Friday, May 8, 2009

Just scratches.

It's getting near the end of the school year and the stress level is rising. There are projects due and tests coming, big tests, tests that count for a third of your grade. And there are spring sports going on, practices to attend, games to win, and for these 8th graders in my group, graduation from middle school is not far away, along with the graduation dance (which may be the most stressful event of all). And then there's high school next year. And all the fears about that: will you get in classes with good teachers and with some people who are your friends? Will you be able to get good grades, keep up with homework, find your way around--literally not get lost and end up crying like a blubbering idiot as you wander some back hallway somewhere, and also not get lost as in having no friends, having no idea who you are or what you're doing or where you fit in--in that new place.

I get so caught up in my own stress--will I have a job tomorrow, will I have enough money to put my kids through college, will I be able to not embarrass myself totally in that meeting, am I being a good mother, wife, friend, human being, oh yeah and "Christian," will I get sick and die young, am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing with my life, what does it all mean, what does it all matter, why is my house never clean, what am I doing with my life--that sometimes it's hard to see past that, to see that these kids are ready to explode with all the anxiety and it's very real and very scary for them.

And I guess the question for them and me is do we believe God cares and God takes care of us? That is one of the hardest things for me to believe, frankly. It's not that hard for me to believe that there is a Higher Power out there, a God who cares about the course of history, who stands with the poor and oppressed, who wants justice and mercy and kindness to permeate our world. What's hard to believe is that God cares about ME, my little problems, the things that keep me awake at night. And why would God take the time and energy to care for me when there are so many people who need so much more at the moment--who don't know where their next meal is coming from, who are dying of AIDs, alone in a hut in Africa, when there are kids being bombed, and girls being raped and sold into prostitution, when there are homeless people and people with cancer and soldiers on front lines, and presidents who are responsible for millions of lives. I am such small potatoes. My stresses and these kids' stresses, while real to us, are like scratches on someone with a giant open wound on their body. The scratches aren't where you start. The scratches pretty much can heal by themselves.

So I don't know how much God notices me. Or notices these "basically everything is all right" teenagers under my care. When I am at my best, I notice the kids, and I care, and maybe that's the way it works. God puts people like me and like these kids' mentors and parents in their lives to pay attention, to see them and walk with them, and hold their hands when they are afraid, to rub their back when they strike out in softball, to take them dress shopping for the big dance and call the dean at the high school to make sure they are going to be in the right classes, to tell them everything is gong to be all right, somehow, someway, to tell them we're not in charge, but God is, even though it doesn't seem like it all the time. And they will survive this time in their lives, this stress. And no matter what, we say, we'll be there for them. And we make sure that it's true.

Maybe that's the way it works. And maybe that's enough.

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