|Photo by Steven Van Loy|
In high school, my friends and I were lucky enough to have lots of loving Christian adults surrounding us. Our youth group was small, and none of our youth leaders had a theological degree or got paid for what they were doing. They just loved hanging out with us and talking with us about God. Our youth leader, Mr. Grace (I mean, really??!), showed us God as he allowed us to ask deep questions and work out our faith as we went through the challenges of growing up. I remember one time when we were all at a youth conference, and he was so tired that he had fallen asleep while we were all in the room jumping up and down, listening to music and talking and singing. We had worn him out! We wore out our youth leaders on many occasions, as our favorite thing to do was have sleepovers at the church. Mrs. Gasparri would join us every time, reading a book as we ran around, eating Pixi Stix and playing games.
For me, it all began in 3rd grade. My Sunday School teacher, Miss Dew, prayed a prayer with us to accept Jesus into our hearts. I remember very clearly sitting in the tiny chairs with our hands folded, heads bowed, praying the most important prayer of our lives.
In middle and high school, we were blessed with so many amazing adults, including Mr. Grace, Jill and Tony, Michelle, Pam and Doug, among others. They cared about us, forgave us, and taught us through their lessons of faith and life. Most of the time, we'd just be hanging out at the Gasparri's or the Morehouses' home and we'd get into a deep discussion of faith that they may not have been expecting. They opened up their homes and hearts to us, and reminded us that, along with our own parents, they were there for us.
When Mr. Gasparri passed away last week, it was sad on many levels. Sad to lose an extended "family" member and sad to think about the fact that four of my friends and I have lost parents already, before our 40th birthdays. One friend has actually lost both of her parents. It doesn't seem right. As I approach 40, it has also added to my "mid-life crisis." I'm realizing that if I died at their ages, I only have about 20 years left to live. If I live to an older age, I've probably lived about half of my life or a little less. This scares me. Not because I've lived a bad life or because I'm scared to die, but because I feel like I have so much more to do here on this earth. I want to share Jesus and live for Him in big ways.
For now, I'll take a deep, trusting breath. I'll lean in to God, knowing that He knows what He is doing. He put some amazing adults on my path and He will continue walking with me for all my days. Let's be those faithful adults for the teens and children that come across our paths. We may be the only Jesus that they see, so let's make Him known through our love.