It seems to be a youth worker's favorite past time to complain about the state of our students. We work so hard to put together a ministry that is relevant, meaningful, and deep, only to experience that they could care less. In fact, it actually seems like they don't even care about anything. They are apathetic, selfish and entitled.
If not a moment too soon, Thanksgiving is this week and this is the perfect opportunity for us to teach on the topic of thankfulness. Because of the sorry state of our students, there could not be a more relevant and important topic.
Except for one important point . . .
This lesson on thankfulness is not a lesson that only our students need to hear.
It is actually a lesson that we need to hear. Complaining, bitterness, self-centeredness seem to be the character traits of youth workers way more than they are for students. Whenever I hang out with or talk with my colleagues, it often spirals into a gripe session. And in some ways, there are plenty to gripe about; our salaries, parents, lack of participation from students, our bosses not respecting us, feeling stuck professionally, being just the youth guy, fill in the list.
What would happen if we took our offense at others not being thankful enough for us and the great ministries we provide, and didn't hide our self-righteous rebuke in the form of a lesson and used it to actually correct ourselves, and actually allow space for God to tune our heart.
James says that every good and perfect gift comes from Jesus. Every single one. Every gift, every blessing, every thing in our life is from Him. And how cool that even the garbage that gets thrown on us still can be used and redeemed by Jesus and used for Him and His glory.
The truth is that this kick in the pants is actually not from me at all. I love being self absorbed and bitter. It is my wife, who gave the lesson at youth group this last week that God has been using to reveal this hidden part of my soul. She has been reading this book called, A Thousand Gifts, and it has been rocking her world as she has made it a goal to come up with her own 1000 gift list over this next year.
How long is your thankful list?
She had the students write up a list of 25 things they were thankful for in just a few minutes. When the time was up, many students had not come close to completing their list. We can all come up with lists of things that bother us, but can we really come up with things we are thankful for? I am one of those who have a hard time listing it out. This quick test reveals a lot about our heart. Thankfully for hearts that have atrophied a little bit, thankfulness is the fastest remedy. As this week unfolds and we lean into Thanksgiving, I for one, am going to make it a spiritual practice to list out all the ways that I have been blessed.
So, instead of bashing on our students, maybe we can start this Thanksgiving week doing the spiritual work of actually being thankful for the multitudes of blessings that have been given to us. This is an important spiritual discipline, because thankfulness is the best and easiest cure for apathy, bitterness, and selfishness. Thankfulness grows our heart for God and for those around us. And a bigger heart has been my prayer for the past year!
Happy Thanksgiving! May you grow in true thankfulness as you enjoy time with your family and friends this coming week!