by John Park, UYWI
During the Christmas holiday you will see countless Nativity scenes in driveways, posters and even live scenes (note please don’t do this to your youth students). And while most of these scenes are highlighting the birth of Jesus, what is very significant is not just the wondrous announcement that today a savior is born but also the fact that people were waiting for this moment in time to happen with much anticipation, eagerness and hope.
People for years and years were waiting and waiting for the Savior that God would send to come and bring salvation to the world. But even in this eager waiting, there must have been great frustration as well of the soon but not yet.
In urban youth ministry, you may know the similar pain and frustration of waiting. The questions that come…when will this kid change, when will my church support what we are doing, when will there be more volunteers, when will my students be safe to walk home and not be harassed, when will the violence stop? The list seems almost endless. Waiting can seem like the hardest, most grueling thing to do because you feel like nothing is happening. You see it’s easier to experience instant results, but with instant results typically comes fickle gratitude, if there is such a thing. With an instant result, you can be tempted to claim credit for the growth or change in a student. With an instant result you can overlook God’s spirit orchestrating and priming a kid’s heart to encounter God. Instant results, although often desirable, actually suck at giving glory to God. It’s usually in the slow and mundane but faithful that God is depended on and receives the greatest glory.
In Psalm 40, the psalmist writes
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.”
The psalmist goes on to say how after waiting patiently for God, so many things were shown to him and God revealed for the psalmist to experience God’s goodness. And throughout the psalm, the author reiterates how much opposition he faces and how desperately he needs the Lord. This sounds like so many of us in urban youth ministry. We know we don’t have all the answers and we know we need help, but where are you turning for help in your time of need? How are you spending the time while you are waiting?
As we wait in patiently there is much to be done in that time as well.
The best picture of patience I can give you, as a youth worker, is this. It’s a farmer. Farmers wake up prepare ahead, they wake up early, farmers do the work, they till the ground, they water the fields and at the end of most days, don’t see much change. They do this day in and day out. All the while they are faithfully working but also faithfully waiting. As time passes by and all the work they can do has been done, the farmer sees the land change, they see the seeds begin to sprout. The farmer keeps at it and waters, tends and stays faithful. And when it comes time to harvest, the farmer collects the crops and sees the fruit of labor but also the fruit of faithfulness.
So how long can you wait?