I was working on a cute little article about summer and how as an adult it doesn’t mean what it did as a kid and how as a youth pastor it means non-stop – make sure the fridge is stocked with Red Bull…but then I heard from Him.
Out of the three summers I have been a youth pastor, this by far has been my most successful with the highest numbers and greatest excitement among students. Camp was amazing. Participation in service projects has been phenomenal. Students have taken initiative in speaking the Gospel into each others’ lives.
This has been a hard summer for me.
Much harder than the past two.
My summer has been overwhelmingly busy, but not because I have been wasting time sitting at the feet of Jesus. (I still haven’t finished reading all four Gospels – one of my goals during Lent as you may recall.)
My summer has been filled with blatant sin, but not because I believe so strongly in grace and therefore abuse it. On the contrary, I have never struggled so much with unbelief in the grace of God.
My summer has been lonely, but not because I haven’t been surrounded constantly with people who care.
My summer has been hard because God has been silent.
Okay, don’t argue theology with me…God has been silent
You know what that’s like, don’t you?
Yes, I’ve been busy and haven’t been carving out time with Him.
Yes, I’ve been sinning and not repenting…sometimes even enjoying it.
Yes, I’ve been ignoring and avoiding the warm fellowship of other believers.
Yes, all of the above creates a barrier in the relationship between me and God…or does it?
Am I ever still enough…obedient enough…encouraged enough to hear from a holy and perfect God?
Last week at the end of a very busy, sin-filled, lonely day, I went to visit a man who was dying. His name was Scott and he battled cancer for 8 years. I almost didn’t go, because I felt guilty that I hadn’t gone to visit him more often and now that he was about to die any day, I suddenly find time for him.
When I arrived at his house, it was hard to find parking because so many cars were lining the streets. Scott had lots of friends and I wouldn’t be surprised if most credit God’s work in his life to bring about radical change in theirs. In High School and college, Scott and I had a sort of unofficial mentor relationship. Most younger guys who knew Scott even if for only one week would say the same thing.
Encouraged by his wife, I walked over to see him. His hospital bed was in the middle of the living room and around him people talked and laughed and ate. There was so much life in the room, but he looked dead.
I said to him “Thank you for loving Jesus in front of me.” I meant it, but I also didn’t really know what else to say and was still feeling extremely guilty.
Love those teenagers.
He then opened his eyes very briefly and stared at me. He began to speak. It was really hard to understand him. He became frustrated at my inability to interpret his breathy, slurred words, so he called for his wife to come over. He insisted that she raise his bed to a sitting position. He was then facing the group of friends and family on the couches and chairs and strained to get out the words that he so desperately wanted me to understand.
One word at a time he said:
Once he got through every word, he began repeating that sentence over and over and over again each time a little louder than before.
As his family gathered around him with tears streaming down their faces, I moved back behind the bed and I began to pray that God would speak through him to those gathered in the room. Not sure why, God had been silent.
And as soon as I finished praying, Scott called my name, “Zach.”
He struggled to speak and I struggled to understand.
I want to pass these words on to my fellow brothers and sisters in youth ministry, because I think He intended them for you as well.
“It has been my honor to represent Jesus. Now you do that. Love those teenagers. Disciple them and send them out. I love you. Go in peace.”
So glad it’s all about grace.
2 Cor. 6:1