Sunday, April 15, 2012

Time for teens

Me and one of "my" kids
There are times in my life when I look at what I'm doing and think, "How in the hell did I get here?" Today was one of those times.

I've mentioned before on this blog that I lead the church youth group. Kids in the group are from grades 9 through 12. 

When I was in high school, I had zero sense of what "cool" was. When I thought I was doing something hip (something I worked at full-time) it was actually quite stupid and goofy. I was made fun of - or worse, ignored - by my peers for most of my teen years. It all changed in college, but high school was a living hell for me.

Ever since then I never knew how to talk to teens. I sort of reverted back to my old goofy self and stumbled over my words. Feeling again like I was that clueless teen trying not to be ignored or laughed at.

Leading this group has changed my perspective on what it is to be a teen. And I know now that I really was a typical teen. The only difference was I didn't wear the mask as well as the others. 

Spending Sunday mornings and some Sunday evenings mentoring teens has helped me resolve the anguish I had for all those earlier years. I finally feel like I can be myself around a group that, although no longer my peers, are the very age group with whom I struggled the most. 

Sounds crazy. Here I am in my early 50s and I'm just now feeling like I can put my teen angst behind me.

I look at the youth I work with - some of whom I have become very close to - and feel this huge burden lifted. Like it finally came full circle for me.

And when I sat with these amazing teens today, asking them some of the tough, soul-searching questions that no one asked me at that age, I feel like there was a reason for my square-peg status as a teen. 

How could I understand now just how hard it was to be a teen if it had been easy? How could I offer a knowing hug, an empathic ear, and a like war story if I had been one of those teens who wore their manufactured confidence like a shield? 

I tell the kids all the time that I get more out of my time with them than they do and that they will never know just now much sharing this time in their lives means to me.

Maybe they understand, maybe not. Maybe some of them will get to be 53, connect with teens in a meaningful way, say, "How in the hell did I get here?", and think of me.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Well alright then

I attended the Tenebrae Service at my church on Thursday night. This service isn’t the cheeriest of services because it reflects on the death of Jesus which precedes the celebration of rebirth that is Easter. 
People have asked me why the service is so important to me when it is such a “downer.” The answer is not as simple as I’d like but I think it has something to do with my philosophy on life.
There’s a scene in the movie Oklahoma when the main characters’ wedding night is marred by a murder. Wise Aunt Eller tells her heartbroken newlywed niece that as you age you come to an understanding that you’ve got to look at life as a complete picture. To quote Aunt Eller: “You gotta look at the good on one side and the bad on the other and say, ‘Well alright then, to BOTH of them.’”

That quote has gotten me through some pretty serious heartache in my life. I accept that when things are going great, they won’t always stay that way. But when things are not going well, I remember THAT will change too. 
Easter seems like the perfect time to connect with that truth. When winter is over and spring has arrived. When the ground softens and reveals its treasures - hidden, just beneath the long-frozen surface.