Monday, October 4, 2010

An observation

Many of you know that I have developed the habit of spending my summer's at camp. One of the fun things about coming home is catching up on all the changes that have happened in people's lives. It is always remarkable to me just how much changes while I am gone.

One of the biggest surprises to be was the total re-invention of one of my young friends. When I left he was totally into basketball and looked at dressed the part. He listened to hip-hop and was determined to be the next basketball player. When I got back he has changed his whole person to skater, complete with dressing the part and looking to start a band. This total transformation was further emphasized by his refusal to enjoy the things he used to enjoy - example: I tried to pass him a basketball for him to make an open shot and he refused to even touch the ball.

To be fair to my friend, there is nothing wrong with the changes that he made in his life. There is nothing wrong with changing a hobby from basketball to skateboarding or suddenly only wearing skinny jeans. These things are fine. But watching my friend re-invent himself has made me think of other people who I have watched reinvent themselves too. The quiet, nerdy kid who all of a sudden turns rock and roll. The argumentative Red Wings fan who suddenly loves the Leafs (poor kid). Again these can just be superficial things with no real meaning but they can also be a way that a person tries to change who they are because they aren't happy about deeper things.

Understanding who we are is an important thing. We all want to know that we matter and that we belong. We need to know that we have value. In fact to have questions about our worth and who our people are can be very can rock the foundations of our lives. When people feel worthless, empty and alone they will do all sorts of things to find value. Some people have questions about their identity, about who they are and why they matter, and so they seek to find it in all sorts of things. Relationships. Sex. Substances. Muscles. Fashion. Music. Movies. Sports. They are looking for what will define them and give them worth. For some people the deep discontent with who they are means that they will reach for what they have the ability to change - their outward appearance - and they hope that this change will be the thing that fixes the emptiness they feel.

Inevitably, when we try to define ourselves with things that are not God (i.e. skinny jeans, basketball or Opera music), we will find ourselves still feeling empty. We could start the vicious cycle of trying to find something new to give us worth, but whatever that is won't help. Instead I will suggest that what we are looking for is God. God has created us with great value and has created us to find our true identity in him. Anything else will leave us feeling empty.

Just a thought.


  1. "We all want to know that we matter and that we belong."

    This is so true. Even though I don't work with youth anymore, I see this all the time with the students in my dance classes. Women come to class feeling awful about their bodies, ashamed at their appearance, and ask me questions like "what I can do to change [x] or lose weight here or there?" or "I'll never look like that". It makes me so sad, and I've made a commitment to try and help people accept who they are and how they were made... and even though I can't overtly bring God into it, I try to help these women see that they were created for a purpose, that they are beautiful, and that their worth comes from within -- not from what we see on the outside.

    It's not witnessing per se, but it's something, and I hope these women will begin to see that they're worth so much more than they believe... and maybe that will spark a hunger for something MORE. If and when it does, I pray that either I or someone else will be ready and waiting to answer their questions.

  2. an interesting note for this post...

    I have been reading a lot recently about youth culture and youth ministry. At least one author has noted the phenoenon in recent (the past 20 years) youth culture for there multiple sub-groups within the broader teenage culture. Within a high school are dozens of smaller groups with their own cultures of value and belonging. This means that teens have the ability to move between these groups. The result is that they will redefine themselves based on whatever sub-group they find acceptence in.

    Just an interesting thought to ponder when we watch people make radical changes in their lives.
    - J