Today: Saturday, December 07, 2019

Taking God into communities - schools    (6/27/2010 )

‘Hey—you, boy, what are you doing out of school uniform?’

Such was my introduction to being a school chaplain. I was 21, fresh out of university, newly appointed as youth pastor to a big city-centre church, and with the job came the task of being chaplain to the 6th form of the local state school.

The teacher who challenged me took some persuading that I was not a pupil at the school, but she did finally believe me. What followed was one of the most enjoyable and challenging periods of work in which I have ever been involved.

Years later, 2 things still stand out as being deeply formational, both for the school and for me personally.

The first was really tragic. We lost a girl. One day she was fine; she was vivacious, charming, attractive, and the life and soul of the party. That evening she was unexpectedly taken ill, rushed to hospital, and by the time the students were back in school she had died. You can imagine (no, in fact you possibly can’t imagine) the horror of those days. Young people (full of life, full of potential, and, in their own minds, immortal) suddenly came face-to-face with death. Sudden, tragic, needless death. What comfort could I bring them? How could I minister hope?

…but God could, and did. The only thing I could do was to sit and listen, to understand, to provide space. To hold their grief (and mine) in a safe place and provide somewhere for it to be offered. I have sometimes been frustrated that God appears to do nothing when we are in pain, but actually he is always there, always providing, but not always making it easy for us. And that is why grief is so often a place where we grow in depth, wisdom and maturity. It’s hard, but it is really true.

And the second thing I learned is this. I went into the role thinking that the important thing would be what I did. Like Job’s counsellors in the book of Job in the Bible, though, I found out that what really mattered was who I was. Young people see through pretence and acting. They weren’t impressed by my wit or wisdom, my sophistry or eloquence, my fine arguments or evangelistic endeavours. They grew because we got to know each other, and some of them saw something deeply authentic in my relationship with Jesus.

I miss those young people. In fact, I still have a picture of them on my study wall, to remind me of those basic lessons. God is always with me. He listens and cares and holds me… and that means that I can be me… because (as my granny used to say) if I’m not myself, I’m nobody. Bizarrely, God likes working in, and through, his children—when we will let him.

Do you find yourself grieving? God is listening – what would you like to say to him?

Loving God, hear the cry of my heart; hold the yearning in my soul; offer the love of your heart. For without you I am lost and broken. Amen

Do you find yourself struggling to know how to help others? Just be you, and be willing to be quiet, to pray, and let God work through you.

Father God, I often feel so weak and helpless and struggle to believe you could really work through me. I believe that you can do anything though, so please use me to help my friend today. In Jesus' name, Amen

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