Last weekend I took some time to ponder this large display that had been set up where Marv Penner and I were presenting our “Tackling The Tough Stuff” seminar. We were in Longview, Washington. The youth ministry crew that brought us in had done their homework, passing this poster board around the community so that teens could anonymously scribble out messages about the tough stuff they are facing in their lives. Reading it was absolutely sobering. Folks in the community passed it around and took turns praying for the students who had aired their hurt. It was encouraging to hear that these hurting kids were living in a community filled with caring adults who were eager to represent Jesus Christ and the hope of the Gospel in the midst of the pain. It was a joy to be able to spend a day with people who understand what Jesus said. . . that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but that “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
As I read each individual note on the board, I couldn’t help but go back forty-two years when I was finishing up my senior year of high school. As part of a community service program that allowed us to spend the last month of our high school years working in a local community organization. I was working in a private psychiatric hospital on the adolescent floor. There were about 15 kids dealing with everything from addictions, to depression, and more. I wound up spending a couple of summers working on that floor. It was edgy, difficult, and draining work. After awhile I had to stop. What I was encountering wound up manifesting itself in some stomach issues due to the stress of the job. I was literally spending time in bed doubled over in pain by the end of that second summer. Again, it was edgy, tough stuff. It got to me because it was new to me. This was not the way the world was supposed to be. None of us had seen any of this stuff in our teenage world. In fact, it was all cloistered and locked up in the small population that lived on that floor. It was, in fact, stepping into another world. The reality is that even among the most advanced mental health practitioners of the time, things like self-injury and disordered eating were rare, confusing, and largely misunderstood.
Well. . . forty-two years have passed and that other world has now stepped out into the mainstream world. It is among us, around us, and within us. Hope and healing are desperately needed. So. . . what are you doing to make yourself aware of the difficult issues that kids are facing? What are doing to prevent those issues from visiting the kids you know and love? And, what are you doing to provide Gospel-centered resources for hope and healing? (If you would like to learn more about hosting a “Tackling the Tough Stuff” seminar, click here).
As you ponder those questions, I invited you to ponder these photos that I grabbed from the board in Longview. . .