Here’s another GREAT post from our friend, Scott Rubin!
Our middle school service had already started this past weekend; Tyler was walking in a few minutes late. I said “Hi” & held out my fist for a bump, but he skipped saying “hello”, and got right to the point.
With his eyebrows raised, he said “My dog died. General. He’s dead.” Outwardly, he didn’t look overly upset … it seemed almost matter-of-fact. Like he was telling me that it was raining outside or something. But clearly it was the first thing on his mind, and the most important thing he wanted to tell me. This kid who’s a few days shy of his 13th birthday, figuring out how to navigate his first experience of what death feels like.
“Real” Problems? Sometimes, when you work with middle schoolers, it’s easy for me to minimize their problems. I can fall into the trap of thinking, “You have no idea what real problems are. Raising kids, tight budgets, work challenges, leading a ministry! Don’t bother me with your puny junior high problems!” But tests at school, friendship drama, pet deaths and parent tension ARE real problems, on a middle school scale. And it communicates great value to a student when we get in there with them and help them walk through those things. Not only that, it gives them “practice” at resolving issues in a God-honoring way – so as their life issues get more complex, they’ll have practice at looking at stress with God’s perspective.
“REAL” Problems! Of course the truth is, beneath the surface lots of our students are dealing with problems of a gigantic magnitude. Off the top of my head I can think of a couple of students with a parent fighting terminal cancer, a student who was in a terrible accident that robbed his ability to walk, and several whose families are being ripped apart by a violent divorce. And often those are things that you can’t “see from the outside”. They look just like any other kid, strolling into our ministries. But because I’m aware of these giant-sized troubles, it can sometimes cause me to diminish the importance of helping other students think through smaller predicaments.
No matter how intense the nature of the problem that a junior higher is dealing with, you & I have this amazing opportunity to lean in, listen up, and CARE! Now I’m going to go mail a sympathy note to Tyler …