I’ve been thinking all week about what to write—pulling the laptop out, staring at it, closing it, putting it away, and waiting.  All week only one thing kept coming to mind when I sat to write, but honestly I wasn’t too sure I wanted to write about it.  So today, I’m deciding to just go ahead and do it, I’m pretty sure that I’m sure.

The Ominous Fence

This will call for some back story; I will do my best to make it short.  At our church, alongside the driveway, there is a fence.  On the other side of the fence there is an alley, and in the alley there are a lot of young people.  In case you didn’t catch it, they are right next to the church, on the other side of the fence.  These young people are broken, and while spending most of their days and nights right next to a church, they really have no idea who or what God is.  So instead of turning to a God they don’t know, they spend their lives drinking and using drugs, seeking but never finding.  I should clarify that these young people vary in age, from 14- 22 (more or less).

My husband Ray and his friend Mike (the worship pastor) became almost desperate to reach these kids.  They would talk, then Ray and I would talk, and we all kept trying to come up with some “plan,” but there couldn’t really be a plan.  The conclusion was to just do it, to just go over to the fence and show them God’s love.  Now, this didn’t mean a nice, convenient three-step plan to tell them about God, invite them to church, and give them a track… It just meant to love them.  It meant to show them a love that they had no idea existed—a love they have never seen, a love they have never experienced, a love that only comes from God.

The Simple Move

So Ray and Mike started going over there during the day. The kids were scared—they thought they were cops!  But they kept going over, just hanging out, having fun, and then decided it was time to bring over some kids from youth group.  The questions were now, “Are we ready?”, “Are the youth group kids ready?”, “Are the ‘fence kids’ ready?”  Will it go ok?  Would we scare them off?  Will it be awkward?  We ended up realizing it really didn’t matter what we did, what was taught, how we “prepared” them.  Neither side would ever be “ready,” so one night we just opened up the doors to that side of the church, gave the teens boxes of pizza, and sent them to the fence.  They went over and gave them pizza, and drinks, and chips, some of them stayed and talked, some just delivered the food and came back.  All of it was uncomfortable, but God doesn’t call us to be comfortable, does he?  (By the way, that’s a rhetorical no.)

After a few weeks some of the teens would just automatically go out there and talk, and just one at a time, kids would come from the other side of the fence.  So last week we decided to have a big cook out in the driveway, for the “youth group kids” and the “fence kids.”  For the first 2 hours, we were giving most of the kids food over the fence, the kids on both sides not sure whether to cross the fence.

I decided to go over and talk to a couple of girls that were staying pretty secluded.  We were just talking and the one girl looks at me and says “Why are you here?”  So here’s the conversation.

Me: What do you mean?
Girl:  Why are you here?
Me:  Why am I where?
Girl:  Why are you guys coming over here?
Me:  Why not
Girl:  We do like, ya know, bad stuff.
Me:  Like what?
Girl:  Drinking, drugs… we aren’t “good”
Me:  What is good?
Girl:  Well, like they are [pointing to youth group kids] good
Me:  Really? Just because they don’t use drugs or alcohol doesn’t make them good.
Girl:  Ok, so why are you here?
Me:  Just to show you guys a little love, just to hang out…
Girl:  Really? Us?
Me:  Yep
Girl:  All right, that’s cool.

I know this was long and seemingly unnecessary, but I needed to tell you the conversation to get to the point.  She was saying that they weren’t good enough, that they didn’t deserve what we were trying to offer.  And to be honest, I know that some of the teens from the church didn’t think that they deserved it either, or that they were good enough.  I’m pretty sure they feel very differently about it now, after realizing that they are just like them, they have some of the same issues, same struggles, listen to the same music… the difference is, we know God, they don’t.

So really, I’m not good enough, the “church side” isn’t good enough, the “fence kids” aren’t good enough, and yes in case you were wondering, you aren’t good enough either.  But!!!  Thankfully, we all have the opportunity, whether we know it yet or not, to be loved by an amazing God that couldn’t care less whether we are “good enough” or not.

On Thursday morning, the city dug up the back ally due to some sewage issues, and the “fence kids” had nowhere to hang out.  Actually that’s not true, I did hear one girl say they had a hang out spot down the street, but they didn’t go… they came over onto “our side” and sat on the sidewalk and hung out with all of us.  They didn’t go into church and nobody talked about God—but could it be that maybe they were starting to see that we are really all the same, none of us good enough, none of us deserving of the sacrifice the Christ made?  Maybe they were starting to see that even though we aren’t good enough, and we are the same, that there is still something different?

All it is, is God’s love.  We didn’t do anything special, we aren’t anything special; what is special is just God’s love in us.  And we didn’t have any degrees in youth psychology nor any technical training at hand besides the single instruction from Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves (quite literally here).

So before we decide that others aren’t good enough for God’s love, we need to check ourselves, because last time I checked, I wasn’t good enough for it either.

To read more from this author, check out her blog:  julesconfessions.blogspot.com

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Julie Longwood
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