Tomorrow we have a Preview Day for prospective students at Providence Hall. It looks like close to 40 jr highers are showing up to spend the day and get a taste of high school life with us. This is the first time we've done something like this, and I'm excited.
Sometimes people say to me, "I don't know how you work with jr. highers... I hated jr. high." I don't really see how your own experience of jr. high should color your feelings about jr highers themselves, but oh well... What I usually say is something to the effect of, yes, I didn't really enjoy jr high either. But I've worked with students for so long that I have seen the other side. I've gotten to see how many of them turn out as they get older. So the investment, though there are no guarantees, makes the risk worth it to me...
As it says in Psalm 27:13-14,
I remain confident of this:Seeing the fruit of one's labors, the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, even only once in awhile, is so encouraging. And that is a gift I've been given far more than I deserve. Just this week I had 4 different wonderful reminders...
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
Early in the week I received an email from a student who graduated six years ago, who is now working with jr high students at her church on the other side of the country. This is part of what she wrote to me:
Thanks again for all you did in my life... just so you know, at the end of every email from now on you will be getting one of these sappy "thank you's" because I'm understanding more and more how much hard work goes in to really loving and discipling kids and just how hard it is in general!I asked her to tell me about her girls, and got a very long email detailing all the sweet quirks and challenges of each one. It was lovely to hear Jesus in her words.
A few days later I received a phone call from a guy who is away at college, who met, of all people, another one of my former students who is now teaching at the same college (that makes me sound so old!) He couldn't really wrap his brain around the whole concept that I loved him and I loved this other guy so many years before and how long I've been at this thing. I saved the message on my voicemail archive because it was just the best.
Then tonight I heard from another student (I'm telling you, this was a good week!) who is student teaching and trying to decide between many great options for her next steps. We talked through teaching, campus ministry, and other things. Just hearing her excitement, while treasuring in my head the mental picture of her loading on the bus for camp as a 5th grader, gave me deep, deep joy.
This morning I read Psalm 73 before church. Every word, though written many centuries before, seemed uniquely addressed to me. As I finish up my day though, these are the verses from it that sum it all up best:
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
Working with youth is like the winding road at the top of this post - twisting, with some treacherous turns and many unknowns. Though we may get carsick a few times, these are also the kind of roads that take you to stunning mountaintop views. I like that part.
So I enter tomorrow seeing those jr highers not really for what they are like now, but for who they might become. Pretty great stuff.