Sunday, April 06, 2008

To stand alone...

I attended the birthday party of a 16 year old student last night. About twenty of his classmates were there. This student and his friends are your "above average" teens. They are from strong families. These families are people of faith. All the students are home schooled. They are not a cliquey group and are open to each other and their peers. They play Wii and X-box, listen to lots of music, carry cell phones, text while in a conversation, work part-time jobs, dress in fashion, have verbal banter and jabs between themselves and seem to care for each other.

As the evening went on, the young man who was turning 16 interacted with each guest and was a delightful host. After cake and ice cream his parents added a group game. We used a book by Doug Fields
to get things started, "Would you rather...?". It asks questions that can get conversations bubbling with students, adults too for that matter.

  • Would you rather be rich or famous?
  • Would you rather eat chocolate or vanilla ice cream?
  • Would you rather walk on the moon or be President for one week?
  • Would you rather die instantly without notice or slowly surrounded by friends and family?
We played this game for about 45mins to an hour and then came to a final question.
I literally chose this question at random. As soon as I saw the words I knew this was a great way to end an evening with a great bunch of students. It was simple, yet very deep.

"Would you rather have no values or no friends?"

I asked the question and then let the it sink in for a few moments. I then asked them to make the choice. Once they had made their decision I was not shocked. I then remembered that regardless of how great the kids may be they are still humans. Humans that desire to be loved, accepted and forgiven. Out of the twenty kids, all but three decided it would be better to have friends than have values.

The deep human need to be loved. The deep human need to be accepted. The deep human need to be part of a group of other humans that need to be loved and accepted. The deep need to be in relationship.

You could be thinking, "They are young, they have not learned how to stand for what they believe." That could be true, but as I stood there I realized that I was just as guilty as they. In the past, I have chosen the illusion of friendship over my core group of values and beliefs. I have compromised what I know to be right to feel a pat on my back or hear approving accolades. I have turned a blind eye to behavior that is NOT acceptable to one of God's kids to have a ally for the future. After many years and many "friendships", I learned a bitter lesson...It is better to have NO friends and a deep sense of knowing who I am rather than have many "friends" that I have tried to pacify with wrong headed thinking and belief.

My friends today are fewer than in the past. I could probably count them on one hand. I no longer have a need to be a social butterfly sipping the nectar of false friendship. I now understand that deep relationship does not mean changing who I am to be loved, accepted and forgiven. I have also realized that I can care for someone from afar, without letting them dictate who and what I will be.

The students at the party are all great kids. I hope they will learn quickly, it is better to be alone with your values than in a crowd and not know yourself. I pray they will understand that true love, acceptance and forgiveness comes from a homeless preacher who died on a cross and lives eternally. I yearn for them to live and walk in true community and have abiding relationships, even if they are few.

This is a video some of the students made this past year in a drama class...may we all say good bye to self.

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