On Being Challenged

I am thankful that I am being challenged, forced outside my current comfort zones, given the opportunity to grow.

I serve as a community Chaplain, focusing on youth. I have been involved in Scouting for years. The two interests merged when I began teaching the Protestant Religious Awards program (formerly called God and Country)–this year I am teaching the high school level class called God and Life.

I have literally decades of working with youth: as a Scout leader, youth leader, youth pastor, high school teacher, mental health therapist…and have primarily focused on the guys. After all, I is one. I’ve been where they are. I understand the little derlin’s.

Not so much with the gals. There are days I am convinced men and women are not at all the same species, but rather some kind of sci-fi symbionts.

And when it comes to teaching Bible related stuff, theology, ethics, language, whatever,  I’ve always had students that had some religious/spiritual/philosophical background.

This time, I am blessed with a single student in this session, a girl who is as close to a tabla rasa as I have ever even heard of, let alone has in my classroom. She doesn’t have any church background, doesn’t know any Bible stories…I’ve never run into that before. There’s nothing “traditional” from which to start, on which to build.

Like I said. A  challenge.

We’ve worked out (are working out) how to honestly/ethically meet the requirements of this award, while also making the experience meaningful to her. Let me be quick to note that the material is most excellently written and serves magnificently for the vast majority of the students who choose to pursue it.

My student is not part of that vast majority. They all have some background, some context on which this material can build. Hey, it’s a Protestant religious award. Catholics, Muslims and Buddhists aren’t all that interested; they have their own award programs to pursue.

Add to the mix here a time constraint. Oh, technically speaking, she may work on this award until she finishes high school. But the awards presentation is set for February (Scout Sunday, specifically), and building enough foundation or reframing the material for it to have some meaning for her is definitely going to be…intense. I could “let the chips fall where they may” and either not bother with meaning and understanding, per se (can she read and answer the questions, pass the course and get the badge), or go the other end of the spectrum and push for  relevancy and personal meaning/challenge for her, not finish by Feb, and simply remind her that there is no deadline other than getting it done before she finishes high school in another 3.5 years.

I’m wired as a teacher; neither option is at all palatable.

A challenge.

Fortunately, in addition to being wired as a teacher, I am also trained as a pastor; so while I have no clue as to what the future holds, I know Who holds the future.

I will almost certainly never see what kind of impact this class and I will have on this young lady. And I’m OK with that. I rarely see the harvest of what I planted. That’s the result of yet another blessing for which I am also very thankful. I had a Youth Ministry professor (my BA is Youth Ministry) who told us flat out that the only solid indication of what our impact was on the young people we served would be to see how they raised their children. And by then, of course, it would be too late to do anything about it.

That’s how I’ve sown all the seed I’ve planted over the years. And as real farmers ultimately must trust God for the end result of their labors, so too must I. I now find it to be sooooo much easier that way; do my best, my “due diligence” as it were, and trust that He will not only work out all the details, but correct, cover over, or otherwise bless the multitude of errors and mistakes I have no doubt made since I started. I am thankful that the errors I know about have been relatively trivial; at least I’ve never heard about totally screwing up someone’s life. And I have been tremendously blessed to have received comments and compliments about some good I’ve done along the way.

All I can say is that it’s a really good thing He likes working through imperfect people to get His plans accomplished. ‘Cause I’m really good at imperfect.