Dear Future Self –
I want you to remember this week ten years from now.
This is the week you made a controversial parenting decision. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It isn’t the first you’ve made. It won’t be the last. But this is the one I want you to remember.
This week, you decided to turn your high school youth ministry’s delivery of a Welcome to America Pack to a newly arriving refugee family into a family affair. To do so, you blew past bedtimes (a bigger deal than you might think with a four-year old) and risked taking a tired kid to school.
But you did so because you believe it’s important.
And I want you, future self, to remember why.
10 years from now, Hope will be 14 and Kendall will be 10.
I know that seems hard to believe, but it’s true.
And while I hope that both girls will always love spending time with their family, I’m guessing that ten years from now, Hope’s primary objective won’t simply be “to be with you” like it is now.
So 10 years from now, if refugees are still being admitted to our country (Dear Lord, I pray that’ll be true), Hope may not insist on going with you to deliver a welcome pack. She might instead prefer to go to basketball practice or play rehearsal, do homework, study for the test she’s worried about, or watch TV.
But that, future self, is what I want to remind you of.
I can see how easy it'll be to get swept up in the importance of those things – especially when you live in a community that not only values them but revolves around them.
But, future self, you know better than that.
None of these things are as important as giving a refugee family all the supplies they need to begin life here in America. None of these things are as important as showing a refugee family who's been through hell a warm welcome and looking them in the eye and saying, “I am SO glad you’re here.”
Oh sure, coaches may disagree. They may threaten your girls with less playing time.
Other parents might even say you’re ruining their futures.
I mean, how will they ever earn that athletic scholarship to college if they’re hanging out with refugees rather than their basketball team?
But, future self, you know the truth.
In ten years, you will have been doing youth ministry for nearly 30 years (Wow!) and in that time, you will have seen two, maybe three, of your teens receive college athletic scholarships – despite how much their family’s lives revolved around the courts and the fields.
And that one might seem easy for you. After all, you don’t love sports (although who knows, your girls might).
But, future self, I want to remind you the same is true of things you do love – like musical theater.
In all your years in youth ministry, you’ve seen NO kids who participated in their high school theater program go onto Broadway, even the ones who majored in theater in college.
That’s right. NONE.
Sure, Hope and Kendall might be the one in a million who makes it, but early indications suggest they won’t be.
Hope loves to perform but clams up on stage. She loves to sing but is a little pitchy.
And that’s OK.
She can love something and not pursue it as a career.
So, what about grades, future self?
You do value those.
You were, after all, valedictorian back in the day.
But, future self, you readily admit that you wish you wouldn’t have known your class rank throughout high school because you worried more about it than about learning.
One of the things you want most for Hope and Kendall is to LOVE learning.
And you know how your girls will learn best, even ten years from now?
By doing things.
Ten years from now, they’ll learn far more from meeting a refugee family than they will from reading about the refugee crisis online or learning about it in school.
Ten years from now, they’ll learn what it means to follow Jesus best when they actually go and follow Jesus – especially if you and Doug do it with them.
So, future self, ten years from now, when the girls are older and there seems to be more at stake, please remember this.
It’s OK to take a night off from basketball practice or play rehearsal or studying in order to go meet a refugee family.
When life gets overwhelmingly busy, remember, future self, you always have time to serve.
What’s more, neither basketball practice NOR play rehearsals NOR studying actually have the ability to change a life the way delivering a welcome pack does.
This, future self, you know from experience.
Oh, don’t get me wrong.
Hope and Kendall might not go into refugee ministry as a career (although you’ve seen students who did!), but through a welcome pack delivery, their lives will still be changed:
- They’ll learn first-hand about topics that are populating our news.
- They’ll see the cost of war.
- They’ll exercise their faith-in-action muscles.
- They’ll develop empathy for those who have survived trauma and hardship.
- They’ll learn how to welcome people who are not like them (something they can immediately apply to every other facet of their lives).
- They’ll be placed in a situation where they are immensely uncomfortable, which is how they’ll grow best.
- They’ll learn how to communicate with others in ways that transcend language.
- They’ll learn what it means to serve others, with no strings attached.
And that, future self, is a pretty good return on one night’s work… No matter how old or how busy your kids are.
So, future self, say NO to the pressure to center your life around extracurriculars and school and instead, continue to center it around serving others.
Your Current Self
- 12 Books You Should Read
- A blessing for youth leaders nurturing faith beyond youth group
- 8 ways to help mission teams conclude more than “poor people are happy”
- The fantasy youth ministry candidate
- What students need most when they’re stuck spiritually
- The tearing of the curtain
- How do you not hate them?
- Messy Ashes
- What it means to be a Bradbury
- The (false) unity of 9-12