How I Failed On The First Day

August 13, 2014
Originally posted August 2012.

It was 3:15pm, the first day back to school for my high school friends. I was excited but nervous and tried to talk myself out of going to the school. I made excuses.

“No other leader can go do contact work today. It’s not worth it to drive all the way out there alone. I haven’t made plans to meet up with any kids. They won’t even notice if I’m not there. I’ve got so much work to catch up on, I just don’t have time. The bell is gonna ring soon, I might not even make it by 3:45.”

But then, I just got in the car and started driving.

I tried to pray. But I felt guilty about not praying earlier in the day.
“God won’t bless this contact work as much since I’m only praying in the car, right? I should have gotten up early this morning… and been fasting… and we should have done a prayer walk around the school last night. Aagghh. I’m such a failure.”

Guilt distorts truth. Fear breathes lies.

God whispered and reminded me, “I am for you, not against you. This is my business, not yours.”

The fear melted away. I pulled in to an open visitor’s spot. Last year I learned not to park in the numbered spaces. The secretary who parks in 117 was a little upset when she returned from lunch and had to park in the gravel lot.

I hurried in the front office to sign in and print off my name tag. Five minutes til the bell. I didn’t know where kids would be this year. New parking spots, new class schedules, and I had failed to ask any of my high school friends to meet me by the office.

I could send some texts out, but who really wants to meet their YL leader by the office after the first day of school? I just sat alone on the bench in the hall and anxiously prayed.

The bell rang. Kids poured out of the classrooms. 

And I didn’t see a single face I knew.

“Young Life’s just gonna be terrible this year. I hardly know anyone. Where are all my friends?” Thoughts raced through my mind. I considered going on home, but didn’t really want to fight the traffic. Then I saw Jason.

I don’t know him that well, and was debating between the safe ‘what-up’ head nod, or yelling his name and going for ‘the high-five handshake that turns into a one armed hug.’ I went with the latter, and was thankful for a reciprocated embrace. I followed Jason through the halls down to the practice fields, which is where about everyone I knew was hanging out.

I made a fool of myself trying to toss a football with some of the guys. Official size footballs are huge! I couldn’t throw it hard enough to reach them so I decided to kick it. Yeah, probably won’t do that again. I met the XC coaches and chatted with some friends on the team, and then I got a text message that felt like someone punched me in the stomach. 

“Jason n Eli were just n a BAD wreck.”

I was just hanging out with Jason ten minutes earlier, how could this have happened? I called my friend Stephen who sent the text, not wanting everyone around me to know what happened until I had more details.

“Are they okay?” I hesitantly asked.
“Yeah, yeah, they’re fine, but their cars might be totaled.” Stephen replied.
“Dude, don’t send me a text like that without more details. You scared me to death.” I was so thankful and relieved.

No one had their phones at practice, so they didn’t know about the wreck, which meant I got to be the cool ‘in-the-know’ guy and verbally tweet it out to everyone on the fields. Word quickly spread, but I don’t think it upped my cool points as much as I hoped.

The wreck happened just down the road from the school so I jogged up to the crowd. A four car pile up, all high school students, lots of vehicle damage, but no injuries.

Over the next hour I got to hang out with my three friends who were in the wreck. I got to be with their parents and with the school administration. We waited for the cops and tow trucks. As I stood there by my friends, I saw the sadness in their eyes. What a crappy way to start out their Junior year. I didn’t have much to offer. No answers to their problem. No real words of wisdom. No solutions. No car they can borrow. Just me. Available. Present. There.

I’m thankful I failed to make plans to go to grab eats with kids after school. I’m thankful God redeemed my lack of planning and prayer. I’m thankful His grace is sufficient. I’m thankful He directs our paths. And that when we don’t have much to offer, we have everything to offer. Christ in us, the hope of the world.

Heavenly Father, 

May we as Young Life leaders live this year in utter dependence upon You. May we decrease, so you may increase. May we resolve to know nothing except Jesus. May our weakness point to your power. May you use us, your broken and redeemed children, to reveal your grace. Amen.

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