Since this is the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, I’m doing a series of posts about people I love. If you missed Tuesday’s letter to our baby, click here!
To my youth group of years gone by,
You taught me friendship, humor, loyalty, bravery, steadfastness and hope. And, of course, how to play Joker and ninja ball. We stood by each other in line at countless G-rated movies, in line at the McDonalds on Shields Road before bowling trips, and in line to hug our friends whose hearts had been touched by the gospel. We sat in a quiet, rickety, old chapel building and shared stories and tears and laughter and, most importantly, our hearts.
I know more about your home lives than you remember. You know more about me than you’d probably like or that I’d want you to. We’ve seen each other fail and succeed. We’ve seen breakups and weddings. We’ve seen pretty much every emotion known to teenagers, and those are innumerable, aren’t they?
Yet while I knew you, better than I even knew myself at that stage of life, where are you now?
You’re noticeably absent when I go home for the holidays. We may not even be Facebook friends anymore, but if we are, most of your posts are filled with things that are so unrecognizable to me. You’ve built a life that seems so foreign to the you I once knew. The you who loved singing songs of praise in a dark auditorium. The you who sat and listened attentively during teen devos (which were always going on!) or Monday night summer devotionals. Once, you couldn’t get enough of time with God’s people. You devoted hours, every week, to worship, to devos, to youth rallies, to Lads to Leaders practice. And those were just the things that had the spiritual focus. We sat together during lunch at school. We played on the same sports teams. We went bowling and out to eat and to concerts and sporting events. We did everything together, for years. But where are you now?
I know we had a lot of growing to do, at least, I know I did. The person I was then wasn’t the person I wanted to be. But the person you are now wasn’t the person you wanted to be. We always wanted to have our hearts pricked by the message of Jesus. We wanted to have Christian spouses, kids who loved the Lord. What happened to those plans? What got lost along the way?
Please know that I love you and I think about you, often. I think of the days we experienced ridiculous things — like the tents falling in in North Carolina, the van breaking down on the way to a youth rally, the SWAT skits, the puppet practices, the Opryland hotel hijinks — and I remember them all fondly. Yet the friendships we formed weren’t nearly as important as the relationship we had with God. So know that I long for you to have that. I long for us to have the same relationship we did — brothers and sisters in Christ, constantly growing, constantly pushing each other forward. Failing, but trying again. Falling, but picking each other up.
Maybe life just got away from you. Maybe you’ve forgotten the vows you made when you were young. Today, I just ask you to remember. Remember the tears we shed over our mistakes. Remember the joy we felt when someone else wanted to receive salvation. Remember your God, the God who loves you and wants a relationship with you, regardless of how far you’ve wandered. And remember that I love you — we all love you — because we’re all still a family. Though miles and years separate, our bond will never shrink. Our memories will forever be cemented in our minds. And remember that I’m still here — if you need a safe space, a place to talk, a shoulder to cry on, or simply a quote from Monty Python — I’m still here. For anything. Anytime. Always.