I have, admittedly, a very full life, which for an introvert is something of a conundrum. We who value our interiority and find solace in moments of personless peacefulness often become resentful when life is too full. My life over the past few months in moving to a new church assignment, initiating change and managing the discontinuity within my life, my family's life and the congregation's life can be overwhelming. The challenges of adoptive parenting, in addition, present a unique slant on my modes of existence.
And tonight I am tired. I have been tired all day. It was after 2:00 AM this morning that I was finally able to sleep, and I was up again by 6:10 AM to start my day with the kids before school. Wednesday's are killer days for me with church activities and teaching three separate confirmation classes from 6:30 - 9:00 PM. Tonight's seventh and eighth grade classes were more unruly than usual, with incessant chatter and socializing that threatened to get the best of me. I persevered through the seventh graders, but the eighth graders were able to leave twenty minutes early because I had exhausted my efforts, and I wanted them to be able to leave church with a relatively positive feeling. Tonight's ninth graders (the final confirmation class of the evening) were surprisingly cooperative, although predictably chatty, but we were able to accomplsih what I set ot to do, and they were done about five minutes early.
They rushed off into the autumn air while I stayed behind the check that all the lights are out and that the windows are shut. Walking through the darkened corners of the hallways leading to my office, I asked myself, "What's this all about? Does this really even matter that much?" And I was making the mental conclusion that there's good reason why many pastors endure confirmands for one year or less, attempt to entertain them and then move on.
In my mental reverie I did not immediately notice the ninth grader cavorting up the stairs leading to my office. The student caught my attention, "Hey can I say something to you?" Momentarily taken aback (after all, the ninth graders had been saying stuff for most of the past hour in my presence, both to me and to others), I responded, "Sure." "I've got something I really, really need to talk about, and I haven't told anyone else." "OK," I said, not needing to encourage further words. "I just found out today that my friend has been using drugs, and I've just got to get it off my chest." I aksed the individual what the friend was planning to do about his situation. "I think he wants to quit, go into rehab or something." "That takes a lot of courage and support," I offered. "Yeah." "And so," I said, "what are you going to do about it?" "What do you mean?"
"What I mean is this: how are you going to be able to help your friend?"
"Well, I'll stick with him and be supportive and stuff."
"And you're strong enough not to do what he's doing?"
"Yeah. I've been offered a lot of times before, and it's dumb. I'm not going to do it."
"Well, he's going to need some good friends in his life if he is going to change."
I told my heart-broken confirmand (whom I've known now less than a month), "I'll pray for him and for you, that together you'll be able to get beyond this."
As he bounded out the shadowed church doors to rejoin friends, I remembered why it is that I do this, why I have committed years of my life to serving others in God's name and, in particular, why I have devoted so much of my time and attention to youth over the years.
"Oh, yeah, that's right," I say to myself at this end of this long day. "That's why I do this."