Another year for convention has come and gone, and what a great year it was. For many reasons, I enjoy convention. I enjoy seeing friends, friends that i’ve known for years, and friends that as years go by I’m getting the opportunity to meet. I also enjoy seeing the students press in, and having their lives changed by God. It’s really incredible to see. Another reason why I love convention is the memories. Convention for me has many great memories, like winning the 3-3 basketball tournament (yes i’m still signing autographs from that huge win), spending time with friends like Jason Senechal (Miss you J..put your 1′s up), and the year they had those basketball guys do the preaching (amazing ) Being at convention brings me back once again to something that has become more and more evident for me lately.
I am the father of a little girl who is year and a half old. Olivia Grace is her name (yes that is her first name, she also goes by Liver, Liv, Grace, and when they do play by play in the future “Livy Grace” will be what they say..She’ll play at UNC). Liv is absolutely in love with the park, when we walk from the front door to the car she tries to walk to the park instead, and when she realizes we are not going there she gets upset. Seriously, she loves the park. On the days that we do go to the park she really only goes where other kids are. If you can picture our park, there are two playground areas, big kids and small kids areas. She doesn’t stay at one, she just keeps walking between the two, it all depends on where the crowds are. Usually as we walk in between I keep telling her “You are a leader not a follower, please pick a spot. Leader, you are a leader” (yes maybe i’m crazy but i’m just trying to speak into her life now, causes she’s going to change the world). But walking in between the playgrounds is not what frustrates me, i’m getting to that now.
This is what usually happens at the big playground. Liv will take her time climbing up stairs, up the next set of stairs, then over the bridge, slowly and carefully, the whole time smiling at me or her mom, and i’m cheering her on, “awesome Liv, you are the best, that’s it, keep going”. That continues of course until she starts walking back, and then I start saying “no liv come on, you are better this, you are not quitter keep going” (don’t judge me). But finally she gets to the big slide, and she sits down as if she is ready to go, and finally the moment arrives where…..nothing happens. She just sits there. Other kids come around pass infront of her and go down the slide, this happens a few times. And the whole time I’m at the bottom “Come on liv you can do it, almost there come on, i’ll catch you”, but still she remains at the top just sitting there. My job from that point on is to go up the stairs over the bridge all the way until I get to her and get her closer to the slide and show her how it’s done. Once she finally goes down she loves it, and from the top of the playground I watch her celebrate with her mom as she accomplished something big in her eyes (and in the eyes of her parents).
Now if you can for just a second imagine this with me. My daughter at the top not sure how this slide thing works, and I make my way up to her and when I get to the top I just move her to the side and I go down myself and then I celebrate with Rachel at the bottom cause I just went down the slide, and I repeat this process over and over again, until it’s time for bed (Liv’s bedtime not mine). Now i’ve gone down the slide over and over again, but the whole time my daughter is sitting at the top not knowing how to go down. First, I’d look like the worst dad in the world. Second, I’d look like creepy adult playing in the kids playground. Reminds me of when I was 17, babysitting these two kids. Their mom was having people over so she dropped us off at Mcdonalds. We were only supposed to be there for an hour or so, it ended up being closer to four. But this Mcdonalds had a great playground, so of course the kids played in it, and eventually I did to. I was having a blast, but after a while of me playing with the two I was babysitting and all the other kids, the manager came to me (while I was buried in the plastic ball pit) and said “Excuse me but your playground is at Laronde (amusement part in Montreal). I slowly got out of the pit hoping no one noticed me (I’m sure no one saw me during the hour of me playing). But I share that story because it reminds me that my time in that playground was done, I was to old for that, my role in that playground was now different. Same with the park near my house, my role is different than when I was a kid.
When the picture of my daughter at the park came to mind, there were a few verses that came to me as well. The first being Ephesians 3:12 “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence”. How awesome is it to know that we have access to the throne. When Christ died on the cross the veil was torn in two, giving us that opportunity to do so. No need to go through anyone else, but I can have my own personal relationship with Him. He tells us that we can approach at anytime and there is no need to be shy or to back away. AWESOME! But if I can be honest, it took me a while to learn this. The life as a Christian is progressive and it’s only getting better, and I learn more the longer I’m alive, but there was a time where I was stuck wasn’t sure how it worked. How can I go to God with this, or after I’ve done that. To go along with my illustration, I was stuck at the top of the slide not sure how it all works. I needed people to show me. And trust me, there is an incredible freedom to know that I can go to Him on my own anytime about anything.
This brings me to my next verse, Hebrews 5:12 “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.” As a youth pastor I’ve seen students stuck where I was once stuck, and I believe my role is now to show them what I had to learn. It serves them or anyone else no good if all I do is learn the same thing over and over again, hoping someone is there to help me down the same thing, what I need to do is keep learning new things so that I have new things to teach them along the way. I’m not saying that I should forget what i’ve learned, cause even though I’ve moved on from that step I NEED to know how to show someone else. I’ve seen to many students stuck at the top of the slide not sure how this works, and there is no one interested in taking the time to show them, or they can’t find anyone who remembers how it works.
Convention is different for me now. Yes I still take things away from it, I learn things at convention, but my focus is that students are changed, challenged. It’s about them.
Here’s my hope. My hope is that when Ava (our next little girl who is due August 22) is born, and makes her way up the stairs, over the bridge, and sits down wondering how the slide works, that her big sister Livy Grace, makes her way up the stairs, this walking not crawling, over the bridge (hopefully still smiling at me or her mom) and gets to the slide, and sits next to Ava and says “hey, i’ve been here before. Not sure how it works right? We’ll do this together, until you get it on your own”. But I also hope this. That while I am still around, I give everything I can to teach students the things I’ve learned a long the way. Because Some day when my little girls are in youth they are going to make their way out of the pew, over the bridge of what others are thinking, until they get to the altar and they will sit there. And I hope that one of those students that you or I taught, walks out from the pew, over the bridge and to the altar and sits next to them and says “hey, can I show you what I learned”.
Who are you teaching?
Hope this made sense to you, because it did for me.