In 2011 I read an intriguing book by Donald Miller called “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.” I still remember this one chapter called “How Jason Saved His Family.”
Donald’s buddy, Jason, has a teenage daughter who he claims “is dating a loser” and Jason is worried that the boyfriend has convinced his baby girl to start using drugs. Donald responds with a seemingly rude remark, “It sounds like she’s living a terrible story.”
The statement haunts Jason. He goes home and wrestles with “the story” that he, as a father, was inviting his family to live. He realizes that his daughter’s boyfriend was offering her an element of adventure, so Jason does some research and comes up with an adventure plan of his own. He commits to taking out a second mortgage on their home and donates $25,000 to help build an orphanage in Mexico.
At first, his wife and kids think he’s gone off his rocker, but eventually, they get excited about the idea and even go to Mexico themselves. In the midst of thinking about these lonely kids who have no parents, Jason’s daughter breaks up with the “loser” and starts living a better story- focused less on herself and more on helping others.
In this time of quarantine, it’s only natural that our teenage friends would be focused on themselves and all they’ve lost: the time with friends, the sports season they’d be training for, their senior prom, their parent’s job, even their own graduation ceremony. It’s heavy, sad, and overwhelming.
How can we offer them hope in the midst of all the loss?
In Matthew 16:25, Jesus says, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (NIV)
The Message translation records it this way:
“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?”
We find life when we give it away.
If we want to help our middle, high school, and college friends get out of the funk, one practical way to do it is by inviting them to focus less on themselves and more on others.
What if, during your next video chat, you asked them to each take out a piece of paper and answer this question:
Who do you know that is especially vulnerable during this time?
Help them brainstorm:
– Elderly grandparents, neighbors, friends of grandparents
– Those with health problems
– Those in the medical field taking care of others
– Those who have lost their jobs
– The homeless, hungry and poor
Next, help them make a list of ways they could come alongside the vulnerable during this time:
– Hand-written letters to grandparents go a long way!
– Surprising the family of a medical provider with a “Thank-You” meal via DoorDash.
– A phone call to someone who lives alone.
– Partnering with a non-profit organization in your hometown that already knows how to help feed the hungry
Ask everyone: “What is ONE THING YOU CAN DO TODAY to focus less on yourself and more on others?”
Tell them you want to circle back together in a few days and share stories of what they’ve experienced, and remind them that what Jesus said is absolutely true.
“We find life when we give it away.”
If you’ve not yet read or listened to “Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel,” a book Drew wrote for Young Life leaders, you can pick it up at the links below.
There’s never a better time to read or listen to audiobooks than when you’re stuck in quarantine!