During the summer months our high school ministry drops regular weekly programming and moves to an event-driven schedule. We have a calendar jam packed with exciting events we don’t want anyone to miss out on. Yet, recently, I have beenpulling out my hair and trying every possible mode of communication to get the word out to our scattered teens. It certainly feels like an exercise in futility. After many invitations through several different channels, I often make one last effort to get commitments by sending personal text messages to students the night or so before.
Can any youth workers relate?
Here’s the actual text message conversation I had with several students. Can you sense my frustration?
JEREMY: Dude, you should join us for [the event] tomorrow night!
STUDENT: Are there details?
JEREMY: Details on website, facebook event, calendar, e-newsletter, text message alerts, church bulletin, summer newsletter and video news update. Do you need me to tattoo it to your forehead?
The best part was that this 15-year old didn’t get the joke, and responded , “Ok, I’ll check website. And what about a tattoo?”
Now, teens will be teens. Many seem to put their brain on stand-by mode during the summer and do as little planning ahead as possible. Teenagers are notorious for living in the moment — especially during the summer. So, I am not surprised by this struggle in the least. But every youth worker who is responsible for organizing events that require a head count for purchasing tickets, preparing food and arranging for transportation can relate to my frustration.
So, I was taking a walk last night, trying to blow off some steam and cool myself down a bit. I continued bickering under my breath about how self-absorbed teenagers can be, how wrapped up in their little worlds of activity they often are and how impossible it is sometimes to get through to them about something I feel they won’t want to miss out on. Then it hit me!
This must be how God feels about all of us.
I was getting a real sense of the kind of holy frustration God has been dealing with since the creation of the world. This is a modern parable of God’s relentless, persistent pursuit of human beings. God is using every possible means to get through to us with His invitation into the abundant life he originally intended for us in relationship with Him. He has reached out to us with the invitation through the word of the prophets, in the beauty of creation, through personal encounters, by the giving of Torah, by dreams and visions, the personal testimony of believers, in the loving support of a friend in a time of need, through the Holy Scriptures and, most decisively and clearly by coming to live among us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Just as I keep pursuing our youth until the very last minute because I don’t want them to miss out on a sweet event, so God “is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). The Bible is packed full of evidence of this truth:
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2).
“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come” (Matt 22:2-3).
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Heb. 3:15)
“Let the person who has ears to hear, listen” (Mark 4:9).
Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?” The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen” (Rom. 10:16-19 MSG).
As God used my frustration to draw my thoughts toward these Bible verses, I was flooded with two additional emotions. First, myfrustration was redeemed and shown to have a level of holy discontent behind it. It is appropriate to be disheartened and frustrated when people we love get too wrapped up in themselves that they completely miss out on greater things God may have in store for them.
Second, I was quickly knocked off my high horse and humbled as I realized that this self-absorbed tendency is by no means unique to teenagers. Rather, this is the most basic disease shared by all people of every age and place. I, too, get wrapped up in my own affairs, my own interests and hobbies, my own busy schedule, and miss the many divine appointments God is trying to set up in order to get through to me.
I guess if we’re honest with ourselves, when it comes to receiving all the messages and invitations God is trying to get through to us in our everyday lives, we are really no different than the average teenager. So, let’s renew our commitment to regularly checking our spiritual inboxes for daily text messages from the God who desires all to come to His banquet and not miss out on what He has planned for those who love Him.