yesterday i was sitting in the back at church. not the back row in the sanctuary, but the pew in the foyer, where latecomers and moms with babies. 3 high schoolers squirmed next to me. they'd ditched the church service all summer, but somehow i managed to sit with them before they could make a getaway. i felt a little bit like a sheepdog, and i laughed to myself, while straining to hear what was going on in the service. they whispered to each other, ate cookies someone had brought in a large ziploc bag. i could tell they didn't quite know what to do.
when one of them finally let out a loud sigh of exasperation, and mumbled about how her life was being sucked away, i turned to them and asked, "do you guys want to get out of here?" their eyes widened in surprise. and we ducked out the back door, arm in arm. they were so relieved. we found another girl who was also skipping the service but at least reading "the screwtape letters" and dragged her along with us. we sat in the prayer garden and talked - it was the longest i had talked to these kids all summer (it's been a bit of a lonely summer for me, ministry-wise). i mostly listened. asked them about why they didn't like the service - "because it's BORING!" "i hate hymns!" "i want to pray my own way, not what they already wrote in the bulletin." i understood - these were answers that i would have given earlier in my life.
it was a good morning. i was glad to spend it with them and i took more than a little bit of pleasure in doing something different. it is interesting to consider how one moves from this position of a questioning, restless teenager to a deeper place of faith (and still being questioning and restless there too). i think this job, more than anything else, entails being a listener, being a witness (in the sense of being an observer not in the evangelist sense), and being present.