Over the past week, I've recently embarked on a rather rigorous writing regimen. Though I can't share details on what for, I will as soon as I get it all figured out and put together. That's a promise.
Just so there's no confusion, the musings category on my blog are just simple thoughts, questions, and ideas I have each day. They're usually fairly short, but who knows, maybe some of them will turn into something a little more substantial one day.
She looked down at the tissue in her hand, smiling through the tears, "He never forgets me. I forgot Him, but he never forgets me."
Green clothes. Clovers. Leprechauns. Corn-beef. Pinching.
All of these pleasant (or... not so pleasant) things are associated with the holiday we call St. Patrick's Day. Every year we check our calendars and make sure we have something green to wear to make sure we don't get pinched by our friends.
But, do any of us really know anything more about the holiday, other than that? Funny, if you think about it. This holiday was set aside to celebrate, honor, and remember the life of the man we call Saint Patrick, but we don't even know what he did.
For sake of education, let's see what he really did.
Saint Patrick, or just Patrick, at the time, grew up in Britain. He was part of a family of reasonable wealth and fame as his father was a decurio (or senator) for Rome.
Then, at age 16, Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and sold into slavery to an Irish chieftain. For 6 years, Patrick tended his master's flocks. I found this incredible quote from Patrick's "Confessio:"
"I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the Love of God, and my fear of Him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time."
What incredible faith and trust, even in such a difficult time. God protected him and cared for him until, one day, God told Patrick to escape, and so he did. Through an incredible chain of events that would take far too long to recount, Patrick found his way back home.
What an incredible story of God's providence! What a great ending. The boy gets captured, he never loses faith, God rescues him, and brings him back safe to his home.
But you see, that's not it. We rejoin Patrick a few years later as, under the guidance of Bishop Saint Germain, as he receives his priesthood. As he served with the bishop he began to receive visions of young irish children calling out to him, begging him to return to Ireland.
So what did Saint Patrick do?
He went back to Ireland. Back to the country he had been enslaved by. Back to the people that had captured him, beaten him, mistreated him, and scorned him. Back to face the pagan religion that had it's hold on the country, the witchcraft and deceit. He went back to share the message of Christ with these people. It was no easy task. But eventually, as we see today, the hope, grace and truth he offered was accepted and celebrated by the irish people.
This story astounds me. I have little faith that many of us would have the faith and trust to go back and show compassion to the people that had hurt us in such ways. This story is incredible, but yet it is told so few times.
Instead, we celebrate the color green. We make corn-beef and cabbage. But no mention is ever made about the legacy of Saint Patrick.
What if all that changed? What if we made an effort, every St. Patrick's day to share the true story of the holiday with at least 3 people? What if, instead of celebrating it by pinching someone who isn't wearing green, we let Saint Patrick's day be a day where we sacrifice pride, bitterness, hurt, and prejudice and forgive those who have done us wrong? Can you imagine, if every March, thousands of broken relationships were fixed? If families were reconciled, friendships revitalized? I think this would honor the legacy of a great man far more than images of shamrocks and leprechauns.
What if we made this holiday truly mean something, that truly matters?
This was modified from a speech format, so some of the wording may appear slightly off.
I don't know if you've noticed, but the Christian community leads pretty complacent lives. Our rules are set, our methods are clear. We have it all figured out, right?
When you look beyond the façade, you find a problem in our culture that is damaging and destroying teenager’s lives. It is one that I have personally experienced. It is the danger that Christian relationships are posing for our teens.
Before we take a closer look at the issue, you have to understand one thing about me, and that is, I am a sucker for love. Even when I would watch a movie as a kid, and the couple kissed, outwardly I would groan (because I’m a little boy and I’m practically required to do so) but inwardly I would be loving it! I’m what you call a hopeless romantic. I’m quite literally in love with love. And while this characteristic does have its upsides, it was a large part of my message today.
Just a little under 2 years ago, I met a girl, a really incredible young lady. She’s the type of person who’s always encouraging, always supportive, always caring, and over all just one of the most incredible young women you ever will meet.
Sparks flew, and over the next year we spent a large amount of time getting to know each other. Very quickly, we formed a really strong emotional attachment, and as time progressed our wise parents saw it fit to end the relationship. But the emotional connection that we had, made it extremely difficult to move on, and a lot of heartache and pain resulted because of that.
As I look back at the last couple of years, obviously I learned a great deal from this experience, but I think one of the most important lessons I learned was that our Christian teen relationships aren’t doing us a whole lot of good.
What I’ve seen through my experience, and through the experiences of those around me, is that the young Christian relationships are often more damaging then the relationships of our non-Christian counterparts.
Why? Because these Christian teen relationships, while usually physically pure, are emotionally dangerous.
In my brother Josh’s books on relationships, one of the main lessons that is taught is that relationships are serious things. They shouldn’t be recreational they should have a purpose. Fortunately, most young Christian teens get this principle. What they don’t understand is that proper timing has to go hand-in-hand with a serious relationship.
Because of this ignored principle we find ourselves in a Christian culture where young Christian teenagers are in heavily emotional relationship before they’re mature enough to handle one.
Sadly, I’ve seen this damage and ruin dozens of young relationships. Relationships that, had they been cultivated at the right time, may very well have turned out far better.
Is it possible that these Christian teenage relationships are actually more destructive? Could it be that those casual, noncommittal relationships that we so easily look down upon aren’t as damaging as the ones that we allow within the Christian community?
Something needs to change. Relationships and lives cannot continue to be ruined because young people aren’t willing to wait for the right time.
But here's the catch. What I’ve discovered is that most young people don’t even realize they’re in a relationship until it’s too late. "We're just friends. It's not like that." These phrases and dozens more are used as excuses to trick everyone, including themselves, into believing there isn't something going on.
Having been in the same situation I hope I can do all that is possible to keep other young people from making the same mistakes. So I have questions. Questions that need to be posed and answered honestly. You have nothing to gain by deceiving yourself.
Question number one: Is the teen ready for marriage? This may seem like an odd question, but it’s really not. If a young person truly believes in a serious, purposeful relationship then they shouldn’t want anything to do with a relationship until they’re ready for a serious commitment.
Question number two: Is the teen in a relationship? This is perhaps the most delicate of all the questions. I know this because I offered every rationalization and reason to convince myself that I wasn’t in a relationship. Don’t attempt to fool yourself. It won’t help anything.
Push aside all of the rationalizations and excuses offered and ask the question, is the teen in a relationship with another person, in which they view each other as anything more than normal friends? An honest answer, no matter how hard it is, will be far less painful then the pain you will have to endure if you close your eyes and continue down this destructive path blindly.
Question number three: Is this relationship distracting from them investing time in their school, in their friendships, and with God? To answer this, ask yourself these questions: Do they think and dream about that special someone more than they invest in their education? Do they sacrifice spending quality time with dear friends in order to call that person, or IM them online? And most importantly, is their mind more occupied with that person than it’s occupied in prayer to God, and in time delving into his Word? This is a frightening realization. It was for me. Has God been replaced as the first love in our teen’s lives? Their friends, their education, have they taken second place to this relationship?
A relationship is constructive, or destructive. There is no middle ground.
Fourth and final question: Are you going to take this message to heart? Will you allow these questions to change your life-style? The reason that I ask is that every rationalization, and every trick you can play on your mind I’ve already used. We so easily convince ourselves that there isn’t a problem, or that we’ll fix it at a better time. Don’t lie to yourself. Fix things before it’s too late.
Now, please understand, I’m not writing about a magic cure, or a three-step action plan to fix all teen relationships. The way each person deals with this problem will be different from the last. But I trust that, if you answer these questions honestly, the decisions that must be made will become crystal clear.
So back to my story. What is the ending? I don’t know. It continues to be written. And while I can hope and pray that things turn out the way that I want them to, it’s all in God’s hands. Every day, I struggle with the consequences of a premature, emotional relationship. I do not stand before you today as someone who has it all figured out, but rather, as someone who serves as a warning to those like me.
We have an epidemic before us. I do not use that word lightly. Will it be stopped? That will be decided by each individual decision. All I know is that God has been gracious to allow me to use my story to speak into other's lives. And with God’s blessing, perhaps it can impact an entire generation.
"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted, or as Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lives a great street sweeper who did his job well."