June 5, 2006 by Isaac Hovet
What does it mean to live life? We are born. We survive. We die. Is it more? Is there a greater meaning, significance or purpose? Recent stats say that an American life expectancy is 77 years and 5 months. What for? Is there a reason for us to convert oxygen to carbon dioxide, for our bodies to operate, move and take up space? Are we just waiting for death? And if we are, by the way, why must we experience the grand scale of emotions at every step? Just this week you probably have laughed, may have cried, hopefully you have smiled, perhaps you have worried or lost sleep or have been depressed, maybe you have beamed with joy, shouted with excitement or groaned in defeat. All of us have been there or will be there or are there right now. We are waiting for death and in the process experiencing a lot of, well…life. For this is life. The emotive human being embeds into the memory bank only that which is emotional. Only that which inspires, demoralizes, hurts or gives joy. These permanent impressions are more than photo stamps in the cerebrum; they are markers, forever on our soul and forever in our hearts. They are reminders that something significant took place. Good, bad or ugly, we are known by these markers, we know through these markers and subsequently experience life; this life waiting for death.
Every parent remembers the moment of becoming a parent. Perhaps learning of pregnancy was the moment that you remember. I was watching a UCLA vs Washington football game on TV in Covina, CA. Deshawn Foster rushed for over 300 yards. I remember not because I love football so much, but I remember to surprise, the anxiety and joy that rushed through me all in one moment. Perhaps you have forgotten the pain of labor, but know the joy of holding a writhing fresh-born, who knew nothing except to cry and to suck with everything it had. Do you remember envying anyone who slept for more than 2 hours at a time? Did you pray that they would be more than you and grimace on the day that you looked down and saw a whole bunch of you? I have noticed that the memories of sleepless nights with a newborn fade as a child grows older, but do you remember the first day of school? Who was more afraid? Who was more excited – your child ready to get with other kids – or you ready to get away from kids? Did you smile at the drop off and cry as you drove off? Your child was so oblivious to you, but you were so aware of them. They grew and grew and you wondered who pressed the fast-forward button.
Along the way you experienced a whole bunch of life together. Braces. Groan, “They’ll call me brace face!” Groan, “Money.” Glasses. Groan, “These frames look dumb!” Groan, “Money.” Some kids get beat up. Some kids beat up. We frown at them, we scream for them at games, scream at them at home, forgive them and hopefully, we ask for their forgiveness.
“Why don’t you work a little harder in your classes?!”
“Why don’t you come to my games?!”
“You don’t appreciate anything your mother and I do for you!”
“Why can’t I just be me?”
“I’m 16 and I am mature enough to be able to drive!”
“I’m the parent and I’m mature enough to say NO.”
“Puberty is awful”
“Puberty is awful”
“Why can’t I have different parents?!”
“Are these really MY kids?”
This is life. Every moment potentially so wrought with emotion. We remember the moments of joy and regret our failures, but in the midst of it all, we move forward and doesn’t it feel like it is fast-forward?
This life, waiting for death is the very life that Jesus invades. It is the life that Jesus redeems. And it is in this life that we find hope. At some point along the way we become aware that God loves us. That God desires to be with us. And he did so by becoming man. He did so by exemplifying what it means to be a servant; what it means to lay aside selfish ambition, pride and die for others in humility.
In the course of life our children are introduced to this Jesus. Some, with no hesitation, run right to him and stay with him throughout life. But, more commonly, young people struggle, trying to reconcile in their minds, this God who loves them, in the midst of an unforgiving world. Sometimes their perception becomes clouded because of pain; pain that they have chosen or pain unchosen. Regardless of where they find themselves in this moment or how they would describe their current relationship with God, there can be no doubt that in this life, God will chase them. He will allow them opportunity to sense his love, his understanding and grace.
Today we pause to reflect upon, to celebrate and to send forth a crop of 18 year olds who have completed required education, but more than that, they have endured trials, learned more of who they are and have experienced a whole lot of life. They have succeeded, they have failed, they have endured, they have given up, they have given their best, and certainly have in moments done the minimum required. But right now, in this moment, they have completed the largest task they have yet to face. You have helped them, we have helped them and their teachers, school administrators and coaches have helped them. And so here they are.
It is our joy, privilege and heartache to walk through life with these young people. This class has endured some transitions in the ministry; they have put up with me for this year, but have also put up with Stephan Hibdon, Paul Godin and Albert Moore. What a mix, huh?
Some would wonder at the job of being a youth pastor or leader, but I say to you with all honesty that apart from being a husband and father, there is nothing more significant than spending time with this emerging generation. We wish to see them fall in love with Jesus and want to give them the tools to enter into adulthood equipped for life.