each day I wake up I know that Jesus cannot be mastered or “list-i-fied” but he can be ‘listened’ for.
Much like my own personal road to wholeness and health, the Spiritual life is not about mastering certain rules to control the outcomes, but its about listening while we walk forward.
So all of this brings me to my most recent thoughts about Children and Youth Ministry. This crazy messy road that we call the Journey of Faith Formation.
The other day, I had a woman come with a “What must I do” question written all over her face. It reminded me of the rich young ruler, and it reminded me of me. Her face said something like: “I just want the right answer, so that I can make sure I am ‘doing it right’, so that in the end- everything will work out.”
It turns out that her daughter is in early adolescence.. She is rebelling, angry, doesn’t want to come to church, telling her mother that just because the mother follows Jesus doesn’t mean she has too…
The situation broke my heart mostly because I could see it was breaking her mother’s heart. As she talked, I could see how much she wanted the comfort of a ‘top 5 list’. I wished I could give her that, and that a safety net like a top 5 list would give her freedom. But in reality, journeying with children and youth in the process of their faith formation is unpredictable. And those list safety nets are not actually safe at all. I think they give us a false sense of power and mastery over our destiny, rules that become bondage in our lives much like my food lists.
If our path with these kids truly allows them freewill and truly invites the Spirit of God to do the deep change, there is a lot of things beyond our control. It’s a scary and open ended. Oh sure, there are a lot of great elements that we will explore and encourage in our teachings, in our compassion experiences, and our community worship. There are books we can read to help us express our faith and our love for God and for our kids more clearly. I think these are all really important tools (which we explore in many of our Children and Family Ministries facets). But sometimes we just need to quietly admit that there aren’t guarantees.
Children and Youth Ministry is kind of like my path to physical wholeness, and like the path of Discipleship in general. Its an open road forward. There is a wideness to it that may encompass all sorts of different experiences. There needs to be a lot of listening day by day to those around us and to Christ. Listening, adapting, moving forward..
I shared these thoughts with this woman the other day. And I don’t think it was quite what she was looking for.. but I pray that she felt seen and heard and cared for. I pray Christ’s comfort to her on her path with her daughter.
And for all of us in our corners of the CBOQ world I pray for encouragement for the path.
May our sense of comfort in the journey not be from our lists of reliable tools, classic successes of certain events, the charisma of our volunteers…
May our comfort be from the presence of Christ who will not abandon us as we continue down this unpredictable road called Child and Youth Ministry♥
“He who Began a good work in us [And our children] will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).