We have a young man who has come to church with us off and on for the last few years – mainly just on Wednesdays. He has probably only attended on Sundays with us a handful of times, if that; and we enjoy bringing him when we can. Through out the years, he really has become like one of our own. When he started coming with us, he was just in second grade. Now in 7th, he is much larger, but still the same sweet young man. He has had a rough life… I don’t know all the details, but I know he clams up if I ask too many questions. And so, we just love him while we have him and pour into him when we can.
Imagine my surprise this morning, when we got an early knock on our door. My daughter came to tell me it was this young man and that he had ridden his bike over to our house and wanted to come to church with us. I said, “Absolutely, of course he can, tell him to come on in.”
On the way to church he was sweetly sitting in the front passenger seat, talking to me like one of my own. He told me that he had just prayed the night before, that at church he would find the phone he lost there on Wednesday. I thought, “How sweet to hear him tell me about his prayers! He has grown so much in these last few years!”
When we got to the church, he and my other kids and I all went our separate ways as we do each week. They have grown up at our church; it’s like their second home. They know where to go and what to do, and they like to go walk around and connect with their friends before they go to class.
We attend both services, and in between I was walking down the hall past the youth hang out room, and the doors to it were open. Suddenly, I heard a very loud F bomb float out the doors in what sounded like slow motion; said loudly and stretched out as if for emphasis. All the adults in the hall way looked up like they had just heard gun fire. I looked up too, probably faster and with a bit more response, because I knew this was one of mine who had just let that expletive rip. Well… not biologically, but we consider him a part of our family.
My first thought was, “Wow, that wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t here.” Then an even faster thought quickly overshadowed that one. That thought was, “I’d rather have him here and hear an occasional bomb like that drop, than not have him here at all. At least here he is in a place of love, where he can get poured into and grow in his walk with God, even while he is imperfect… after all, aren’t we all?”
Isn’t it funny how quickly we can forget our own imperfections and need for a savior? The Bible says, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). None of us are perfect, and all of us need a place where we can be imperfect while God works on our hearts, all the while finding acceptance, grace and love from the people around us. Church should be that place. I was reminded of that today.
I also was reminded that God gives us one another to bring accountability and a gentle, loving prod in the right direction when needed, especially in the role of raising up the next generation. I was thankful that I walked by in that moment, because it gave me a chance to show him what another kind of love looks like, and that’s the love of a parent figure giving gentle correction where needed. In this situation, I just leaned in, looked him in the eyes and said for all in the room to hear, “Let’s watch our language please.” And that was enough.
Copyright © 2012 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved