You Can Only Do So Much
Youth Pastors as a whole are ADD. “Back in my day,” which really wasn’t that long ago, kids didn’t go to the doctor to get diagnosed for ADD like they do now. In some ways it seems like doctors are handing out Ritalin like it’s a Flintstones vitamin, but I digress. The thing is, I often get distracted in my office by anything and everything that goes on around me. For example, last week I had a fly in my office for about a week and a half, and I would often find myself with a legal pad in my hands chasing and failing to kill said fly. There is something about a little black flying bug (or insect or whatever it is) that completely sidetracks the work that I am trying to accomplish on a given day.
Then the are our cell phones that hijack our days. Most of us keep our cell phones sitting on our desk and we react to its ever beck and call. The sound of the Sportscenter alert grabs me every time, and I end up checking to see what the latest tweet, text, or notification may be. I specifically recall a time when the lead singer from Casting Crowns (who is also a youth pastor) talked about beach balls in the audience being a major distraction for him.
I tell all of these stories for a reason, and that is partially because today has been an especially distracting day for me. There are no major pressing thoughts on my mind. However, I have a basement office that has a sunken window. When I arrived at work this morning and looked out my window, I saw two mice who were climbing the screen on my window and the corners of the cinderblock wall outside my window (this is the point where my mom would freak out). They weren’t climbing simply because it was fun, but because they wanted to be free.
You can imagine that as someone who is ADD, the struggle of these two mice caught my particular attention, and my window has basically been an Animal Planet special on the survival of field mice. However, I couldn’t help but feel bad for these two little guys who, despite their best effort, could not seem to make it out. Not to mention the fact that I imagined how it would feel to be that small and fall 4 feet over and over again.
After sitting and watching all day I decided that I would become the “mouse savior.” I was not about to pick up these guys and toss them out of the hole, but I found a piece of wood and gave them a bridge to freedom. So there I sat waiting for these two mice to come across my little bridge, climb to freedom, and be thankful that some mysterious giant came to save the day. However, as I sat and waited some more, neither of the mice decided to take the way to accomplishing the goal they’d worked for all day. They had both seen the stick but they hadn’t been willing to try it out.
While part of me wonders, why won’t you just climb this stick and be free I can’t help but think, that I can only do so much. You see, I can sympathize and provide a way out, but I can’t force the mice to climb the stick to freedom. God deals with us in much the same way. God gave us a way to freedom, peace, and forgiveness, but we have to be willing to take the way God has provided.
Many of us, as youth pastors and parents, want to convict and force our students to make the smart decision, but the best I can do is to provide them a way to make the right decision and pray that they have wisdom to do so. As much as I can look at a situation and say, “It’s so obvious; can’t you see this bridge that I’ve provided for you?”, I cannot force a mouse or a student to make the wise choice.
Never neglect prayer in your ministry because while you can provide bridges, the Holy Spirit has to be the one to prompt your kids to use the bridges you’ve built. Strive and push your students, but realize you can only do so much.