I feel bad that I haven’t posted recently. I know it’s not that big a deal in the overall scheme of things, but it has been an issue on my mind these past few days. Honestly, I’ve been pretty busy as of late. There’s so many projects and things that need to get done. And as a result, it has been almost 2 full weeks since my last real blog. I apologize a thousand times.
I had a realization this weekend. As you probably have already gathered, I am a youth worker in the city of Elizabeth. Actually, I am one of many leaders in one of many groups of which The Bridge Youth Ministries comprises. It seems, in recent months, that I have had a more overseeing/administrating role thrust upon me. This is nothing of my choosing, nor do I necessarily want it, but I accept the role as it has befallen me. Now, I’m not the one “in charge” of the group I work in (Midtown) and I don’t pretend to be, but it seems that many people come to me for organization and even for clearance on what to do certain nights, especially when Harold (our pastor) is absent due to his musical tour.
I say all that to say that I do spend a significant amount of time setting things up and preparing, and then making sure everything runs properly. As a result, I sometimes feel quite removed from actual interaction with the youth, though I do still get to do it a bit. Well, as circumstances would have it, due to the fire at the Liberty we are not currently able to meet there. (Side note: There was no really bad damage and we should hopefully not be too delayed in moving back in fully). We are meeting with a different Bridge, Bridge 23, for the month of December and then we will take up residence in School #2 for the start of 2008 and hopefully not tarry there too long before we can move into Liberty.
Since we are meeting with a different Bridge, we (the Midtown staff) are not the ones running the show, so to speak. I had no major responsibility this past week other than to be there. And so I actually had a whole night to hang out with kids. It was refreshing. I got to speak to a few, but spent a majority of time with one in particular who has some significant circumstances surrounding them as of late. It was great to just sit there and listen to their story and share thoughts with them. It was free and alive and the community our soul’s crave, of interaction with others and helping those who need it, was there. It was unforced and, really, was a breath of fresh air. It reminded me of what “youth ministry” is all about.
As did the events of the following morning. It was Gail’s birthday earlier this week. Gail is another youth in The Bridge whom I’ve known for quite some time now. I got to hang out with Gail on Saturday morning. We had some pancakes. And then we were able to talk for a bit. I haven’t seen her in awhile due to her insane schedule because she’s a pretty beastly soccer player. We got to talk about her college plans, SAT’s, scholarships, Mountain Dew, her recent birthday, The Bridge itself, her family and friends, etc. And then we got to look at some quality graffiti affixed to the wall of a local bowling alley. It was a great morning, and it further reminded me of how much I like simply hanging out with teenagers. It’s one of the things I was born to do. Even at work this week, I was talking to someone about these very events of the weekend and blurted out, “It sure is more fulfilling than being here.” (I am not shy about my lack of fulfillment at my current employer, though I don’t usually vocally assert this while there). And so I realize that there’s little more I’d like to spend my time doing than hanging out and talking to people… hearing their stories, helping where I can, trying to make a difference… and if they’re teenagers it’s even better.
Later that same Saturday we had a planning meeting for The Bridge to discuss what we are going to be doing in 2008 as well as to get some ideas out for Retreat(8). It was a pretty good meeting, though I can foresee that 2008 is going to be a very busy year. I kind of look forward to it. I have felt somewhat idle this past year. In reality, the entire 2007 has been somewhat of a break for The Bridge. We realized that we needed a rest because we are constantly pushing so hard and driving with great momentum. It felt to me, since we were so relaxed this year, that we might actually be losing some ground in what we are trying to accomplish. I’ve realized, though, over the past two or three days something interesting about this issue. This is the 7th year of The Bridge’s existence. There is a story in the book of Leviticus, where God tells Moses that the people of Israel are to farm and work the land as they normally do for six years. Then, on the seventh year they must give the land a rest. A Sabbath, just as the people were to observe a Sabbath on the seventh day of the week.
The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. (Leviticus 25:1-5 NIV)
This “seventh year rest,” or sabbatical, is known as the shimita. We now know that the earth does, in fact, need a rest periodically in order to regain and replenish all that is lost in planting and harvesting – the same as a person needs a rest to replenish and rejuvenate their soul in order to effectively face another week. Sabbath – Shimita – is given to put back what is used up in the daily activities and work of life. Is it coincidence that this year of rest came for us exactly seven years from when we began? I think not. It happened almost without effort. The natural rhythms of life and ministry told us to take it easy, and we simply listened to what was already there, without even thinking “sabbath.” And so, as the seventh year, our sabbath, our shimita, comes to a close, I’m excited for what will come in 2008. The “land,” the ministry, has had it’s rest and is ready for another six years of planting and harvesting. I, for one, am excited.
May peace be with you.