Clenching my books tight to my chest, I looked up to see the hallways, swimming with a sea of people. Beating hard and frantically, my heart’s pounding moved me forward, one step at a time, to Locker 242. Slightly ajar, I opened the grey, metal door to find a spacious and clean 3 x 1 rectangle. Empty, it seemed plenty large enough to hold my belongings.
But, where to begin? What do I even do with this new space? Standing and staring into the nothingness of this flimsy compartment, the fear of starting over made me pause.
Voices muttering as locker doors clanked to a close reminded me I better hurry. Five minutes to unpack, repack, sort, and clutch before reporting to first period. Find the combination to the lock, and just get to class. I couldn’t even get it together enough to cram all of my books inside for fear I might leave something behind.
Shutting the door, clasping down the metal ring to secure the shiny combination lock, I bent down to pick up the heavy stack of textbooks. Arms in and shoulders pulled down, I bumped in and around the mass of fifth graders making their way to class. Many of them smiled in recognition of one another and talked easily as they passed friends in the hallway.
My newness made me feel lonely, scared, uneasy. Questions and insecurity overwhelmed my eleven year old heart. How will I ever make it here? How will I ever matter here?
These are questions that every adolescent reaches deep in her heart to reconcile. And it’s fair to say that young people are asking these questions because they seek meaning in their communities, their schools, and even their families.
Lately, I have befriended my online google dictionary so that I might use the right words to capture meaning. This is the perfect word to describe what young people are craving, whether it be through social media posts, classroom and hallway interactions, or even in their secret life choices which, if secret, are often destructive.
Relevant. They long to be relevant.
Relevant means appropriate to the current time, period, or circumstances, of contemporary interest.
So, we choose to walk this road with them. Not tell them willy-nilly that it doesn’t matter what other people think. Because, for a time, for most of us, it does matter what other people think, and there is nothing lonelier in the whole wide world than to have the people you love the most tell you that the feelings you’re feeling are stupid and not worth paying mind to.
We choose to get down on our knees and pray, wobbly and uncomfortable in our humility. We choose to relive this time with them and somehow try to do it without living out all of our fears and expectations and failures. And just love them.
Love them as they stutter, fall flat and angry, roll their eyes at us. Because on the outside they’re doing all kinds of wierdness, but inside they’re hungry for real answers :
What do I matter? Am I really important? Am I necessary?
Am I relevant in the world?
They are starving for truth. They are craving the company of fellow sinful, loving, forgiving human adults to walk alongside them as they seek how to be relevant in their space. And we will have no idea of how to do this except to TRUST that the blood was spilled from our Savior, messy and grotesque, all over the cross so that we might have relationships that are real, and consequently, messy.
Messy and redemptive and full.