Spring Cleaning around my house unearthed some treasures – one in the form of a notebook from 4 years ago, filled with the prayer requests of my small group girls when they were still in junior high. I had to smile – there was a lot of time discussing and praying for pets back then — I can remember constantly questioning if what I was doing was important – trying to get a bunch of talkative middle school girls to quiet down only to have them talk about sick cats for a while–and then try to connect that to something biblical. I couldn’t believe they’d return week after week.
This weekend we’ll be attending a sweet 16. These parties are always a little bitter sweet for me. It feels like we’re dancing our feet off at a sweet 16, go to bed, wake up and then all of a sudden I’m sitting around a table with the other youth workers planning that girl’s senior banquet. I can anticipate the challenges that will soon be upon them, and they’ll be walking some new roads which have the potential to make or break their young adult years.
I was thinking about their maturation in Christ through the lenses of what their prayer requests are at each age. From praying for sick cats and geriatric dogs in junior high, to becoming concerned for their friends and their parents in high school to the really big things–anxiety over the future, doubts about their faith, longing to see God move through seasons of suffering–that college age girls have shed some tears over while sitting on my couch…All hard things for each girl in that moment. All things that are being used to draw them nearer to Him.
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the ?????? whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:26,27
Easter morning at church I was surprised by what I was focused on – my small group girls. I so badly want them to trust in Christ completely for their salvation – Easter is a time to celebrate what God has done for us, simply because he loves us and how I long for them to deeply know that now, so the power of the gospel would carry them through every temptation and hardship.
As a youth worker who is now a mom, I often am questioning how to play my role – should I be more of a mom? More of a friend? When do I speak up and when do I just shut up and pray? And in every dilemma when dealing with high school students I am reminded that to change the minds and hearts of these girls, I must be first changed, the gospel ever affecting me. But I am comforted by the activity of the Holy Spirit on their hearts.
One of my most memorable moments as a youth leader was when I was closing up small group one night, asking for prayer requests. One girl, who typically was honest and open about hard things, had not yet contributed. So when I asked her again if she had any requests I was overjoyed by her response:
“well, I could give you a long list. But God knows. I’m ok.”
I loved that because it indicated to me her humble confidence in God. The God of Psalm 46 – a God who is our refuge. Whenever I come to verses 4 & 5, I read and (pray for) my own heart into this Psalm, and now I pray the same for the hearts of our DHEFC students and gleefully rejoice as I see them faithful, humble and confident in a God who has saved them.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.