Today was a beautiful fall day - and since I wasn't traveling/speaking at a conference, I decided to hit the bike trails. I stopped at a picnic shelter for a water break when the trails became blanketed with dozens of high school kids walking home from school. I couldn’t help but notice a girl walking by herself, head hanging, sad and depressed-looking. She sat down at the picnic table near me.
After a short while, I heard myself say (yep, weird), “Where do you go to school?” She looked up at me as if to say, “I can’t believe you’re asking me a question. I’m busy listening to my music. Bug off.”
Girl: “Uhhhh – South.”
Me: “What grade?”
Girl: “Uhhhhh – ni-i-i-i-nth?” (As if she was asking ME the question.)
Me: “Do you like school?”
Girl: Shook her head.
Kids continued to flock down the trails. Many “colorful” words swirled like the fall leaves. A group of athletes jogged, cussed, and taunted each other. Next - a girl loudly and boldly described her plans to beat up another girl as her “group” listened intently.
Me: “Wow, it must be hard to be a student. There are some tough kids out there.”
Girl: Nodded (head hanging).
Me: “Do you go to church around here anywhere?”
Girl: “Pffff. No!”
Me: “There are a lot of great youth groups. You might really enjoy it.
Girl: “Pffff. No. I don’t go to church.”
Me: “Sooo, why not?”
Girl: “Uhhh – I don’t believe in God (gawwwwd) is why.”
Me: “Seriously? When you look at all these beautiful colors, do you think they just appeared from some explosion or something?”
Me: “God created them. God created YOU. He loves you so much. And He’s always there for you. What do you do when you feel empty inside? Do you ever feel sad or lonely?”
Girl: “I have my music.”
Me: “Music doesn't love you. Music is just - music. God loves you. God knows all about you. God created you so special and so unique. Music can’t do that for you. Only God can give you true joy and peace.
About that time a group of girls showed up on the trails and asked if she had a cigarette lighter as they motioned for her to join them.
When she got up I said, “Hey, don’t ever forget this conversation.”
As I climbed back on my bike, I couldn't help but wonder - if she actually walked through the doors of a church this Sunday, would she feel accepted in a youth group? Would she feel accepted in my own church’s youth group? Would she feel loved by our kids – or does she actually feel more accepted and loved by the group of kids on the trail? Would we “motion for her to join us?”
As I rode toward home on the trail, I noticed a high school boy walking by himself – head hanging, sad and depressed-looking. Another one.
My heart ACHES for these kids! I could hardly remove the lump in my throat all the way back home as I prayed for our teens. There is so much pressure on them. They’re facing so many difficulties. I realized how much Satan gains victory if he can capture them when they’re young. Kudos to youth pastors. Kudos to parents who place family first. Kudos to teens who truly care about other teens.
Please pray for these kids. They’re our future, they’re our past, and they’re our “present.” What “gift” can you share with a teen this week?
“Motion for someone to join you” this Sunday at your church! You just might change someone's life.