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I love Disneyland! The enchanting environment and variety of each ride lures me back again and again. I love working the spinning wheel on the Tea Cups so hard that I can’t even talk (okay, I’m not that buff….my husband helps me). I love the childhood memories I experience every time I ride the Rockets, and I love the updated Pirate’s ride – complete with four incognito, life-sized animated “Jack Sparrow’s.” I love all of it. But what I love even more is how I experience it through our two young sons. Our four year old, Jack, is a cautious but energetic child. Often, we have to nudge him to try new things, and on this particular day, Pirate’s was among them.

We just knew he would love it once he got on, but getting him to do so took some serious convincing. “You’ll see Jack Sparrow,” we said in persuasive tones. “You’ll hear the Yo Ho pirate’s song…you’ll love that!” He firmly shook his head no. Finally, dad knelt down to meet his eyes knowing he needed a gentle nudge, “Son, we love you and we know you. Will you trust us this time? It’s a great ride!” At this, something clicked and Jack reluctantly said he’d go. He loved it! In fact, we ended up riding Pirate’s three times and left with a sword, a hat and an eye patch (and a whole lot less money!).

Sometimes the students in our youth ministries or dare I say, even we ourselves need, a nudge to do something we have never done before.

Over five months ago I suggested to the powers that be that we should take all of our students, 7-12th grade, through Life Hurts God Heals (LHGH), an 8-step group for students with pain or addiction. Three meetings and a lot of prayer later, they finally agreed. Even at my own church, where I’ve run Life Hurts God Heals for years as an optional ministry, nudges were needed. Why? Because it’s easier not to deal with hurt. Period. And with a gazillion other curriculums out there, why choose this one? My answer…because we can’t afford not to.

Finally, just this past weekend, we kicked off the LHGH series! It was exciting. As we taught, we shared some of our own emotionally scarred stories then nudged students to fill out an anonymous card which said, “My scars are __________. I deal with it by ___________” Here’s what a handful read:

My scars are … I deal with it by…

bad computer habits…

abuse from my mom since I was 7…

the night my dad left for another woman…

how I believe that skinny = pretty…

getting cut from the b-ball team…

addiction to pornography…

not feeling brave or man enough…

being date raped at 12…

hiding it

I don’t

a lot of tears

hiding it in humor

praying to find another sport

IDK

acting like I am

drugs and lies

Wow. I couldn’t’ help but wonder how much worse could it get for these students if we were not intentionally addressing the issue of pain? And not only addressing it openly and honestly, but giving them tools to deal with how they feel through support and the 8-steps given through Life Hurts God Heals.

I am once again reminded that, our students – and often we ourselves – need to be nudged in a direction we would rather not go. Then go in that direction. By coming along side their hurts and pains we show them just as we did our four year old, “we love you and we know you….trust us this time.”

Megan Hutchinson, co-author of Life Hurts God Heals, Help! I’m a Woman in Youth Ministry and I want to talk to my teen about ADDICTIONS.

Life Hurts God Heals is an 8-step program which gives students tools to deal with hurt and pain life inevitably brings. It’s sold over 10,000 copies worldwide!

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