On Wednesday night I went back to high school. I’ve done that a few times since graduating. I once went and visited an old teacher, actually lectured in her classroom about Sudan and Darfur. I’ve been to a couple choir concerts at my old school and I think I walked the halls once just to reminisce. That was a bizarre experience I don’t care to repeat–mostly because high school itself was a bizarre experience. It was full of laughter and chaos. There were mission trips, retreats and friendships that I thought would last forever. But there were some rough low times of displacement, misunderstanding and serious pain. It was a confusing adventure. When I graduated, I swore I was never coming back. Not to high school, not to Littleton, not even to Colorado. I applied only to out of state universities and I had a plan for leaving the country.
Ironically, I’m back in Colorado, attending the only grad school program I applied to when I put my sights on those three little letters: P.h.D.
And, on Wednesday, I went back to high school.
I was terrified. I had two presentations at school that day, in front of peers and many lettered professors. But nothing prepared me for the moment I entered the parking lot of my old church and realized what I had committed to. There were girls in denim shorts putting face paint on to match their tyedye shirts.* The boys were taller than me and everyone had more make up on than I’ve owned in my entire life. I was wearing chacos and a sweater; I’m very Coloradoan in that I wear chacos with everything, regardless of matching.
I could tell you about the entire night: the amazing scavenger hunt, the fact that I indirectly encouraged cheating,** or that I had two girls hug me before the night was over. But what I really want to tell you isn’t that my team won or that I somehow ended up on leadership for the “cool group,” with the one person that I worried about being on staff with.*** What I want to tell you is that as I watched those kids running around like madmen scavenging pop tart flavors for their lives, and as I watched some of them hang back for a wide variety of all too obvious reasons, I knew that this is where I was supposed to be. I never dreamed of serving at youth group. But not only did I come out of Wednesday night alive, I came out filled with energy and thrilled at the prospect of this school year.
I’m terrified still. But I’m also really excited to love some girls, give them big hugs every week and tell them that Abba loves them more than we could ever imagine. I’m excited for their stories, their redemption, their dreams and their futures. And I’m really excited that for a short time, I get to be a part of their lives.
hopefully, I don’t encourage too much cheating…
*the first night is a kick-off with colour coded teams and an immense scavenger hunt through the city
**of course I encouraged cheating! when one student looked wary of how they were getting through the obstacle course I pointed out that the judge hadn’t specifically said they couldn’t do what they were doing, so it couldn’t really be wrong. I just wanted us to win!! (and the youth group pastor’s wife smiled teasingly as she said “I like the way you think!”)
***it will be a good lesson in patience and growth to work with said individual. I’m actually excited about the chance to serve with them and eventually even grow to love them. apparently, I’m not just at youth group to work with kids. I’m also there to get some work done myself.