During Spring Break, I was able to work with a group of middle school, high school, and college students as they prayed and did service projects for neighbors around our church building. It was amazing to watch.
These young people chose to spend their week off of school serving others. 3800 homes in our community were prayed over. Over 80 service projects were completed. Relationships were initiated or strengthened.
And this year, we had a new element: a group from Brazil came and worked with us. Our students did their best to learn Portuguese and be able to communicate better. They listened well and patiently as English was translated into Portuguese. There were even times when no translation was necessary. Even though the words were not understood, the spirit of the message was. And worship was incredible. The following is a short video of one song we sung in two languages:
It is amazing to witness young people pour out their hearts in worship. It is so much fun to watch them enjoy working for others. And it is great beyond words to see them welcome the stranger.
This past weekend, I was able to spend time with a group of high school guys for our annual Man Retreat. The purpose of this weekend is to explore what it means to be a man of God. Different men from different walks of life come and share their knowledge and experience. This year, a panel of women spoke about growing up into men of God. There is a lot of time for fun and relaxation, but there is also time of service and worship. It is a great weekend.
And the best part is: it is planned by the high school students themselves. They name the speakers they want to hear from. They come up with the topics and questions. They decide what volunteer service projects they want to do. They lead the worship.
This group of teenagers has already figured out the messages they are getting from the world around them are not good enough; many of the messages are outright lies. And they recognize that. They know something is not right and they are seeking to find better answers. There is a wisdom present that far exceeds their relatively young experience.
At this point in my sobriety journey, the temptation is not so much using again. The temptation is to despair. To be cynical. To see the bad in everything.
It doesn’t lead me to want to drink, but it does lead me to want to believe life sucks and it’s not going to get any better.
And then I see a group of high school guys buying flowers and delivering them (along with hugs) to a woman grieving the loss of her mother.
And then I see a group of teenage men and women holding hands with strangers and praying.
And then a group of teenage guys tell me they want to be children of God and not just blindly accept what popular culture says about manhood.
And then I worship by listening to a song sung in a different language.
I learned early on in sobriety that I was not going to be able to thrive or even survive on my own. But for so long, I thought that just meant I would be relying on other recovering addicts—and I have relied on them to my benefit.
But what I am learning more and more is that the help I need sometimes transcends addiction and recovery. Sometimes, the help I need comes from young women and men who are willing to devote their lives to something they believe is greater than themselves.
They restore my faith.
In my drinking, I turned to alcohol to cover over all the bad that existed. If I was too sad, or too happy, or too troubled, or too bored, or too awake…I would drink. I would cover over my reality with alcohol.
In my sobriety, I turn to cynicism. I cover over all the good that exists with sarcastic reminders of how bad everything can be. I watch the news and the literal theater that politics has become and I truly think all hope is lost.
And there is a lot of help I can receive in a 12 step group, but my soul is restored when I spend time with these young people. They remind me that life is much larger than myself. They show me there is reason to have hope. They teach me what joy can come from service. They know how to have fun.
Some days, I need to be restored. Thank God for the young people who do exactly that.