Though it's been repressed, there is a part of me that still believes I can make a difference.
I'm still thinking about the Donald Miller clip that I posted a couple of weeks ago. If you didn't see it, You should. It's effected every action I make with my children.
I began to think about how Miller's thoughts applied to me and I recalled a time when I was a teenager. I was sixteen years old and was working as a waitress in a little small town diner (side note: waitresses have possibly the worst job in the world. Tip them well. You have no idea the kind of crap they've put up with that day. And no, dirty old man, I will not "stick my finger in your coffee and make it sweeter") Anyway, when I was working at this little diner, a man came in on a particularly slow day, allowing for more conversation than was usual. After talking to the man for a few minutes, I learned that he had contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion and that he was working heavily on a campaign to raise money for a cure. It wasn't long before the impulsive passions that control teenage actions was evoked in me and I was working on a plan of my own to join him in his endeavors. I just knew that I could make a difference. I knew that I could take my little envelope to church and to my teachers and guidance counselors and that the world would be changed, starting in a small town of Springville Alabama.
I wish more than anything that I could tell you that I am one of those dynamic personalities that can sell ice to eskimoes. That I was a vibrant motivator that could just naturally pull out the goodness that, in my heart I know, lies within each and every individual and help them forget their inhibitions and the times that they were told that they couldn't make a difference, make them forget the moments in their own lives that made them cynical.. I wish I could tell you that that was the turning point in my life that made me realize that God put me here for something much bigger than myself. But in reality, it was a different defining point all together. As you might have already imagined, my efforts were not greeted enthusiastically. And, for a cause as taboo as AIDS was at that time, not only were these efforts not well supported, they were mocked with questions like, "well how did he get AIDS"? I remember knowing I was being seen as naive as I argued in defense of this man that I didn't even know, but was so actively playing a role in the shaping of my heart. And I know now that the question of whether or not this man had done something to deserve to contract AIDS was not a good one.. Was actually a horrible one. Quite contradictory to any question that Jesus would have asked.
My mom drove me to meet up with the man and I ashamedly handed him my envelope with a measly $50 in it (tip money and money given by my mom). And I began to buy into a lie that the best thing for me to do was to look out for myself because that is what human nature does, becomes a rat race to get to the top.. A dog eat dog world. One where everyone believes that the hand you're dealt is the one you deserve.. Until it's one's own hand that is and that, is where the story almost always changes.
By the time I graduated high school, I had diluted Christianity to a set of rules. A check list of rules that made me cringe at the thought.. A set of rules lived by people that I didn't much care for. A set of rules lived by people that looked miserable and looked bent on keeping everyone that they came into contact with miserable as well. A set of rules I could never check off of my list. And being convinced that I could never be good enough to be accepted by that God, I determined that I might as well make it good because I was going pay for it when I died. And maybe, if I was lucky, I could say that magical prayer on my way down that asked God for forgiveness for all my sins and then God would have take me. Thus, saving me from that burning fire that I had been so commonly threatened with.
I haven't said all of this to tell you how horrible the adults in my life were. I have wonderful parents that love me and support me. I had wonderful teachers that constantly demanded better from me. I had wonderful friends come into my life that I now know were praying for me continuously. I have in-laws that prayed for me even before I was born. And somewhere something stuck because God continued to knock and since knocking wasn't enough, he rang the door bell by having me fall in love with a youth minister. And if him being a youth minister wasn't ironic enough, he was/is a man that loves me more than I ever knew possible. So much more than I ever deserved. And slowly but surely, I've let those childish dreams back in.. And I do believe that God has chosen me.. He's chosen me as my husband so often says, "to partner with Him in his dream for the world". He's chosen me for an abundant life.. Not just later on but for now.. And I truly believe that if I follow Him, not in proving my point or that I'm more "spiritual" than others but by actually dreaming something better for this world and refusing to accept anything else. If I forgive others of their sins as Jesus does me.. If I love in a way that others don't understand. If I stand for the least and defend the defenseless. If I feed the poor. If I truly walk the direction that Jesus walked, then I'll experience what it was that God wanted for us when He put this whole thing in to play. It won't be money or fame or power.. But more likely a security of not needing money or fame or power. It will look so different than the way we've always pictured Joy to look. And that is why it will be more wonderful than anything we could possibly imagine.
Do you know that passion that is so difficult to deal with in children? Yeah, that passion.. The thing that leaves them crumbled in the floor in a fit? The thing that causes them to run and throw their arms around us and sob when we're leaving? The thing that makes them burst out in song as they're playing in the bathtub? The passion that we spend most of our adulthood wishing we could get back? Well it's there in our children.. It's there in the lemonade stand. It's there in the tower of blocks. It's there in the bouquet of weeds that they pick. It's there when they want to stop to pick up the trash that someone else threw down. It's there in the dollar store beads they give us for Mother's Day..
Lord please forgive me for the times when I've made small of their passions. And as they get older and become more passionate, please help me to help them keep that passion and to have it too.. And please teach me to guide them to use it in the way you want them to..I'm so gratefully yours.