When I visit the zoo my favorite area is the deep-sea aquarium. The vibrant colors and exotic fish fascinate me—and for thousands of years we had no idea any of this existed, because we had no way of exploring the bottom of the ocean. The biggest hurdle to unlocking this hidden world wasn’t the obvious lack of oxygen, it was something much subtle: pressure. The pressure exerted on the human body at ocean-floor depths can kill us, literally causing our blood to boil. So to move from the earth’s surface to the depths of the sea we must adapt. On the way down, it’s not so hard—divers simply adjust their air pressure. But coming up from the depths is a different story.
Divers must decompress properly or risk death.
Decompression is the art of acclimating the body back to the pressure it is accustomed to. This is no easy task, and it can’t be rushed. On the way down to the depths we can move much faster and easier. On the way back up, it’s about patient, deliberate choices.
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Many youth ministries have never learned the art of decompression (I know, because my own ministry has been one of them). Whenever we take students out of their world and immerse them in the depths of God’s story—whether it’s a Sunday School class or a missions trip—we’re plunging them into a different atmosphere from their everyday lives. We’re changing their air pressure. And if we do it well, we can take them down quickly. But we also risk killing the growth they’ve gained by ignoring a patient, deliberate approach to their decompression.
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