Why I am not Surprised

The youth ministry life. There aren’t adequate words for what its like to love so much my heart might (actually) fall out. When a kid stops me in the middle of a roaring catechesis on the Trinity and asks me to bring in biscuits next time and I’m ready to lose it on him, even then he does not know that I would die for him.

Maybe I am just in a place where I need to externally process. I never realized how much I could love someone I have never known. I never knew how much I could sacrifice for someone who seems as though they do not care one bit about me. I didn’t know there was so much grace upon grace.

Ministry is HARD. Hard because it is not impossible, hard because every day is a challenge, hard because it seems like a gracious and loving God called me to something that stretches me and calls me to become more than I think I am. I wouldn’t want to live any other way, I know that.

The kids come in all shapes and sizes, they have all different kinds of quirks, and they have all different kinds of parents. I find each one endearing and I find that to be grace. When a kid’s got their phone out during prayer, or they are treating the clothing we’ve collected for the homeless like literal garbage, or a when a kid leads a seriously scandalous life, I’m usually all together not surprised.

When I learn of a kid who is particularly caught in some kind of sin, my heart breaks, but I am not surprised.

You might be thinking: “Wow. Maria. You’re super judgmental.”

I am not surprised by their sin, or their lack of reverence or their lack of understanding because I sin, I lack reverence and I lack understanding. I go to confession just like any other person, and I pray hard to know the presence of God so I can stand in awe of Him and I read a lot of books so that I can begin to grasp the mystery of God.

When I was seventeen there were a lot of things that I thought were okay that I think are absurd now. But when I was seventeen I was just like my kids are now. I was uninformed that there is a God who loves me. I lived as if he did not care, and I chose to just do what everyone else was doing because I thought that was what I was supposed to do.

In a world that tells me to seek after pleasure and avoid pain how could I expect a sixteen year old to know worship? How could I expect them to know sacrificial love when they aren’t sure what it is, might not have ever received it, or if they have, taken it for granted, or had simply not been paying attention.
My heart breaks more for the kids that I serve because I just feel like while the world bombards them with lies all I can do is speak softly the truth about love. It is as if I am standing next to a giant subwoofer that is screaming profanity while I am talking confidently in my inside voice about love.

Thankfully God is infinite and none of this is really about me.

None of this is really about me. I want to go directly into the mess. I want the scandalous irreverent kid to let me walk with them. I want to love more, love harder, sacrifice more, I want to not be surprised by the sin of another because I know sin, I know temptation, and I myself am in the battle. I want to encourage my little brothers and sisters to step into the light, I want them to know that their sin isn’t too ugly for God and that means their messiness cant be too ugly for me.

Isn’t that why He called? Isn’t that why he sent me?

Not so that I can condemn myself by condemning them but so that he can do for the kids and I as He has done for her: “He took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise!'” (Mark 5:41).

-M

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