Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Yellow Brick Road Is A One Way Street

Have you ever found yourself in a position where you are not certain if you have been complimented or defamed? I think that maybe I am not smart enough to tell the difference. That's entirely possible.

I have a friend who is employed by "Youth Specialties," the premiere producer of youth ministry materials in the country. This friend is pretty smart. We've only met one time but have exchanged many emails. In the course of our e-versations she picked-up on a few things about my personality. Things like ... oh ... I am "mentally focus impaired." Some people would call that A.D.D. or "Attention Deficit Disorder." Now understand that no medical professional has ever diagnosed me as such. No matter. My wife has. My kids have. And the spiritual director for Youth Specialties has. And that is what prompted her to call me up last spring and ask me to speak at a break-out session of the National Youth Workers Convention in Cincinnatti this fall. I said yes because it sounded fun. And then I just put it in the back of my brain and forgot about it. And now ... well now "this fall" has turned into "this week." And I have not given a lot of thought to what I am going to say.

A lot of people come to these conferences. They are mainly professional youth workers. They know their stuff and they work their butts off serving teenagers all year long. And then they come to the National Youth Workers Convention looking to get fed, filled and fired up. I've known a lot of youth pastor's in my day. Almost every one of them (at least almost every successful one) has had an A.D.D. personality. This means that my little conference may not be so little after all.

I know what to say to these men and women. I've had some interesting years this decade. (And might I point out that there is quite a bit of decade left.) In the last half of the previous decade, known as the '90s, I saw some pretty extreme ministry. Suicides. Sexual abuse cases. Kids who were "cutters." Kids who are now in prison. There was much more but you get the picture. I walked my brother through a horrific stroke that almost cost him his life. I stayed near him as his marriage dissolved, his church closed and his life fell apart. I buried my parents. My response to those events was to fall back on my A.D.D. tendencys and run myself into the ground. That finally made me sick. Then I got well. It took nine months before I learned how to stop all over the place. I got sane. Then my church blew apart and I spent three years trying to fix it before I gave up last week. And one of the reasons for the timing of my giving up was that I had fallen back into being "mentally focused impaired." In other words I found myself getting sick again. It's pretty clear to me that this is not God's perfect plan for my life so I followed His clear direction and hung it up. It hurt to do that. But my choices were few.

So now I get to go talk to these youth workers that are generally younger than I am. Significantly so. And I really want to help them not to do what I did. Not to become what I became. So I think what I am going to do is to scare the living daylights out of them. How? Simple. I'll tell them the truth. That should take about twenty minutes. And then I am going to tell them how to be smart. That's simple too.

You see, God does not intend for His kids to self-destruct. Ministry is important but guess what. All we are responsible for doing is what the Holy Spirit leads us to do. That's it. If you do any more than that, if you work five minutes longer than it takes you to obey ... you are screwing up and begging for trouble. And the enemy will be more than happy to provide it. How do I get that truth across to those young and energetic youth pastors? Will they listen? Would I have listened when I was their age and working their insane schedule? I hope so. Who knows? I just know that if they listen to me it will save some marriages, enrich some families, and make them much more effective in ministry.

I always wanted to be the first eighty year old youth pastor. Now that I am fifty-one it occurs to me that I do not want to be doing it at eighty. And I am really torn about that. I am addicted to the bright eyes, the quick smiles, the easy laughter that comes with being a teenager. I have not lost my passion for winning them to Christ. Sometimes it is as easy as picking a ripe apple from a tree. You just do not find many adults like that. But I've got some things that I know now that I didn't know ten years ago. And I feel like it is important that I share those things.

Since I resigned I feel better physically. I know why but I am not going to tell you. it isn't something that you need to know. It is between God and I. If you know me you probably think that you know why. You may even tell other people what you "know." I can only tell you that you are dead wrong. Sorry. I am 100% confident that you are clueless. I did not even know myself until God told me. And at least for now it is between He and I.

He has not told me what is next but I've walked His "yellow brick road" too long to go back now. Too late for a detour. And God's yellow brick road is a one way street that leads to His throne room. I may not know what is on the horizon but I'm pretty certain ... I'll know I'm not in Kansas anymore.