I feel like this week has been full of flashbacks…
Monday night, I went to the Madison County Middle School verses Central Middle School basketball game. As I was walking into that gym, it was as if I had stepped back into time to 8th-10th grades as a basketball cheerleader. The smells were the same. All the parents sitting in the stands. That buzzer. The cheerleaders saying, “Jump ball, get it, get it,…” The cheerleaders still had those little purple and gold bows in their hair. The boys basketball team sat behind them punching each other and talking about the game or the girls. The two different sets of cheerleaders were giving dirty looks and trying to be the loudest. At half time, the boys basketball team went to go change clothes…just like when I was a cheerleader. During time outs the girls were talking about homework. A mom would come by and coach her daughter to smile during the half time cheer. They even had the exact same style pom poms that we had! You get the picture…flashback.
Tonight, I went to the Nutcracker dress rehearsal. I did ballet for a good 12 or 13 years before cheerleading… As I sat in the audience with one of my students mom’s, we talked about all the hustle and bustle of juggling homework, basketball for little brother, making an appearance at the game, the homecoming dance, and last but not least ballet. As I thought about the girls I knew in that performance and my ballet experience all of this came flooding to my mind: The bloody feet from point. The competition on places, parts, and dances. The pressure on the girls to be thin. The beautiful yet itchy too-toos. The hassle of making sure the hair was exactly, perfectly, sprayed into place. I went backstage to see the girls, and there it was…just like last time I was backstage–people running around, putting on lots of make up, pictures being taken, adults shooshing,…ahhh the memories.
As a youth minister, the students come to church, or I see them out. I hear about their lives and what they are involved in outside and inside of school. It isn’t until I step foot into their world that I am truly able to understand, remember, and grasp what life is like for them. Just as I stepped back into that gym…as I observed those things, I had all sorts of emotions. I remember how I absolutely loved cheerleading. I understood basketball better than football…I knew when to start cheers. I got it. I could kick my leg higher than most. I even had the perky personality to boot. Then, I also remember all the drama with the girls before and after the game. I remember liking a certain boy on the basketball team, as did every other girl. We would all try to get the spot closest to the “tunnel” where the boys came out so that you might would be the 1st girl to wish him luck. I remember the way the teachers would almost be harder on you because school should be just as important as whatever activity it was. Leg cramps. Yeah,…all of it.
I won’t ever forget being in a youth ministry class where our teacher had us all close our eyes and imagine going back into our middle school. There were grown, 20ish year old, boys that cried just imagining going back to middle school. It’s a tough world. Our students face a lot of pressure. If you think back, which you may not want to, you will remember having pressure on you too.
I wish I could spend more time in their world. It helps me understand what they go through on a daily basis. Also, I think the reason why students get so excited to see their youth minister or small group leader in “their world” is because it means that for that time period you are really their with them.
Last Sunday, I talked about Jesus’ name meaning, God with you. How He not only is with you, but how His being with you is a fulfillment of God’s promises to Isreal….a long, long time ago. Not only is God with you, but He does keep His promises. Even though I can’t be with the students all the time or make it to every game or every ballet…God is with them. I am sure that when Jesus was named people were having flashbacks to what the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah said about how God would be with them and not leave or forsake them. And not only those things, but that a child would be born that even His name would fulfill those promises.
I don’t generally like the Message version,…but Darin read me Isaiah 43:1-4 in the Message this week, and it is just so befitting:
“But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.”