How many words does it take to complete a chapter? One of the challenging parts of being a youth leader is helping students realize when it’s time to turn life’s pages. You see, it’s easy to get complacent in places of comfort but one of my favorite leaders, Frederick Douglas, said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Quite often the struggle with progress is our heart’s desire to flip back and stay or our mind’s fear of starting over.
The other day I noticed childlike writing on a brown piece of construction paper attached to my refrigerator. Upon closer review, I recognized that the paper had a scripture verse on one side and a bunch of scribbling as well on the opposite side. I asked my oldest son about the paper. He explained that he was asked to recite John 3:16 for a program at our church and that his best memory technique was to write down what he was memorizing. A few days before his presentation, he sat down at the kitchen table and started writing his verse. His little brother and sister noticed him writing and decided to color on his paper. Instead of getting frustrated with his siblings, my son waited until they were done coloring. When they finished, he simply flipped the paper over and completed his verse.
Youth pastors see Jesus in everything! Here is what I learned.
1. When learning to turn life’s pages, we must realize that everyone is going to have an opinion but you don’t have to accept them all. The bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).” It also says, “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.” (Proverbs 14:15) We must exercise patience with instruction and wisdom in decision. It is ok to receive advice and pause for reflection before moving but we must be mindful not to get stuck. Growth is a process and must be done with divine diligence.
2. When learning to turn life’s pages, we must determine the difference between reflecting and remaining. More often than not, people turn back their pages to review but get stuck because they romanticize the good moments and reject the negative memories. Even if there were a few fun days, they should not outweigh the majority of detrimental days in the relationship, the activity, or the lifestyle that initiated the desire to turn the page.
3. When learning to turn life’s pages recognize that you will never finish what you never begin. After the page has been turned, the blank pages have to be used. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Before there was earth there was God. When God created it, He didn’t leave himself out. God is in it all. He is just as much an integral part of the world as He is an integral part of us. Colossians 1:27 says, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This is why we can fill our pages with hope and promise and opportunity. He is with us. The book of our lives and the lives of our students has a great author and He does not intentionally create confusion. There is certain peace and direction when the author is consulted.
It is important that we encourage youth with the promises of God and remind them that pages can be turned. When a student that is stuck in a chapter approaches you, give them your ear before you give them your advice. Allow them to unpack their circumstance through open-ended questions. Often the student knows the answer -- they just need help talking it out. It can be difficult to move on and there are things in life that even time won’t completely heal, like the pain from a loved one that has passed. Just remember that God’s peace and healing is available to everyone that asks. He is a sustainer and a keeper. Focus their thoughts on him when they are distraught. Our life’s book is full of chapters and some chapters are longer than others. Nevertheless when we truly trust in God our life’s story is filled with hope, adventure, and a two-word ending – Well done.
William Cumby is the youth pastor for The Fountain of Praise in Houston, TX. For more information about William Cumby, visit WilliamCumby.com