Growing Up is Hard to Do

Much like ninjas, these friends can make you cry almost instantly.

Remember that time I cried? or the time I became a full-fledged, card-carrying crier? Well, I’m back at it. It doesn’t really matter why, but apparently it is still a good thing. Or so I am told.

Do you have those friends who will ask you how you are and as soon as you answer you start crying? You didn’t even know you were upset, but something about the way they ask, the genuine concern they feel for you, or maybe they’ve just been trained to make people cry in 10 seconds or less; whatever the reason, you cry. Well, I’ve got a couple of those people in my life. I love them. I love talking with them. I love listening to them because well, they’re pretty awesome. What I DON’T love is when they have super freaky insight and say things that make me rethink everything I thought. You may remember that I don’t do well with that.

Anyhoo, my grand realization at lunch today was that I can’t be a 19 year old Young Life leader forever. Brilliant, I know. I have to grow up, accept new challenges and responsibilities. I have to lead differently. I have to start making the hard, sometimes lonely decisions because that’s what is good for other people. Here’s the thing, I like being a 19 year old Young Life leader. It suits my personality. It’s fun. It’s cool. I know what to do. What I don’t know is how to not be a 19 year old Young Life leader.

I guess we all know what y’all are going to be reading about over the next few months as I we figure this out together. Yippee!!!


It’s a Jungle Out There

Do you remember high school? Of course you do. It was either the best time of your life or the worst (I’m guessing probably the latter). Maybe it’s just girls (as a recovering feminist I still grit my teeth when I say type that), but everything in high school is a big deal. Wake up with a zit? Big deal. Don’t have a date for prom 9 months in advance? Your social status is donezo. Get in a fight with your best friend and not talk for a year? (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience) That’s about as accurate apocalyptic predictor as you’re going to get. So what makes high school so difficult? From what I can tell, though it does get easier, we also get better about covering up our emotions – and sins.

Let’s think about it. Tell me you don’t get a little nervous walking in to a party where you don’t know anyone – remind you of high school? Me too. I actually walked into a high school cafeteria (coincidentally where I saw my first fight and arrest) when I was in college and I still felt some of that tension. 700 kids who didn’t know me and probably didn’t notice me still had power to make my stomach turn a little. Why is this? Why, if we are created to be in relationship, do we struggle to be in relationships?

Or my personal favorite: the backhanded compliment, southern Christian style. This one is easy to recognize, it always begins or ends with “Bless her heaaaart” For example, “Her collarbone is showing in that frocked blouse; she must have been raised by Satan-worshipping parents. Bless her heaaaart.” See, easy as that! Take any snide, cruel remark + “Bless her heaaaart” (or “no offense” and “just saying” for younger generations) and voila! You now speak Christianese. Is this really any different than caddy teenage girls or the anxiety, shame, and anger felt by any one over the age of 7 who has been hurt by a cruel comment?

Unfortunately, we get better at hiding our emotions, not letting anyone get to know us, and twisting our jacked-up-ness into positives. Feel free to use phrases such as “guarding my heart,” “being honest,” and “don’t want to be a burden.” Trust me, I’m the master at all of these. By not letting people get to know me emotionally I also prevent people from speaking into my life and calling out sin. (there’s a good Christian phrase – when was the last time you heard a Wiccan say: “I really need someone to speak into my life“?) Do I trust people enough to change, even if I disagree? Is there someone whom I trust more than myself?

I have to thank a special group of girls for revealing this to me. Amidst all of the “It’s not personal’s,” the “I’m only trying to help’s” and my own self-righteous rants I realized that it is personal. We are all walking wounded, trying to survive the jungle that we knew formerly as the school cafeteria.

On Young Life, local church, and Facebook

I don’t really get the point of Young Life. It seems kinda stupid. These were my thoughts on Young Life in high school. Needless to say, I was not impressed. I still wonder what made me go to my first College Life meeting at Furman. Was it the cool leaders I met in my first few weeks? Why did I keep going back when I didn’t like it the first few times? I don’t have logical answers to these questions, but I what I do know is that I am so glad that I did.

Young Life became one of my favorite activities at Furman. If you’re not familiar with Young Life, it is a para-church ministry to high school students. Leaders, usually college students, build relationships with high schoolers with the intent to share the Gospel with them. Everything associated with Young Life is to be done with excellence so as to point to Christ. If you have never been to a Young Life camp, I highly recommend it.

As much as I love Young Life (YL) though, it is not the local church; a distinction I did not realize until my last year as a leader. So often, para-church ministries, like YL, begin with the best of intentions, but over time lose sight of their purpose; that is to draw students into the larger body of Christ. As a leader, I often focused more on the kids who came to club and did not focus on connecting the kids at club to a local church.

Local church is of paramount importance for believers. It is through local church that relationships and growth happen. So often our relationships with other people are shallow and unrealistic – ie: facebook. Young Life tries to bridge the gap between the local church and high-school students and I believe has a place to do so, but we must not forget that the bridge must lead to a local church, not a college leader. Leaders will come and go, but the local church has survived 2,000 years and will continue to do so. My goal of this article is not to bash YL. I am so thankful for my time serving in YL. My faith was challenged in ways that would not have been possible outside of that ministry, but I wish I had focused more on the local church and not made my success as a YL leader about me and “my girls.” They are not “my girls.” They are daughters of God, created in His image and designed to bring glory to Him, to be connected to the larger body of Christ.

The fact is, we want to love real people and we want to be loved by real people. Facebook is fiction. Local church is fact—the most real community we can experience this side of eternity.” – From Tim Challies

My Life as a Coach

I began volunteering as an assistant soccer coach at a local high school my sophomore year of college. I played soccer competitively through high school, but opted out of playing in college. I sincerely missed soccer and I wanted a chance to connect with girls for Young Life. I essentially bugged anyone I could find at the school until they let me come. Perhaps not the most effective strategy, but it worked.

For 2 years, I volunteered primarily with the JV team helping with practices, coaching games and getting to know the girls. This year, my first group of freshman girls are now seniors and most of them were on the varsity team last year! I feel old. You see, now that I’m a postgrad I can say stuff like that and be taken seriously. Like, for real.

My senior year of college was my first year as a paid assistant and I worked primarily with the varsity team. I absolutely loved it. They are an amazing group of girls, who are INCREDIBLY talented on the field.

One of my favorite parts has been getting to know the girls as people outside of soccer. These girls are smart, funny, motivated, but also broken. They hurt and experience brokenness just like everyone else. They are traversing the halls of high school without a lot of guidance or any clue as to what is going on. A girl who is on cloud 9 one day, may walk in on the verge of tears the next. These girls are not overly-emotional, they are not dramatic (usually), and by in large they have a “good head on their shoulders,” but such is the reality of high school.* This is perhaps the only time when I can legitimately accept the phrase “finding oneself” from someone without laughing. It has continually been my prayer that I would boldly take advantage of my time with them to offer them hope in the One who is unchanging, the Father and Truth.

If you feel led, please pray for me as I love these girls; pray for wisdom, boldness and strength. Pray that I will not make it about me or what I can offer them, but about the only one who can save them from themselves, the only one who can make sense of life. Pray for the girls as they navigate a tumultuous stage of life and are confronted with choices that they never thought they would have to make. High school is scary, petty, and daunting; pray that they would make wise choices and not put their hope in something that will fail them, like soccer.

*For a more detailed and fascinating explanation about the mind of a woman from in-utero to adulthood I highly recommend The Female Brain. It is an easy read that will either help you understand the woman in your life or, for you women, make you realize that you are NOT crazy and make sense of your life.