Larry said he was going to punch Josh in the face.
That was right after Josh called Larry a fat idiot.
Moments before that, of course, Larry had announced to everyone in the van that Josh had “Zero taste in music.”
Josh, as usual, had given Larry that ammunition by asking to hear some “old school” MxPx again.
It was day 7 of a 10-day missions trip—on the road across five states. My wife and I had somehow packed ourselves and 10 students into a 12-passenger van that barely held together and had no air conditioning.
Let me say that again: teenagers packed into a van for several days in a row without air conditioning… in July.
Larry really was going to get violent with Josh. I could feel the tension growing as one of the high school girls went into her own happy space and began repeating, “PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE!”
I had enough.
We exited the highway and pulled into a gas station parking lot. All I said was, “EVERYBODY! OUT OF THE VAN!”
I didn’t have a plan. I only had frustration.
So I prayed. It sounds cliché, I know…but I prayed.
Somehow in that moment God broke my heart for what had happened.
I began weeping and even had to wait a few minutes before I could even come out and face the students.
I asked, “What are we arguing over? How we’re going to save lost people? The right way to reach a friend we know who feels his life is over? What we should do about what’s happening in some of your families? NO! WE’RE ARGUING OVER MUSIC! And honestly…I can’t think of anything else I can say other than to point that out. When you’re ready to get back in the van and remember why we’re on this trip, I’ll be in there waiting.”
Eventually they did. An awkward silence took over the evening as we made our way to where we were staying for the night. By morning, three of the girls on the trip who hated conflict made sure everyone apologized to my wife and me.
The trip eventually concluded, and God did use that time in all of our lives. I’ll never forget that moment of exiting the van, though. It’s even stayed with me as I get into my own side squabbles in church stuff that I think matters, but really doesn’t.
When we go on trips, I now tell teenagers, “Just so you know, around day 3 or 4 on this trip you’re going to really dislike someone else for dumb reasons. Try to keep that in mind, and let’s remember why we all signed up to be here.”
Sometimes the greatest thing we can do in a conflict is enlarge the Story of what we’re supposed to be wrestling over versus the noise that really doesn’t matter.
Thank you for loving students!