Today’s A Weary World Rejoices story comes from Sarah Iverson:
At least one week of my life for the past 10 years has consisted of an experience something like this. 12 hours riding on a bus, 5 days of leading 50 kids around a city, subsisting on granola bars and bad coffee, hauling around a 20–pound backpack, important late–night conversations, and ridiculous early morning wake-up calls. Trips taken with GS youth have exhausted me in mind, body, and spirit and I have come to find it holy and I cannot wait for those opportunities to come around again.
However, these trips–and youth ministry in general–have also introduced me to experiences of deep weariness. The weariness comes when you see young people trying so hard—to gain approval, to be a winner, to push away pain, to keep on their mask, to pretend they don’t care, to figure themselves out, to bluff their confidence. And you want so much introduce them to their own belovedness and you work hard to do so–to speak the blessing into being, remind them of their true identity, to convince them of their worthiness.
All that sounds lovely and poetic–when really looked like constant re-directing, processing, and praying. Creating spaces for honesty, forgiveness, and spiritual growth. It involved watching a giant step forward followed by two steps back. It was seeing them grow brave and share their truth–only to quickly hide away. Sometimes it was seeing them, in their hurt, hurt others. And the teams on these trips are not fair. Me and a few chaperones against 50 of them. There is no tapping out once you have told a young person you care, and that your care is rooted in your faith in Christ. Those are high stakes and high stakes can result in deep weariness.
But gosh I would be lying if I said I don’t miss it. Because in each of those weary travels, often when I least expected it, the Spirit would bring forth the fruit of joy. Joy in a mask coming down, joy in liberation, joy in healing, joy in friendship, joy in acceptance, joy in forgiveness. (I also learned joy is a bit of a night owl 😉)
Joy is not slippery like happiness– it has traction. It leaves a mark on your soul. Some youth have wearied me for a day and some for years. Some have claimed their belovedness in the evening only to lose their grasp by the next morning. To love is to sometimes grow weary.
But my prayer is that joy has left its mark on these kids–as it has on me. The journey–literal and figurative–can be exhausting, and to agree to love folks along the way almost guarantees weariness. But we continue using these little interruptions of joy to find our way home together.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
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