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I've been set free from F.O.Y.A.S.!!
I tried to keep the wall up but they stole my heart.

There's a group at our church that has won me over.  I know that sounds sorta crazy.  Nobody should have to win their pastor over.  It was kind of sad but the bottom line was, I needed healing.  It's not a requirement for someone to love me for me to pastor them.  Really, I'm not that shallow or babyfied, and I do realize those Christ gave his life for ended up crucifiying Him.  I'm also not Christ, and although I don't have to be loved and adored to pastor or invest in someone, I dread suffering like the next person.  I think we all tend to try to protect ourselves, which doesn't necessarily involve hate, lack of forgiveness or bitterness ~ you just go in your shell because you fear pain.
I didn't hate this group of people, I was just scared to deeply love them again, to move beyond the "professional aspects of doing my job" to taking them into my heart.  Leading people works best when you deeply love them.  One of my favorite authors, Elie Wiesel once said, "the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.  I didn't hate young adults, I just didn't care anymore.   I won't go into detail as to why, but I will share in generalities so you understand the significance of God's work of healing and grace in my life.

For quite some time  I wasn't thinking biblically and allowed painful experience to trump scripture in my life.  (Always a dangerous place to be!)  I had zero faith in most young adults with the exception of the ones in my household.  In his great wisdom Dustin gently encouraged me, "Mom, the issue is not age, it's character."  I didn't want to hear it for a while, my heart was so raw.   He even came up to the microphone during one prayer time at Celebration and prayed that  God would "break down the walls of age in people's hearts and show them it's not about age."  He prayed, "Make us one church, not divided by any generations, but unified in You."  Yeah, I was proud   of my son but at the same time I wanted to get out of the sanctuary and run far, far away.  

I never mistreated this group, I just didn't open up my life to them deeply anymore.  I felt that my continued efforts to serve as any kind of up close mentor to them was a futile exercise and my time would be better invested in people who had been around the block a few  years and had already come to the realization that they didn't know everything.  I wasn't alone in thinking things like this.  I met a lot of seasoned people in ministry who told me they felt the same way.  This just kept me smug in my resolve to stay indifferent. 

The first thing that happened to crack my hardened heart was when Rebecca (Becca) Dearborn came into my life.  I knew her for years because Larry and I were friends with her parents, George & Irene Dearborn, who are pastors.  But when she started attending CC, she asked me if I would personally serve as a mentor.  She has fantastic parents who have raised her well and Godly parents are the most important mentors but it also helps to have other influences in our lives and she asked me to be one of those for her.  Ugh.  I inwardly chafed when she asked me.

Becca was cute and sweet as a button, and she loves Jesus, but when she asked me to mentor her and spend time investing in her  I sang a little private song in my head that went something like this, "I said I wasn't gonna dooooooooooo this, I said I wasn't gonna doooooooooooo this again..."

Becca in slums of Africa on our trip this past year
I was already having visions in my head about what could happen as a result of really investing again in the life of a young adult, and the emotional heartache that was sure to ultimately come my way from it, as well as the possible clean-up that would be necessary in the church.  But, her love slowly chiseled away at my wall.   The fortress in my heart really came down the day she said this to me:  "PD, I really don't know whatever happened to you that you don't trust my generation, but please let me apologize on behalf of us for letting you down.  I'm sorry for whatever we did to make you leery of investing in us, in me.  I promise to not betray that trust if you just give me a chance."  That was heartfelt and gutsy of her to say that to me. I almost fell on the floor. On that day I decided to open my heart and let the walls down.  I even ended up inviting her to go to Africa with me -- something I would have NEVER been open to prior to this. Honestly with the attitude I had before I would have taken an unbelieving 96 year old from a nursing home before I took a young adult.  I recently told Becca that she was the person God used to start the healing process in my life on this issue.  I never said anything to anybody at church about it but a few people just "knew".  People aren't stupid...they figure things out.  One day a close friend of mine in the church said to me, "PD, it's no secret what God is doing in your heart through bringing Becca to the church and more importantly, to you."    My husband said he knew this from the day she walked into CC.

Becca, ministering with me in Mathare Valley Slums
By the way, Becca did date my oldest son Dustin at one point, and they don't anymore but our relationship is still good.  We made it clear before they even dated that our relationship would transcend anything that happened with them -- whether they worked out as a couple or not - we wouldn't let it detract from God bringing us into relationship, both her and I, and our families.  And I'm so grateful for that.  Both of them are amazing people -- they just aren't called by God to be romantically involved - but they are both incredible, Godly individuals. 

So on the heels of Becca, they all started coming in droves, all these young adults. Over the past eight months (since June 27, exactly) they have streamed into our church like crazy!  I was going to name them all in this blog post.  Then when I started typing names I realized I can't keep up with them all, there are so many.  I will  unknowingly leave somebody out and I don't want to.  Seriously, it's such a God-thing how many of these 18-29 year olds we have!!!  They are one of the biggest groups in our church now, and more importantly the most involved in the overall ministry life of CC.  They do things I always thought young adults could do if they really wanted to.

A few months ago I was sitting on the front row of the church after we had an amazing service, with many of these young adults involved in every way possible  and Candy came and sat next to me and she said, "They're different PD."  And I said, "who?"  She said, "This group of young adults."  I just nodded.  She went on and said, "God is doing something.  He's doing a work of healing in your heart and I believe this group who has come in is a part of it.  They are a group of young men and women set apart from many in their generation."

She was right  they are different.

I'm enjoying investing in their lives, without fear.  They are sponges -- hungry, listening, craving wisdom.  When you tell them something they don't want to hear, they are actually grateful that you took the time to tell them.  They are thankful for those who invest in them.  

Dustin was right.  It's not about age -- it's about character. 
Pastors need healing sometimes too.  We don't always open up and put all our junk on the table, but the truth is, if you cut us open we will bleed.  We're not immune to the need for grieving something we've lost, needing closure, moving forward, receiving know, that whole process.

I am officially healed of the fear-of-young-adults-syndrome!  Thank you, young adults of CC, for being patient with me and loving me even when I was cold.  I'm so sorry.  Without your warmth, I would probably still be cold.  You guys were Jesus with skin on, to me.  I've learned from you and I love you!   


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