Each week I lead a set of support groups in one of our local alternative schools. This particular school has a rather large middle school class of 6th-8th graders who are there for disciplinary reasons. These students are typically sent to this campus for fighting, drugs, or bringing weapons to school. By far, this is my most challenging group of students.
And, it isn’t because they are bonehead middle school kids. All students that age are a little goofy, and that is to be expected. What makes this group so challenging is how much life has been stolen from them at such a young age. At the age of eleven or twelve, they know more about how to pass a drug test and cheat on a test than I do now as a 35 year old. Many are sexually active, away from home except to sleep, going to multiple parties a week.
They engage in more high-risk behavior than anyone at that age should ever think about. At such a young age, they believe their future involves moving to Colorado or Washington State so they can smoke all the pot they want to – with no (perceived) consequences.
I try to sit with them and listen, injecting as little of my own opinions as possible. Because, I believe with all my heart they don’t need more opinions from adults – they need relationships. Yet, it is so hard. I leave each week from my middle school kids heartbroken and frustrated about their plight.
So much has failed them. Their family system, peer group, perhaps even school and law enforcement has let them down in some way. Yes, they are responsible for their own actions. But, they are kids!
Then, I think about my own kids. I truly love the innocence and excitement my oldest son has towards life. Everything is awesome, exciting, and noteworthy. He doesn’t understand what being “bored” is and has no plans of slowing down. Life is new and exciting, with a bug under every rock and a wrestling match with dad around every corner.
My three year old has more life in his little finger than I have in my whole body. Yet I wonder what the world will do do his spirit as he gets older. I think every parent wonders that to some extent. Will he end up like one of the students who I work with, life being stolen from them every day?
Or, will he be someone who gives life? What if his exuberance and excitement for life could actually take life from the grave? What if how he lived brought hope and joy (like he does for me) instead of stealing it away.
I am a man who doubts a lot of what modern Christianity has to offer, but I believe with all of my heart that my boys will only bring life into this world by walking with Christ. I want our boys to know how much Jesus loves them and their friends. Being centered into this truth will propel their steps into bringing resurrection life (even if they don’t understand it theologically) into the world they live in.
This is what I want for my children. What do you want?