30 Days of Celebration: Names

30 Days of Celebration: Names

I attend after school evangelism clubs these days as a part of my new job. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I am a part of kids lives for just over an hour, kids I had never met a month ago. New kids every week, mostly, but every so often I get to repeat schools and see the same little girls week after week, and it fills my soul, the new familiarity of it all.

I have learned something, something I didn’t fully understand before. There is immense power in being known, in being seen, in hearing your name called and being looked in the eye. I feel as if, before this season, I have always had that in abundance, which is purely a gift from God in every way. But lately, I am beginning to understand our need for it. My need for it, and these kids’ need for it.

I am curious, constantly, about their stories. Valery, the quiet, gentle girl I get to see on Thursdays, with beautiful, long curly hair. Noah, the hilariously adorable kindergarten on Tuesdays. Sweet and disobedient Anthony, who I see on Wednesdays, who wasn’t there last week, who I was told got suspended. They are all people, and they all need to be known. They’re not different from me, nor I from them.

And so I try, in my one hour, to be a person in their lives. A person who sees and loves another person. Not an authority figure, not a teacher, not a “grown up”, but  child of God loving another child of God. I try to see them as God sees them, and I fail horribly every week, I’m sure.

But I’m also learning that it doesn’t take much. None of us really need praise or accolades or things. We just need to know we’re valued, that our lives have worth, that we are known. And if I lose sight of those truths on a daily basis, I am certain these kids do too.

So I catch their eyes, and I call them by name, and an interesting thing happens as they bloom in front of me. The shy ones catch my eye back, I needing their recognition just as much as they need mine. And I feel as if this is the heart of ministry, of being a Christian. It’s not about the programming, it’s not about the eloquence of words. It’s about making every single person you come in contact with known under your gaze.

As I sat in the airport this past week, settling into a chair and waiting to board, a list of names was called over the loud speaker. I’m usually not very tuned into announcements in airports, but this one called my name. Literally. Amongst a list of names read was mine, telling me to come to the front desk (to pick up my boarding pass, I soon learn).

And it struck me, how long it had been since I had heard my whole name. It feels like eternity, at least. But it had power. Names do. I felt known, I had a name. And I am always, I’m learning, craving for it to be spoken.

And yet, I celebrate because I am learning in this season that my name is more than letters on a page. My identity rests in my very bones, in my title as an image bearer of God. And with every breath, even in the middle of a city of strangers, I am known simply because of who I am. Names change, thoughts change, tendencies change, seasons change. But who I am is inherent, in my DNA. I am a child of God, and nothing can ever change that. It requires no recognition, demands no notice. It simply is. I think of how God tells us to be still and to know that He is God. It is as if we are the moon and He is the son and we simply reflect who He is without having to do a thing. We just sit there. We are just still.

And that is something to celebrate, because I cannot muster up identity every day. It takes far too much energy, and I fail pretty much every time, especially in a season of change. But today I rest into the identity I can never lose, and I pray that the kids I come in contact with would know it, too.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10

30 Days of Celebration: Where I Never Thought I’d Be

30 Days of Celebration: Where I Never Thought I’d Be

3:45 on Wednesdays is an interesting time for me.

Every week at that time I find myself driving down the backroads of town, off the beaten path, parking alongside an old church. I get out of my car and gather my things and make my way to the front door, overwhelmed every week. I push my way inside and am ushered into a back, back, back room of this church in the back woods of my new town.

I grab my Bible, and I gather my thoughts, and soon 15 children join me, settling themselves into old red pews that line the room.

It’s my job, these 9 months, to teach these kids about the love of Jesus.

The church is musty, and it takes me 7 tries to pronounce the kids’ names correctly. They’re rambunctious, disobedient, loud, and no matter how many times I ask them to stay seated and listen to the Bible lesson, they don’t.

And I love them. So much.

We wrestle through an hour together. Nothing goes as planned. They talk through my teaching half the time, and can’t sit still. They’re overly occupied with my treasure box of goodies. Sometimes I think I lost one of them, only to find out they’re laying under a pew in the back of the room. It’s chaos.

Most of the time.

But then there are moments that I’m teaching and I see one little pair of eyes staring intently back, listening. And one of the little girls loves the hand motions we do with the songs. And one little boy alwaybrings his worksheet back, handing it to me with pride. And one little girl snuggles up to me, big brown eyes, asking if she can sit next to me even though I’m the one up front teaching.

And yesterday, as I left, as I wheeled my cart of supplies back to my little car, they came running out of the church: the boys. The older, “macho” little ones, and they hugged me around the waist. And I felt like those hugs ran warmth all the way through my nose, them not realizing I needed it as much as they.

I never thought I would meet these kids. There is no equation that puts me into their lives. It is only God who could lead me to such a place. But these kids, like I, are like sheep, and I get to share my shepherd with them for one hour every Wednesday.

And I greatly anticipate what God is up to in all of this.