Ministry is a weird thing. It's a hard thing. It's the best thing. It's "me," whether I feel completely inadequate or adequate in the given situation. I find that as soon as I start to focus on SELF I begin to lose sight of the bigger picture; I suppose that's true in any situation in our lives, but recently it's become true when it comes to the concept of kids liking me.
I firmly believe that if I would have gone on staff (with Young Life) right after college - instead of into teaching - there would have been MAJOR issues with the need to be liked. What?! A kid doesn't like me?! Are you kidding me?! What did I do wrong? But then I became a teacher...and I quickly found out that being "liked" wasn't the main ingredient, so to speak.
So now I find myself thrown into the world of middle school kids - in that awkward 11 to 14 year old range, they're continuing to go through one of the biggest transitions of their lives, as they move from childhood to adulthood. I realize that it's hard...I realize that all of the sudden that which wasn't a big deal a couple of years prior is suddenly the biggest, most major event of their lives. And I realize that I get to play a tiny part in the play of their lives, and that makes me excited. I get to walk into their world and just LOVE on them. I get to be their friend (or at least try to!) whether or not they want to even be seen with me.
I know that it means the world to kids when I remember their names...when I'm constant in saying "hi" to them at lunch...when I see them in the hallways and give them a high-five... And sometimes I wish that they just got it. I too just LONG and YEARN to be understood in the midst of their chaos and confusion. I wish they knew my heart for them...but that's not the important thing, it's not the focus of WHY I do what I do. So then, as I was telling my friend Bennett tonite, a feeling of mild persecution (otherwise known as self-pity?) comes into the picture. Today I counted that every other table of 8th grade kids laughed at me when I started talking to them. Today I noticed that the girls whom I've poured into avoided eye contact at all costs and ignored me, hoping that I won't call them by name around their peers. So does it bug me that kids don't always like me? No. I go back to the beginning of this paragraph, where and when I remember how it makes them feel inside, even if they can't quite connect the inside with the outside (especially when the outside involves their favorite crush across the table).
I feel like I'm getting the teensiest taste of parenthood: parents love their kids. Good parents want their kids to know that they are LOVED and they are WORTH it beyond a shadow of a doubt...yet that awkward early adolescent stage hits, and MAN, parents cannot do ANYTHING right! What worked yesterday does not work today and might work tomorrow. You just don't know. So you (the parent) keep walking with one foot in front of the other, and you hope that someday the kid might realize how loved and special he or she is.
So yeah. Middle school. What a time in life! What a PRIVILEGE it is to be chosen to just be a lover of kids. But sometimes those realization days are hard. Yup.