Which is more important – to be right, or to be real?
I think it is a tough question. And an even tougher one when you’ve got a certain faith to uphold.
I was appointed advisor to my church’s youth group, which I didn’t want at all to be – well, I must admit I was a little excited in the beginning, until real problems hit home with my youths, forcing me into a place of re-thinking my position, let alone the influence I had on them and the moments of contradiction that stood out like a sore thumb between myself and the other youth advisor, which I’ll just refer to as Ms. C throughout.
If every Christian were either one of these – liberal, or conservative, I’d probably be a blaring liberal, which then of course means I’m open to probably a million things a conservative would outrightly deem hell-bound. Let me be clear on one thing though, while I may be open to these things, I do not condone them. Not at all. It’s just, I’m more accepting of it, than a conservative Christian would likely be – which then makes me think, for a fleeting moment, if I am in any way compromising the values of what being a ‘little-Christ’ truly means to begin with.
I’ve had youths (a mix of Christians and non)come up to me with their life’s doubts, drinking problems, lustful desires, suicide attempts, boyfriend/girlfriend matters, esteem struggles and they all bear one similarity – they can’t go to Ms. C because she’s really strict and ‘holy’ (in their very own words). So here they are with me, often at a table over casual drinks (the occasional beers for the wild ones) and with not much of a ‘Godly advice’ prepared up my sleeves, as many would expect of an ‘advisor’. All I do is listen. And they are surprised that I am not the least bit surprised at how bad/horrible/un-Christianlike their problems are. And then I ask them questions like ‘do you want something to eat?’, ‘how’s your parents?’, ‘how’s school/college?’, ‘have you seen this video that’s gone viral on Facebook?’ We laugh. We cheers. They let out a huge sigh of relief.
Then I dig deeper – their choices, their plans for the road ahead of them, their respect for the opposite sex, their thoughts on their struggles. In and out of conversations, I assure them they’ll be alright, and that they are not weird or anything of that sort. And whether or not they are Christians, I can never stress enough to them that everything they struggle with does not and will not make them any less of a Christian. By the time we leave the table, they are fully aware that their decisions/habits/addictions/doubts are wrong/right/perfectly normal, and I feel like my job as an advisor is half done.
I check in on them every now and then to see if they are coping just fine, and more drinks if they aren’t.
I try to help these youths know and realize the importance of being human first, and then you times that by a million to know what’s it got to like to be a Christian – a species that the world is quick to crucify, and slow to accept and forgive. The thing with the world today is that people often forget that Christians are humans too and they fall short just as easily as everyone else. And the last thing I want these youths to become, is the exact replica of the people who once judged them, let alone call themselves Christians.
I always tell the youths that nothing should be taboo, especially in the youth group that they grow up in. Because what the church doesn’t talk about, doesn’t mean that the world will not either. I’d rather they hear it from a godly place first, than to go outside an collect a beingful of twisted ideas and narrow mindsets.
All these said, Ms. C has her points with all the godly advice that she dishes out. But just maybe, our respective approaches differ on many levels. Hers is to teach them what it means to be a Christian first, while mine is to be human.
Many, if not most Christians, would probably not agree with my approach, I suppose. They feel like I’m missing the point of being a youth advisor to a bunch of youths, at church.
For me, my idea is this: even if they don’t eventually go out there as Christians, I want them to stand proud as one heck of a person anyway because they have met one who accepted them for who they are, and what they’ve been through.
I might not be by the books right, but I sure hope I stay as real as possible to the people around me.