The past 3 years at the Youth Ministry Summer School there has been a lot of focus on teens suffering more hurt and pain than they have in the past. The first 2 years we had Chap Clark who wrote Hurt and Deep Ministry in a Shallow World as one of the keynote speakers. Marv Penner, who wrote Help My Kids Are Hurting: A Survival Guide to Working with Students in Pain was a key note speaker at the last Summer School. So each summer school has featured a lot of discussion around the subject, leading us into the thinking that as youth workers we need to set up communities for young people to feel loved, accepted, valuable and worth something. I have to admit that at each discussion on hurt and pain I was struggling to relate personally because I couldn't remember going through anything similar myself.
When we were in the airport on our way to Egypt a few weeks ago I couldn't help but have a look in the book shop. I'm not much of a reader usually but on holiday I read 2 or 3 books - I ended up reading 4 books and got halfway through another. I left the shop having bought 2 extra books to take away with me, one of which was called Loose Girl. It's a book about the author's struggle as a teenager and beyond to feel accepted and loved. She journals how she discovered a way to be accepted, loved and attractive was to use her feminine powers over men. In a search for attention and love she went down a path full of meaningless one night stands and emotionally unsatisfying relationships. Ultimately using and being used in order to fill a void.
As I read this book I couldn't help but think about Summer School and my own experiences of wanting love when I was a teen. I was reminded of times when I felt desperate for a boy to notice me, not just as someone else in the crowd but as someone special. I remember thinking that if anyone ever did want to be with me that I would have to be someone different than who I am so they would like me. I was insecure and rejection made me feel more insecure. I identified with the author in her quest to work out what it meant to love and to be loved. I identified with her as she dealt with her insecurity and compared herself to other girls. From reading magazines, watching TV, seeing movies and more back then I thought love was about feeling loved and thought nothing about returning love to that person too. I thought about how all this made me feel unattractive, unloveable, unaccepted, useless and worthless. Yes, I had friends who cared about me, but this still didn't make me feel like I could be loved. Thankfully I'm past all that insecurity and am a very happily married woman - though I still have my insecurities but they're not related to feeling loved or valuable anymore.
Thinking through all this helped me to identify more with what we have been talking about for the past 3 years at Summer School. It's helped me think more about how I as a youth worker need to get alongside young people and show them a God who loves them and cares for them as they are and not who they think they need to be or act like. It has helped me to see more of how God has created me and is using me to do His will and show His love. I can see more of how He's using me and my flawed humanity to serve others.