Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 56

What I Read Today: 2 Corinthians 6-7.

What Stood Out About What I Read Today: 2 Corinthians 6: 8-13, “…through glory and dishonor, through slander and praise; regarded as impostors, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well-known; as dying and yet – see! – we continue to live; as those who are scourged and yet not executed; as sorrowful, but always rejoicing, as poor, but making many rich, as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart has been opened wide to you. Our affection for you is not restricted, but you are restricted in your affections for us. Now as a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts to us also.”

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

Early in my ministry I was pretty diligent about building relationships with other youth ministers. In particular, one of the guys with the biggest ministries and had been doing it the longest was high on my list to try to glean information from. One particular lunch, I was tired.

He asked why.

I’d told him that kids were over at the house until almost midnight (there wasn’t school the next day) playing a Nintendo basketball tournament on a game called Double Dribble.

He was incredulous. “You let you students come to your house? Why? That’s a very bad idea. You need a teen-free zone that NEVER needs to be violated.”

My turn to be incredulous. I respected this guy’s opinion and valued his input. But one of the major drawing cards of our ministry was that the teens were over to our house all the time it seemed. We even had a system. The big bay-window in the front had curtains, and if the curtains were open, the kids could just walk in and hang out unannounced for as long as they wanted. If the curtains were closed, we were having family time. Tracy and I also took almost every single date-night to a high school football game or play or pep rally or even awards banquets where we got invited.

It seemed to me that the gospel was best shared in the context of relationships, and we needed to be at THEIR stuff to do that. They also needed to be involved in our lives and giving them reasons to come over helped them do that.

Our mindset was, to use Paul’s words, along the lines of if we opened our hearts to them, they’d open their hearts to us. Then we could most effectively minister to them. The teens might not like what they see, but what they see would be…

…real.

Christ was real at church. He was real at my home. He was real when we had Bible study. He was real when we watched a football game. He was real when we prayed. He was real when we discussed which girl in the group liked which guy in the group. And so it goes.

I look back at all the opened hearts both ways…

They dropped in when we’d been fighting.
They had Nintendo tournaments with Double Dribble, Tecmo Bowl, and Blades of Steel.
They left baby bath bubbles on our front porch when they found out Tracy and I were having a baby.
They purchased a croquet set and one spring played games daily on front lawn.
They came by to sell Krispy Kreme’s every Saturday because some group was having a fundraiser.
They brought food to throw on the grill on Friday nights and we’d supply a video.
They discussed dating.
There were Bible studies in our den sometimes 3 nights a week.
There were cheerleader breakfasts.
There were big wins for Alabama or Auburn football games where jumping and dancing were a big part of the celebration.
There was prayer.
There was confrontation, and one night did it get really heated.
There was confession, and boy were there tears that night.
One girl will tell the story about how her first kiss got interrupted because the youth pastor was bringing more burgers out the deck to grill.
One guy practiced his balloon animal making skills on my daughter for his summer job at an amusement park.
And so it went.

My point is that for the Christian life to hum along like it’s supposed to, well, it’s to be lived out in community. And manalive did we have community in those five years. Our first five years of marriage, man. They moved us from our first apartment to our first home. They came in WAY past visiting hours after the first baby was born at the hospital. They threw a baby shower for the second baby…after she was born because, well, let’s just say she came into the world a bit early. And when we left, it hurt. Them and us. Oh, yeah. Through their tears they paid for our moving van.

We opened our hearts to them. Sure. They saw us at our best. They saw us at our worst. Sometimes I wonder if we got more out of the deal than they did.

Nonetheless, I think that’s what Paul was after here.

This idea that we’d love each other.

That we wouldn’t pretend at the spiritual life…that we’d live it out. That we’d love one another through the muck and the mire. Through the celebrations and all that.

In fact, I heard another favorite youth minister friend say that “when you stop pretending, you’ll expose the pretentiousness of others.” Truer words have never been spoken.

I don’t want to pretend.
I want to do life together.
I want it to be real.
I want to dive deep into people’s lives and have them dive into mine.

So, my friend can have his safe haven from his kids if he needs that.

Me, on the other hand, when we moved here we didn’t have a big bay-window for them to see about the curtains. So, we simply installed one of those decorative flag poles and when the flag is up, they can come in without knocking and all that jazz. We have a cabinet full of only food and candy and sodas for them…which also expanded to an additional refrigerator out in the garage (they love Pop Ice…who knew?).

And, yes, we have red meat & movie nights.
We have Wii contests with Michael Jackson Experience dancing going on.
We have had full-contact Uno (don’t ask).
Just last week, I suspect I interrupted another girl’s first kiss. She says I didn’t. My suspicions tell me otherwise.
They’ve watched our “nest” start to “empty.”
They’ve broken a hammock.
They’ve put a foot through our attic floor into the garage.
They’ve eaten 117 Pop-Ice’s in one afternoon among 6 of them.
There’s been Bible study.
Prayer.
Confrontation. Some of it gets heated.
There’s been college acceptance letters read in my house before their own parents (yes, we sent them straight home) heard the news.
And so it goes.

We open our hearts and dive into their lives.
They reciprocate.
But we don’t pretend.
And they expose our pretentiousness.

And, manalive, is it a beautiful thing. So I know how much it hurt Paul when they were restricted in their response to him…even if I don’t experience that all that much.

(Tomorrow’s Reading: 2 Corinthians 8-9)

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