Monday, August 8, 2011

Don't Suck

I was asked to give words of wisdom to a group of teens this weekend.  I was asked because of my past, starting a church and going to Bible College.  What wise words were stirred up within me?  Two simple words summed up what I think religious teens today should hear: “Don’t suck.”  I went on to unload the large amount of implications that lie beneath the surface of such a simple statement as we stood outside of a shoe store on a Saturday afternoon. 

How did this odd happening even begin to develop?  The plot unraveled in quite an awkward manner to say the least.  I was bored on a Saturday and decided to go to a local shopping center that is all outdoor storefronts.  I parked at the far end of the mall so I would be forced to walk a bit and get in some free and easy exercise.  I was on the phone having a lively discussion about someone who had hurt the person I was speaking with quite bad.  Let’s call the person I was speaking with Sasha and the person who hurt her Adolf (because he acts as if he is a Natzi sometimes).  Adolf was a very religious guy, always talked about wanting to please God and all that comes with it.  He’d be the type to ask if you’d like to pray before making a decision like what to buy at the grocery store.  Some would say he is “Too Holy.”  He can quote scriptures out of context and only listens to “Christian” music.  He doesn’t like cursing or alcohol and thinks everyone should feel and think the same way he does.  As religious as he is, or thinks he is, he has caused much heartache to Sasha.  I was speaking to Sasha and telling her that his religion means nothing if he is a nasty person.  I was talking about how so many people separate what is tangible (here and now) from what they would say is spiritual and how that separation causes great pain in the world.  Apparently my conversation was being overheard.  I’m not a paranoid person and never do I think what I have to say is so important that strangers would listen in.  I noticed a group of people walking in close proximity to me as I was walking around a certain store.  To test my theory of being followed and my conversation listened to I continued my conversation and began to walk to another store.  This group followed as I projected.  I reach this shoe store and decide to let Sasha go.  As soon as I hang up this guy, the adult in the group of teens asks how I am.  I knew it!  They were following me.  He told me he was on a mission trip and was just walking around telling people that God loved them as they felt led.  He said that he felt led to have a conversation with me and wanted to let me know God loved me.  I told him I appreciated it.  He asked what my story was and I began to tell him how I started a church and went to Bible College.  His reaction to this was surprising; he asks if I had any words for his group of teens.  “Don’t suck.”

This was met with some nervous laughter and smiles.  I began to unpack that a bit as we stood outside of the shoe store where my thoughts of being followed were confirmed and it went something like this:  Having faith and studying God and the Bible is important and a great thing.  Wanting people to know God loves them unconditionally is also a great thing.  You are teenagers and should have fun, don’t let all this stuff suck the life out of you.  I’m not saying go out and be irresponsible or destructive, but live life, it is what it was given to us for.  Studying your Bible and knowing your stuff about God doesn’t mean anything if you’re not a nice person.  If people think you are harsh and not nice then I’d say you’re missing the entire message of Jesus.  Instead of doing or not doing because you were told to do or not do, think about why you want to do or not do.  Instead of not slapping someone because it is wrong, think of why you want to slap them and address that.  Your faith is only as good as you are to others.  Don’t suck; don’t be harsh and not fun.  If people see you are kind and live a great life that is when your faith comes to life.  

I hope this message stuck with the teens more than running into a tattooed ex-religious guy.  "Don’t suck" are words I think we all should hear more often.  Enjoy life.  Be kind to others.  Love your family well.  Be generous and grateful.  If your faith gets in the way of these simple things, then I’d say your faith is twisted in a way.  You should smile more than you frown.  Laugh more than you cry.  If your faith makes you a somber and boring person than that faith isn’t what anyone will desire.  Faith is not oppressive, it is liberating.  Don’t suck.  Allow your faith to be something that brings life into the world, not sucks it out.

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