By: Rev. Brandon Dirks
“But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” Luke 5:16
I hated going to church when I was a teenager. I thought it was boring, not worth my time, and most of all, I had to behave…which I rarely did. What made it worse was that sometimes my parents would just drop me off at church and go back home. I made sure that the leaders at the church knew just how unhappy I was about being there. I wondered how shocked they would be if they knew that now, over 30 years later, I am not only a committed Christian, but I am ordained in the ministry!
I finally had the opportunity to experience their reaction a few years ago. I was giddy with excitement when I arrived at the church early in hopes of seeing some familiar faces. It didn’t take long when I noticed a husband-wife couple who were my Sunday School teachers…and to my astonishment, they remembered me! When they asked me what I was doing now, I blurted out, “I work in a church! Can you believe it?” I anxiously waited for their response.
They paused, smiled, and simply said, “That’s great. We knew you would do something like that.” My mouth dropped open; I couldn’t believe they weren’t surprised at how my life turned out.
As I think back on it, they must have seen through my antics, my disruptions, and my behavior. They must have seen something more. I have come to believe that teenagers need those special adults who can see through the surface behaviors and notice how God’s love is working…even if the teen cannot see it for him or herself. In fact, we all need those people in our lives!
I read an article recently by Kirk W. Morledge, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Waunakee, WI about what helps our children have faith. The two greatest factors that keep people in the church and in the faith when they are growing up were found to be the following:
1) As children, they knew without a doubt that the Christian faith and the church were important to their parents; and
2) In their youth, they had experienced some kind of Christian camp, conference, or formative retreat experience.
=As a teenager I can distinctly remember two key events: attending a Christian camp at age 13; and, attending a mission trip when I was 19 years old. God was clearly working in my life, even if I wasn’t working in God’s.
Who notices God in your life…even if you don’t? Maybe you should spend some extra time with that person. What faith experiences in your youth pushed you to the edge of your comfort zone? Maybe telling that story will help someone grow in their faith.