What moments come to mind when you think of youth ministry?
There are really fun, exciting moments, like spontaneous snowball fights, dance parties, and captive audiences for storytelling. There are sweet, heart-warming moments, like when a kid opens up and starts sharing their heart with you, or when they run to give you a hug, or when they are worried about you when they see you sad or sick. There are powerful moments, like when a kid chooses to do the right thing when it is hard, or when they consider and serve each other, or when they remember and respond to something you said or did that you thought had been lost.
And then there are moments that make you want to scream and storm off and not look back. If you've ever invested your time and energy and heart in a teenager, and if beyond all wisdom and understanding you still love them, then you know what I am talking about. They know which buttons to push and what boundaries to test.
For me, it's most hurtful when I feel like I'm being used as a resource - a car, a bank, a computer, a tutor - and then a teenager flat out says they don't want to spend time with me just to play or chill or have a friendship. And I feel silly and immature and selfish and overly-emotional, and oddly like an annoying "kid sister"... as though everything I do for the teen is to get them to like me and want to be my friend. I shouldn't have that expectation, and I don't even consciously realize that I do most of the time. I do things because I love them - really, truly love them - and I want to see them succeed and have joy and peace in their lives. That's why even when I scream and storm, I come back. But it is hard to love like that and not hope for that love to be returned.
Then it hits me, is that how Jesus feels about me? I mean, I know he doesn't have the selfish, immature attitude that I have, but how does he feel when I come to him with problems and requests, and ignore or avoid time with him when I feel like things are fine? Sometimes I hear him say, "Come rest with me, play, talk, listen, walk with me. I want you to know me more," and I blow him off for "me time." I don't know if he ever feels like screaming and throwing in the towel, but I'll bet he gets very sad. And when I realize that, it makes me sad too... because I love him, just not very well sometimes.
Sometimes I think God has put me in youth ministry just to teach me more about Himself, and what His heart is for me...