I had no idea. Honestly, none. I didn’t understand the weight of it all. How much it would put on my heart, how it would lead to a dark depression…
Or how life changing it would be.
I did youth ministry for about three years while I was going through college. I was lead to it in a weird way. During my second semester of college, I prayed and asked for answers about what I should do with my life. At the time, I was a music major and wasn’t feeling too confident in doing it the rest of my life. I asked for a lot of knowledge and wisdom about life, and I also asked for a lot of patience. The next morning, I woke up to a text message from one of my now really good friends asking me to work as the youth intern for his church in Birmingham. I accepted it and loved it. They couldn’t get me to leave. What started as a summer job turned into an almost three year commitment.
Over those three years, I got everything I asked for. Knowledge regarding the divine and how it works with us; wisdom about life and how it ebbs and flows, and more patience than I could ever dream of (something that just comes with youth ministry no matter what).
Also in my time there, I gained some arrogance. It was hard not to. I was going to school with people who were studying to become church leaders. But, I already was one. They would sit in class rooms learning about how to handle certain situations, and I was living it. I wasn’t even a Bible major. I was a psychology major. I had so many jokes thrown out about how I was able to land the job I had. I developed a “them vs. me” mentality that was arrogant, wrong, and just not a good outlook to have on life.
When I stopped working with the church, it was a hard transition. I went from traveling every weekend to Birmingham from Montgomery to sitting in my apartment on Friday nights playing video games, being with friends, and doing the weekend college things I had missed out on the past three years. I fell out of church for a while, even. I just didn’t want to drag myself out of bed on Sunday morning.
I was bitter and I was angry. At myself, at God, and church in general. It was a period of growth and realization. I’m only just now understanding it.
About today’s reading, it comes from Romans 12, verses 9-21 specifically. Commonly referred to as the marks of a true christian, Paul lays it on thick in these verses. He basically just goes through the list of things that anyone who wants to be a genuine, good person should strive to do.
It made me think about my old youth group. What things did I even teach them? Did I leave any impression on them? As I thought more about it, I remember teaching them specifically what things not to do.
You know, don’t do X, Y, and Z, and you’ll be fine. You’ll feel good about yourself that way. You’ll be thought of as a good person.
But, I never talked about the right things to do. How to actually live life. How to be young and be a good person. It isn’t a checklist of things not to do that make you a good person. It’s not even a checklist at all. It’s more than that.
There’s more to being a good person than not swearing, not partying, not drinking, not listening to that music, etc. In fact, I would go so far as to say that none of that has anything to do with being a good person.
Jesus laid it out for us so plainly and clearly. In just one sentence, he tells us how to live life and be a good person.
Being a good person is about love. It’s about being kind. It’s about honor and respect. It’s about looking at the world from a different perspective — a perspective I was never taught when I was younger. It’s one I wish I had learned much earlier and one I wish I had taught better while I was with that church. Seeing the world through the eyes of the divine. That’s what being a good person is. Seeing the value of people and seeing them for who they to the divine.
613 laws from the time of Moses that told them everything to do and not to do and Jesus summed them up in one sentence.
Love your God and love your neighbor.
I was teaching how to be a good person by not doing X, Y, and Z. I didn’t know what it meant to be a good person by actually doing anything. I just knew what not to do. I wish I could have grasped this much sooner. I wish I could go back and teach some of this. But, hopefully a few of them will see this and understand.
My prayer is that we can be honest with ourselves. When we look at this world and the people in it, what do we see? What do we think about them? What do we see them as? Theres still 21 days left in this challenge. We’ve just barely scraped the surface. Let’s keep going. Uncovering more about ourselves, and discovering more about the divine in the process.
Breathe in. Breathe out.