Be you.

Last night I was telling a bunch of teenager to just be themselves.  They have so many expectations thrown at them, most of which would fundamentally change who they are.

Their hairs are numbered.  They’re made the way they are on purpose.  And the best way they can live life to the fullest is just to be who they are and not try to be someone else.  It frustrates me so much because it sounds so cliched.  Just be yourself.  What is it that makes it so hard to sink in?  It’s something  I still struggle with as I approach 30!

Sometimes youthworkers are compared to disneyland staff.  You just expect to see enthusiasm and energy, right?  I remember, back when I was training to be a youth worker, one of my line managers at county council told me that I need to find my niche to ‘connect’ with young people.  We worked together doing some detached work and he’d just swagger over to a group of young people and…trump! He’d get a laugh or a girly fake-disgust and he’d suddenly he became the jokey/confident youth worker.  I held my wind in and got a stomach ache.

Studying youth and community studies was no mean feat for me.  Walking into a lecture/seminar felt like walking into the lions den each day.  The course was full of ‘out-there’ people and, well, it was never dull.  I would have hid under the table if I thought I would have gotten away with it.

At the end of the three years, everyone was awarded a certificate.  Mine was “the shyest youth worker”.  Cringe.

The things is I’m not actually that shy.  I was just putting myself up against these massive personalities and expectations of a youth worker and decided that I didn’t match up to it, so took a step back.  It shook my confidence, visualising this ultimate youth worker that I’m supposed to be…

I wonder if there are a bunch of people that would be so influential in young people’s lives but think they just aren’t…enough.  Not young enough.  not cool enough.  Not loud and flamboyant enough.  And that’s really sad – the young people miss out on some incredible relationships and they miss out themselves.  I have learned so much from the teenagers I’ve worked with – they push me, challenge me and encourage me more than any one adult has done.

I’m rubbish at pretending – it can get very awkward and has got me into trouble but you can read me like a book.  For a while I battled against it, but then I figured I would just be creating a mask – a more polished version of myself.  How can we, as adults, do that and then expect young people to just be themselves, warts and all??

So I’m not the ultimate youthworker.  I’m not happy and bouncy all the time.  I get grumpy when I’m hungry.  I get PMT’d out.  But I love Jesus with all that I am and I love young people like they’re my own kids (or, ahem, maybe little brother or sister…!).  I don’t feel enough – but I know that His grace is enough.  And when God calls us to something, he’s already figured out that we’re the person to do it – we don’t need to sweat it or question it.  And whatever it is, whether its supporting something already existing or stepping out into new territory, as a very wise Charlotte gambill preached at Cherish Conference this year – we just need to put our hand up and say “I’m in”.

 

 

 

You are what you see. But what do you really see?

We live in a technological world of social media where its easier to say what you think to a computer screen.  Blimey it’s easier to say what you think  to another person via a computer screen.  There is also a dangerous perception that words can be put out there and just deleted if regretted afterwards.  But it’s an illusion because once words are read by someone you can’t take them back.  The delete button is no-one’s safety net.

I wanted to share a little about some changes The Husband and I will be making in September, but before I do I need to be realistic and acknowledge that I’m in a position of influence both as a mum and as a youth pastor. The words I use matter. That’s not coming from a place of arrogance but from a place of responsibility that scares the baheebijeebies out of me.  But in my weakness HE is made strong and so on we go.  We want to live transparently, in our motives and actions.

So before I chat on about what September will probably look like to us, I want to put it all into context (this is sounding really serious, and it’s so not, ha! It’s just that I don’t want to risk any misunderstanding).

On Monday at The Link I talked to our young people a little about what it is to Give your heart to God…

When you are single to mingle and you find someone very cute and who like you back, its a pretty great feeling, right?  Having a crush on someone or even falling in love is often not a choice, it’s a progression of a relationship and before you know it you feel like your heart is not your own any more.  When someone has your heart there are a couple of things that happen that help us understand what its’ like to be in relationship with your creator, and what its’ like to be ‘in relationship’ with the world.  For now we’ll just look at one, but its’ a biggie…

When you’re infatuated, it’s very easy for your identity to be rooted in the object of your affection.  And before all the Mr and miss independents among you start heckling that no person will validate them – I say amen (!) but we have got to be real here.  People don’t complete you, but you’d be lying if you said that what the people closest to you say about you didn’t matter.  I’ve seen shy girls walk on air with a sudden spring in their step when their sweethearts have told them that they’re the best girl around.  And too often I’ve seen strong and amazing girls  reduced to nothing when the guy in their life has said they’re worth nothing.  Its’ gutting to see.  And this absolutely isn’t exclusive to the girls at all, its’ just been my experience because I’ve worked with a lot of young girls.

In today’s culture there is expectation screaming at young people.  The girls should be flawlessly beautiful (and when i say flawless I mean flawless, to the point of impossibility.  cough cough Photoshop cough cough).  They should be skinny but still have all the right curves and you know which two curves I’m talking about!  They should be outgoing, popular and affectionate but heaven forbid she fails to master the ultimate balance and be branded frigid or a slag.

 

 

And the guys don’t escape it either.  They are facing the pressure to be buff without becoming self obsessed, be reliable without becoming boring, be funny without be just plain weird and be sensitive without being a wimp.

 

Talk about a tightrope! whatever the pressure, there’s expectation to reach a standard.  So when you consider how young people place their identity and self worth in this culture its’ easy to understand how so many are gripped with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, behavioural issues along with so other mental health issues.

If we place our identity in God, its’ all about one thing: Seeing ourselves how HE sees us.  Our creator not only eases that pressure to conform to one model of human being but actually embraces diversity.  This gives us permission to relax into how he made us. Our bodies are to be loved, cared for and even celebrated, only, not in a way to objectify ourselves for someone else but to recognise that we’re made in the image of HIM.  The whole Bible is a love letter from God and is all about how he sees us.  and there are a lot of words in the Bible.  But here are just a few of what your creator has called you:

Precious                    Children of God                          Redeemed                        Restored

Worthy                 Accepted                                   Honoured                              Loved

God is passionate about us and is longing for us to recognise that so we don’t have to buy into the pressure to out perform each other in order like ourselves.

This isn’t new stuff, it’s the foundation of the Gospel – The good news of Jesus Christ.  He first Loved us.  We can approach him as we are.  We don’t need to be bigger, better, smarter, funnier, sexier, stronger to receive his acceptance – its’ already ours for the taking!

This is what grounds us as youth pastors.  This is what grounds us as parents.  This is what grounds me as a woman and its’ what grounds The Husband as a man.  Everything, everything is pivotal on  this, and its’ the safest place to be.

(To be continues in the next few days…….)