Over the course of the last couple of days, the video I’ve embedded below has been spread far and wide courtesy of YouTube. I watched it a few times yesterday. Yep. . . it’s been there for awhile. I know the song – Sia’s “Breath Me” – a song that has quite a compelling video itself. Give Jonah’s video a look. . .
After watching, I had some questions and responses that are indicative of what it means to be alive, living, and growing up in today’s culture.
First, I wondered if this is real. With social media allowing anyone and everyone to jockey for an audience and their 15 minutes of fame, I’m always wondering if this kind of stuff isn’t just a ploy concocted by a real or self-made-online persona starved for attention. I hope it’s real because I don’t want to believe that there are people out there who would try to fool us on this kind of stuff. I hope it’s not real because I don’t want to believe that there are people out there who are getting hammered like this. Who can know for sure?
Second, real or not in this case, the story is all-too-real in all-too-many real cases. Jonah speaks for a growing percentage of our population. Granted, his story may be nuanced. But his very real pain is increasingly generic. Identity formation is a battle-field. Kids feel abandoned and alone. Bullying is real. The support systems that should be holding kids up are largely absent on non-functional. Being fourteen in today’s world isn’t at all like it used to be. Jonah is telling the truth. . . if not for himself, for somebody(s).
Third, I wonder if we’re listening. Whether we realize it or not, we all have Jonah(s) living in our midst. And if we’re hearing and seeing, we can’t be like the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan. Instead, we need to be like the Samaritan, willing to give of ourselves in every possible way to meet the needs of others, regardless of the cost we might incur personally. When we see him or her, we should take pity on him or her. We must be people who “go and do the same.”
As I watched Jonah in his video, I couldn’t help but think about my dear friends Marv Penner and Rich Van Pelt. They’ve devoted their lives to equipping us all to love and minister to kids like Jonah. Today, I want to say thanks to Marv and Rich for all they do to stop, look, listen, and respond as the hands and feet of Jesus. . . and for teaching us to do the same.
Walt, I agree with everything you posted here. Identity struggle is tough. Everyone at some point during their teenage years was ostracized but there are definitely some more than others. It is sad to see that peers can be so destructive and that a teen feels he has nowhere to run, not even to his own parents. One thing I noticed was that Jonah emotionally was hurt but emotionally was determined to overcome the situation…on his own. And, after reading his notes where his video is posted, I realize that much of his bullying recently has been related to the fact that he is gay and had not “come out” as he describes it. This brings about an interesting question for me. Jonah needs to be shown love. He needs to be shown grace and mercy. But he also needs to be shown truth through Christ and that it is HE (our Savior) that will sustain him and also bring him out of the destructive lifestyle he is pursuing. Unfortunately, I see so many teens supporting Jonah from a “you show them” and “you can do it” standpoint that it makes me wonder, how, especially as a youth pastor, do you walk the fine line of loving and encouraging students who are much like Jonah while telling them truth about their decisions. I break for a guy like him, but do I become the bully when I tell him that Christ is the only one that can heal him emotionally and spiritually and that Christ is the one who created him and he wasn’t created to have attractions to the same sex?
Great question and one I think we’ll need to be asking more and more as more and more people get upset with us when we stand with the Scriptures. My simple answer is this. . . we become a loving friend who tells the truth. . . just like you and I need all the time. Ostracizing or wagging a condemning self-righteous finger is not the answer. We hang in and speak/live the Gospel in the context of relationship.