My heart races as the anticipation grows. My outgoing demeanor is gone as the fear and tension builds in my body. I feel like there’s a weight on my chest. Breathing is hard. I tell myself that everything will be okay but I still can’t relax. Before I know it I’m trapped. I strain against the devices that hold me down, restricting my movements and freedom. Now the earth is moving beneath my feet. I yell I want to stop but all I hear is laughter. For a moment all I see is blue sky before the world falls away beneath me. I feel years being taken off of my life. The pain is excruciating. It is my greatest fear. Cedar point is my hell and Millennium Force lies in the 7th circle. I will do this over and over again today not because I wish to, but because of something I love more than myself. My youth group.
It’s just part of a normal weekend for me. What was supposed to be a quiet weekend with the family turned into a Saturday afternoon birthday party with high school students followed by “We’re coming to your house to watch movies, tell your wife we want cookies”. By the time they all get there pizza and three dozen home made cookies await. I kick them out so I can get some sleep in order to wake up at 5am to take them to the amusement park.
I’m not paid to do this. I don’t do what I do because of some compulsion to ensure my eternal salvation or collect stars in my crown. I really can’t explain why I do it. Like asking my why I love my wife or boys, there aren’t words that can encompass what is in my heart that drives me to youth ministry. It’s easier to respond with “why wouldn’t I do it”. I’ve seen the lives I change. This year two more of my former students begin 12 months abroad as student missionaries. “The best years of my life were in your youth group” are the messages I receive back as they become adults. That’s all I need to keep going.
I’ve talked with other members of our church asking if they want to be involved in ministry. They get a fearful look in their eyes “I don’t want to do as much as you do”. I smile and reassure them they only have to do as much as they want. They’re still unsure but say they’ll think about it. That’s always a “no”.
But what if more Christian’s weren’t afraid to do something outside of themselves? What if more Christian’s took what they enjoy doing personally, and engaged others to do it with them? It’s not always about Bible studies and folding bulletins in the church office. My ministry spends more time paintballing, watching movies, and playing video games than reading scripture. They are all things that I would be doing anyway, so why not use it to connect with others who are feeling alone and unloved in a very judgmental world? They will only believe that Jesus loves them if they see that you love them first. That you’re willing to have a panic attack 100 feet off the ground doing something you hate in order to make them feel loved.