How Well Do Your Students Know Your Story?
I bet David would have been a cool guy to hang out with. I love listening to people's stories, and David has plenty of killer ones (insert Goliath joke here). But it's more than just having good stories. David had an incredible way of telling his story. He wore his good days and bad days on his sleeve. And in the most amazing way, David shared the record of God's touch points in his life.
As youth workers, we can learn a great deal from David's willingness to share his story.
Here's a simple question: How well do your students know the story of your personal history with God? I'm not talking about your "testimony." I'm talking about the highs, and the more important lows. Do your students look at you and see you as someone who has experienced struggles and trials and failings? Do they know the moments in your life where God lifted you up and redeemed you? In the psalms, over and over again, we see David communicating instances where he and the Lord walked through life together. Some were good times, some were bad. But David put it all out there for us to see.
Here are just a few examples:
We see David being completely transparent in sharing what may be best described as his frustration with God
- My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.—Psalm 22:1-2
But, then, we see David share where God faithfully meet him at a low point in David's life
- I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.—Psalm 40:1-2
We see David sharing God's involvement in the high points of his life
- I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.—Psalm 13:6
And we even see David sharing an account of God's hand in a calm moment of his life
- My feet stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the Lord.—Psalm 26:12
More than any other biblical character (aside from Christ, and maybe Paul), we feel like we know David. I mean, really know him! And it's because of his willingness to share the personal story of his and God's history together.
Trials and doubt and struggle are a crucial part of spiritual development. They are necessary components of teenagers personalizing, or taking ownership of their faith. And one of the most important things you can do as a leader is to be open about your own trials and doubts and struggles. Don't let fear paralyze you. If you think your students will think less of you, that they will somehow look at you and see you as someone who doesn't have it all together, you're fooling yourself.
Do you think less of David? Probably not. You probably see him as someone you can relate to. You probably see his steady reliance on God during times of great trial as something to emulate. More than anything, when we communicate our stories with teenagers, they see a firsthand account of God's faithfulness when we stumble. And that, maybe more than anything, is the purpose of this level of transparency. See Paul's words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10-11:
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.
Timothy knows "all about" Paul's life . . . nearly every aspect of it. Timothy knows Paul's thoughts and opinions, the "ins and outs" of his faith. But just as importantly, he knows Paul's sufferings . . . and Timothy knows that God rescued Paul from his trials.
Within the bond of relationship, there may be no more important thing.