Is This Real Life?
A few years ago there was a YouTube video that went viral of a dad filming his son on their way back from the dentist office. You can take a quick look at the video here. One of the comments David makes when he is trying to figure out why he feels the way he does is, “Is this real life?” It is a question that I think about in ministry quite often, specifically youth ministry, when I think of the way Christians approach church and church life. We come to a place we call church, and many times we show up and forget to bring “real life” with us. This past week, as Brady opened our current series on Judges, he made the point that we cannot exclude God from the mess and the filth in our lives. This happens all the time within youth ministry, and it certainly happens with college students and adults as well.
The idea of transparency gets talked about fairly often, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to just add to the many blogs, books, and podcast sermons addressing this topic. However as I was reading through some youth ministry resources this morning, I noticed many of the articles and blogs were addressing real life issues that don’t ever get discussed in church/spiritual settings. For some reason, we don’t talk about couples struggling in their marriage; we don’t want to pay attention to the college students who struggle to make the right decisions when it comes to physical relationships; we don’t talk about eating disorders becoming an epidemic among middle school and high school girls. I’m not saying we bring these things to church and air out our dirty laundry, but I want us as a church to be aware of “real life.”
I see this play out in youth ministry all the time. A few years ago, I was hosting a group of seniors at our house when they began to recap some high school stories. We were simply hanging out together when they began to talk about some of their high school experiences, and it was as if they forgot I was in the room. They felt free to talk about some of the things they had struggled with and some of the choices they had made over their high school years. They were telling stories they would never have shared when they were at church. They were having a discussion about “real life.” I was in high school once, so it’s not like I was unaware of their involvement in such activities. Statistics alone would suggest that our youth ministry students are involved in things they might not want to share at church. As a youth worker, I am fully aware of the things teenagers deal with in life, not because students openly share them with me, but because I pay attention to culture and reflect on my own life as a teenager.
This isn’t just a youth ministry thing. Adults struggle to bring their real lives to church with them as well. On Sunday, Brady said the word “crap” in his message, and he did this intentionally. There was a Life Group whose discussion centered around the fact they couldn’t believe it was said in church. The ironic thing is that the word “crap” gets used all of the time. I am not the judge on whether or not it is okay to say that word, but the point is that people treated it as taboo when it was used in church. Brady wasn’t going for shock factor: he simply wanted people to understand that the messiness of life doesn’t get left at the doors when we come into church. As a church we must create spaces and environments where people feel comfortable with “real life.” Lives are messy, a lot of times, and that is okay. As a church, we must also understand how messy our lives are and embrace them. Jesus came to live among those who embraced real life. May we be a place and a people who do the same.