yellow door

Last night in my student small group we had an interesting discussion.  It was about the reality of a place called “Heaven” and the “other place” called Hell.

Everyone in my group agreed that they didn’t want to spend an eternity in a fiery pit separated from God.

As we dug deeper into the questions of “what it will really be like when we die,” one girl threw out this statement, “I think Heaven is going to be boring. What are we going to even DO all day? Isn’t it pain that pushes us to be better and try harder? If that’s missing how will we know what success is?”

Then someone else admitted something profound.  “I know it’s supposed to be comforting to know that God has my future all planned out, but honestly, it sounds a little creepy.  Does this mean here on earth I just am His puppet, and then I go to heaven where we are all robots?”

I was glad at the vulnerable honesty of my students.  What they are really asking is this:

“If I let God have total control of EVERYTHING in my life, does this mean I get nothing out of it?”

How much of our experience here in “this world” is spent striving?  We want better. We want more. We think  “achieving” success, however we define it, is what’s important.  In our heart of hearts isn’t this a fear many of us Christ followers have?

Even for the most confident, “Godly” people here on this planet there is a nagging at our soul.  We grapple with indecision, insecurity, selfishness and whether we admit it or not “caring” a little too much what others think of us.  No matter how hard we try to find our identity in the Lord something seems to be missing. It’s like looking in a cracked mirror.  Even when our lives are redeemed we live in this “Fallen world.”

So what if it’s about this?  What if we approach this familiar question from a different perspective?

We let Jesus have it all NOW, because then we get a glimpse of what it will feel like to “let go” and “be ourselves.”  It was always meant to be about a relationship.  Heaven is about FINALLY hitting a point where we get to just be who we were always meant to be.  It’s not about holding our head high and ignoring the “Haters.”  Instead, all of the ache of what we’re “not” will fade away. We get to be the Creator’s Created, fully accepted, each with a part to play for all of time. In short- “You were made for so much more than this. “  Don’t we all want to know we have a bigger part to play?

Now THAT answer seemed to hit a cord with all of us. It’s about Him because He is For US…

How would you handle this “Heaven” and “Future” question?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

- Leneita

@leneitafix

speechlessLeneita Fix wrote a brilliant post on how to answer student’s questions that leave us speechless.

I added a comment there, but I thought it might be helpful to also share a slice of an email along these lines that I wrote to our youth leaders.

It’s okay if a kid says something out of the box, like “The Bible is the most violent book ever written.” One approach I’ve enjoyed is to let them dig their own hole on stuff vs me debate them right off the bat – not to bust them, but to help them figure out what they’re actually saying underneath what they’re saying. An example:

  • Student: “The Bible is the most violent book ever written.”
  • Me: “Interesting. Why would you say that?”
  • Student: “It just is.”
  • Me: “You gotta give me more than that.”
  • Student: “All those people in there died because of what they believed. Or God killed them.”
  • Me: “So… what would you die for?”
  • Student: “I don’t know. My friends, I guess.”
  • Me: “Wow. Why?”
  • Student: “They’re my friends.”
  • Me: “Do you think that’s right or wrong?”
  • Student: “There isn’t any right or wrong. Only what you feel. You can’t be sure of anything.”
  • Me: “Are you sure about that? Think about it… are you sure about how you can’t be sure of anything?”
  • Student: “Funny.”
  • Me: “Can I offer a thought?”
  • Student: “Sure.”
  • Me: “What if the Bible is the most violent book ever written. So what?”
  • Student: “Well… it shouldn’t be that way. If God is real then there shouldn’t be that kind of pain.”
  • Me: “You think He’d do something about it?”
  • Student: “Yeah.”
  • Me: “He kind of did. But He did it in a way that still involves our freewill versus Him canceling it out. It’s why Jesus came to earth and died for our sins. We talk about that around here, but let’s personalize that for a moment – do you think if you let the love of God change you that you could stop even just a sliver of the junk in this world from happening in your generation? Maybe share Jesus with others? I mean, is that even possible for you? What do you think?”

Just an example… obviously conversations can go anywhere. And it’s okay sometimes to just acknowledge a comment if you fear it will take us way off course for ten minutes.

Sometimes kids just like to stir the pot without any real desire to taste what they’re cooking up.

The thought here is to let them take on the role of guiding a conversation, like painting a picture. What you do is provide the frame – which usually involves re-framing what they think they’re saying with what they’re really saying underneath.

Have an addendum or example of your own that you could add to this conversation?

What have you learned when it comes to these types of moments?



 

questions 2In the past week I have had different youth ask me these questions:

  • What do I say when my parent’s tell me I’m never going to do anything with my life?
  • I think I’m gay, and my parent’s told me they don’t want me to be. What do I do?
  • Why does it seem like no matter what I do, God feels so far away?
  • My brother was in an accident. I prayed that God would save him, and he died.  Why would God do that?
  • How do I like myself? I don’t know how.

From time to time I will sit in on one of our volunteer-run small groups. The leader was doing a great job of leading a hearty discussion, until one of “those” questions came up. What surprised me slightly was that reaction was in fact not a reaction at all.  Pretending like they didn’t hear it, they let it hang in the air for a second and shifted the conversation elsewhere. Afterwards the small group leader admitted the question overwhelmed them so much they didn’t know what else to do.

These are the type of questions that intimidate even the most “seasoned” youth worker. There are elements we learn to address, but the reality is there is something deeper going on than the “surfacey” answers that we provide.  Many times it would even be easier if “one” question came at a time.  However, in the average small group questions breed more questions.

So what do we do in those moments when a question hits us in the gut?

Avoid the Jesus Juke, But Tell The Truth:

I call it the “scripture bomb.” It’s when we just fling a Bible verse at a situation and hope it helps. Sometimes it does. More often I have found the real issue is knowing how to practically apply those to your life. Tell them what Jesus is saying, but allow them to know it may not feel as simple as it sounds.

Allow Them to Feel Without Getting Stuck:

Part of adolescence is feeling and questioning deeply.  Sometimes they ask something that stirs us deeply. Why would a parent tell a child they are going to be a “nothing?”  Siding with them or placing judgment can actually fuel the already precarious fire. Instead, listen, love them, and let them get out their feelings. Try to avoid “siding” and point them to the reality that bitterness can suck the life out of us. Help them to see other perspectives that might help them to see beyond the current situation.

Allow Them to Wrestle:

Jacob wanted a blessing.  He held onto God until he had an answer.  If you don’t know the “WHY,” then tell them.  Let them know if it is something you still wonder about.  At the heart of most “Why/How could this be?” is really, “Jesus I need to know that you’re real, show me.” Be willing to help them seek God with their “whole heart,” and wrestle with Him through the situation until they find Him.

Twenty-two years into ministry and the answers to the above questions DID NOT roll off my tongue. I had to pray the Lord would give me His answers while still addressing them head on.  I also had to believe God is big enough to have the answers. Sometimes (many times) our job isn’t to have the answer at all.

How do you handle “those” questions?

You know these daily deals go fast – last month’s big sale sold out in 4 hours! Get in on this one quick if you’re interested. A solid resource to put in the hands of your volunteers or small group leaders to equip them to handle the tough stuff students throw their way. Half price today only!

JG