Friday, January 21, 2011

making a difference

So today I realized that the number of kids I know in the youth correctional facility here is up to 6.


Six kids who have been in my house. Six kids who I have prayed for at times. (Not as faithfully as I should.) Six kids who know my kids. Six kids who we've read with, who have loved our dog.

Six is too many; one is too many.

I had a friend ask me today, in light of this news, "Do you think you're making a difference?"

At first, I was insulted. In my mind, I thought, "Of course I am!" But maybe I'm not.

Then, thinking through the reasons that directly caused some of the kids to end up there, I said, "I can't keep kids from fighting. I can't keep kids from stealing." And I can't. Have they heard these things are wrong from us? Yes. Have they heard from us that Jesus doesn't want his children doing these things? Yes. Have they seen that we don't do these things? Yes. Is that enough? No. Is it making a difference? Well, that's the question I was trying to answer.

It was over a year ago when I heard Bart Campolo speak at a CCDA conference. His message shocked me. He was talking about people whose lives seem to be defined by the hard knocks and addictions in many cities. He said of them that their "cards were already punched." They have issues they aren't going to get over. I have a hard time with that message and I'm not sure it's true or the one we should be living by. We should always hold out hope for the aged alcoholics or those caught in the third generation of abuse in their families or whoever the person with the entrenched issue may be. Hope. Always. But I think he was just getting at how it feels from our perspective on our bad days. And I have my bad days (or weeks) just like the rest of you.

He spoke at length about how he gets weary of the burdens people will likely carry with them their entire lives. He gets weary of watching the alcoholic continue to be an alcoholic no matter how many times he dives in to rescue him from emergency situations. Was he making a difference? Was he?

But then he had a realization: It was only his job to LOVE those people. Love them. That's it.

Loving people is something we can do, no matter whether the other person gets "better" or not. It's never our job to make someone "better." Who am I to do that, anyway? I'm not even very good at making myself better! I can't even do the one thing that is contingent only upon me: loving people! If I can't do the thing that only depends on ONE person (me), why should I try to get all fancy and do something that depends on 2 people? Or 3? Or 20, both living and dead? There is way too much I can't change. That is up to God. Only God can change hearts and lives. And how he does that and how it fits in with that person changing themselves or being willing to be changed or whatever is something I'll never know. And I don't have to. I just have to love people. And that's enough work to last my whole life. It's a lesson that doesn't get old.

Am I making a difference? Only God knows. But probably not, because if a difference is being made, I'm sure him and the other person would get a lot more credit than I would. The only question I have to answer to is whether I'm loving the people put in my life. And if I can do that, then a difference has been made, at least in me.

I don't know many people who have lived a long time and still struggle with their issues. (And the one 60-something alcoholic I know has been sober for 4 years and 4 months!) But I do sometimes see situations and choices that threaten to make me hopeless or put-out. And I remember Bart's words. They don't make everything go away. They don't help what we and our neighbors are trying to do look good on paper. I mean, the stats are pretty grim right now under the "percentage of youth in the McCrorys' ministry currently in the juvenille system." But numbers don't tell the whole story. I couldn't even tell you the whole story, because it's not done yet and I don't know everything that's happened up until now. But I do know that lots of us love these kids, because God loves these kids. And I sure hope it doesn't change just me; I hope God's love changes all of us.

I'm not a difference-maker; on my best days, I'm just a lover.


Brandon said...

I love you, sis. Thank you for the encouraging message, and the reminder of our responsibility in life.

keep growing said...

Thanks. Glad to have made a difference. :)