Today I am blogging about that crazy five letter word. Usually we write about words in terms of letters when they are bad. But this word is actually really good – and much needed – not just in the world of middle school ministry, but in responding to Jesus’ call to follow me. The word is simple.
A few years ago during our middle school missions week we were housed in a building in a rough part of downtown Canton. Rough enough that the building had an alarm we set at night. One of the mornings we were painfully woken up to the screeching wail of the alarm. Two of our students had woken before me, stumbled downstairs, and unknowingly triggered the alarm. They ran like little foxes back up the stairs and jumped into their beds – embarrassed and scared of what they had done.
Silly as this is – these middle schoolers needed grace. I could share many other stories of situations students needed grace. Like when they shaved another student’s hair while he was sleeping. Or when they get expelled on the last day of school. When they take it a bit too far in a water fight and slam another student to the ground. When they find themselves overwhelmed and addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.
Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.
– Psalm 25:16-18
In working with middle school students the five letter word grace is so important. This is the age of change, a time when students make a lot of choices, often dumb ones or unintended, and they need those who will be constant beacons of grace in their life. It is easy to come down hard at that student who gets under your skin from the moment they step on the bus for camp to the moment they get picked up to go home. But I think this Psalm speaks on behalf of middle schoolers who sometimes are clueless, don’t really know what to make of their changing bodies, minds, lives, and circumstances. They often feel lonely, afflicted, their hearts feel greater than they ever have, they are troubled by their world (big or small as it may be) and they need someone to be there during these moments.
Obviously, Jesus is the only Savior – but will you be that beacon of never-ending grace, hope, and love that points beyond their circumstance, choice, attitude, action, or whatever it may be – to One who is greater. In the middle of that long night at camp when you have just about had enough – remember there may be more going on beneath the surface. And when the floodgates open – and the spirit of indifference turns to a spirit of desperation seeking freedom from addiction, pain, and loneliness – will you be that beacon of grace that points to Christ.
We are privileged to be redeemed and able to speak truth into the lives of these students. Let that five letter word be central in your ministry – in times of weakness or strength, in the good and the bad. Respond with grace to those who may never have experienced it.