I recently did a presentation at a small church whose pastor is a good friend. This is a new work that started a couple of years ago. It is always difficult to know when talking about real life circumstances how honest I should be about what really happens. It is easy to dwell on the negative and not mention the great things that are happening. I know that the media craves the bad news in life because it grabs your attention! The unfortunate reality is that we feed off the gory news at night and miss out on the good that usually out ways the bad.
As we were wrapping up this presentation my pastor friend had us do a Q and A that took about an hour with a variety of questions that got back to the real life circumstances around life in generational poverty. We were able to share both the sad news but also the success stories. The challenge is that what most people remember is the fact that an uncle in my painting neighborhood recently murdered his cousin in front of all of my little guys. The talk the next week in my group wasn’t about how horrible life is when you don’t follow God but did you see all of the blood.
When someone asks me what I do I hesitate at times to be totally upfront. I have had teachers and social workers that have worked in my larger neighborhood tell me point blank that what I’m doing is a waste of time. I usually don’t let someone talk this way which means I end up defending the cause of the forgotten underdog type. I know in my heart of hearts we are making a difference. I know that stories are the best path to helping someone understand how to put their life back together after it has been shattered. I know that the typically storyteller will always ask whether you want the good news or bad news first?
I picked up a good friend who helps with doing mailings and volunteers for tutoring and our life group. We had talked the evening before about some of her life challenges that come out of the brokenness in her family. As I shared a couple stories of the brokenness in our group she realized that her life wasn’t that bad after all and actually had many positive highlights over the years. My point in talking about the ‘trash’ was to help see the contrast with many in our group who have gone through life transformation.
I’m in the middle of a great book by Philip Yancey, “Where is God When it Hurts?” Yancey deals with the aftermath of horrible accidents and how a person is supposed to live afterwards without hating God, family and their own life. His point is that we can’t necessarily come up with a reason for why something happened and whether I did something that either caused this or God is punishing me. His way of dealing with the WHY question was to ask what are you doing today with what happened yesterday? How should I live in the midst of pain and suffering? Do I focus on blaming someone for what happened? Do I take responsibility for my choices and decide to be different today based upon what I experienced yesterday?
My point in writing this blog is to say that out of the ‘crappy’ stuff of life often comes beauty that is more than capable of transforming a person’s life, change the nature of a family and see a neighborhood change over time. As I finished my meeting with a young college student I wanted to encourage him not to focus on the past but see God’s hand in the present preparing him for the future. Yeah, he should be totally bummed because he was in a car accident that saw his car get crunched; he was cited and hurt his knee. Yet, he is alive and able to step back and learn from what happened!
I know that it is too easy for someone to put a price tag on the cost of what it takes to redeem a wayward teen or 20 something. Yet, I want to come back and scream from the mountain tops that if one of my kids, teens or 20 somethings turns around then all of the financial expense and the time of myself and a multitude of mentors or tutors is amazingly worth it!