Today I was faced with a problem that most people find to be extremely hard to deal with. A 17-year-old youth at my church had come to me, extremely nervous and almost crying, absolutely terrified. The truth is, he had just found out his girlfriend is three months pregnant. With sweat-drenched palms, he could barely keep his eyes open and his whole body twitched as he began to tell me about the situation. His girlfriend had been with other guys and he had a 75% chance of being the dad. He was in love with her and had been for some time. The night before, he had text-messaged a friend who just so happened to be hanging out with me, that he wanted to kill himself. Everything was caving in around him and he had no idea how to deal with it.
As a youth pastor and mother, my mind raced. What I had to say about this situation would change his life. Before his parents, before the church, before even some of his friends he had come to me. He came because he trusted me. This guy had been struggling for years with Wicca and Occult involvement. He wears a pentagram around his neck and cuts himself. He had little to live for, and now he had to find some way to tell the world he was having sex before marriage. Raised by adoptive parents who have been upstanding members of the church for years, he was embarrassed and extremely nervous to tell them. He felt like he was going to be a horrible dad but didn’t know what to do about it.
He went on to tell me how they wanted to get married but she is only 16 and they are both still in school. Her parents may give consent, but his parents probably wouldn’t. The one thing that he was sure of, however, was that they want to keep the baby. He was already sending out resumes and looking for a job as well. This had already made a mark in his life. He saw things a lot more clearly than he had ever before. You could see it in his eyes. The fear was dripping from every pore of his body. And now, he came to me, to get my approval, and my help.
There are many things I could have said. I could have criticized him for having sex even though he knew he shouldn’t have. I could have lectured him about the girl he chose to be with. Rumors rushed the community that she was extremely sexually active and had a horrible reputation. I could have used the Bible and God to condemn him for his sin. Oh yes, what I would have to say would make or break what he was going to do. I knew that prayer was the most important thing I could do.
After a quick prayer and a hard swallow I took his hands and told him how happy I was for him. I told him how great of a dad he was going to be and told him he wasn’t alone. We had a moment that I don’t think could have been sweeter. Now crying he told me he couldn’t get through this and his parents were going to kill him. In his mind there was no way he could tell them. “How am I supposed to tell them?”
The only thing to say was that he must. He must. I should give you some background. Two teenage boys in the youth group molested me when I was 12 years old. I was very innocent at that point in my life and the church had attacked me even though they admitted they had forced me. They still made me feel dirty as though I was a bad person for what had happened. My innocence had been destroyed. I had tried to commit suicide and started withdrawing from school. What changed my life was the way my family reacted. My grandparents had taken me in and they had no reason to support me. Still, when they found out, they gave me the benefit of the doubt, embraced me, and loved me. While every other voice around me was telling me how bad I was for what happened, my grandmas voice spoke loud above them all about how God loved me and how they would never give up on me. I grew in confidence enough to get through that event. I would have walked away from the church forever had she not given love instead of judgment and condemnation.
I met with his parents and we discussed where to go from there. When he finally was able to start to speak the mother broke in with the idea that the girlfriend was pregnant. It seems he hadn’t been very secretive with what they were doing. He was amazed with their lack of surprise. The parents weren’t very supportive. Their first words were “well I’m not surprised.” They vindictively said how clearly they saw it coming. Sometimes the most hurtful and destructive thing a parent can say is, wow you screwed up and I knew you would do this. The truth is, it is basically saying, I thought you were as worthless as you turned out to be.
The truth is that as the body of Christ our words hold the power of life and death. James 3: 5-8 says that the tongue is evil and if we don’t give our words to God our words can set our life’s course to chaos. We must be careful to use our words to encourage and to bring joy and hope into the lives of those around us, regardless of the point they are at or what situations they are in. This kid had so much faith in me, but instead, I turned him to God. He knows his life will change now, but also knows there is someone, in fact many, who love and have faith in him and who will support him through out this difficult journey he is taking. We must instead of pointing out sin in the spirit of condemnation, we should point out grace, forgiveness, and love. Christ died so that we could be forgiven.
Christ has taken us in, he takes our sin, and he walks with us. All the while He is uplifting, encouraging, and loving us. He still is able to teach us what our flaws are and explain to us how we can take up our cross and follow him. None is perfect, no not one. We all struggle in sin and must learn to work with the kids where God has them. If kids are afraid to approach us as youth workers when they have real and scary issues, how can are they going to feel about the God we represent? Regardless of what you say, your words have power. What kind of influence are your words having? Can you see the fruit of your tongue? I challenge you to look at your life and see the work of your tongue. You would be surprised what kind of blessing you can be and how much God can use you, just by opening your mouth.