A thousand selves ago

Photo taken by Jenny Wassom, member of my Haiti team.

I’ve been promising a friend of mine that I’d post about Haiti for months, since I returned in the middle of July.  Certainly, there are stories to tell of Haiti.  I want to write about the beauty and poverty that the island holds in equal parts, and the way that God lives in the paradox.  I want to sit and describe at length the way that the people of that place took care and continue to take care of each other, and of the way that they took care of us for the eight days we stayed.  I want to tell you how full my youth leader heart was watching four of my students not just talking about Jesus, but being His arms and feet as we walked through mountain villages.  Maybe one day I’ll take those stories out of my journal and the recesses of my mind.

But, Haiti is a thousand miles away, a thousand lifetimes ago, a thousand selves ago.

I’m not sure at what point I became an adult, but I know it happened when I wasn’t looking.  At some point, I started being in almost daily contact with parents who need advice or affirmation or someone to talk to about how to best help their kids.  Now, I’m planning trips and taking responsibility for dozens of students, ages twelve to eighteen, just praying that they don’t get hurt on my watch.  I’m teaching them the Bible and trying to help them become people grounded in truth, and it feels weighty – in the best possible way – every week.  And I’m sharing my stories, starting them with phrases like, “Well, when I was your age…” and feeling every one of the years of difference between us when they don’t know who Dave Matthews is.

I think I became an adult when Dave Matthews stopped being cool.

But, I think I owned being an adult when I came back from Haiti and I came back from my Michigan vacation and our church experienced a trauma and I became someone with her hands directly involved in managing the crisis.  I owned being an adult when my responsibilities changed and I needed to buy a planner to just to hold the pieces together.  I owned being an adult when I owned that I am, with the other youth leaders, trusted by our youth parents in the midst of an ugly, messy season.

Now I know, nothing grows you up quite like a crisis.

For my students, I wish this weren’t true, because they’re growing up too.  They’re asking adult questions to adults who have no answers.  They’re realizing the world isn’t innocent, and that sometimes the people that you trust shouldn’t be trusted.  They’re discovering the far-reaching consequences of bad decisions, and they’re finding on a whole other level that when you live in community choices aren’t made in a vacuum.  They’re seeing that it’s far too easy to wear the label of “Christian” and much harder to walk every day engaged in a sanctifying relationship with Christ. They’re losing a sense of their innocence.

I hurt for them in all of that.  And I wish they could go back to who they were a thousand selves ago.

 But the LORD says, “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already—you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.  -Isaiah 43:18-19

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