Author’s Note: Hi Friends! Thank you for stopping by to read this! If you are not familiar with Young Life, it is a non-denominational ministry with the mission to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith. “Leaders” are those volunteers who work directly with youth during weekly programs, camp trips, and more. You will also see “Young Life” abbreviated as “YL” in this article. If you are interested in learning more, you can visit their website by clicking here!
Last week, I received a t-shirt in the mail that I had ordered as part of a fundraiser for a Young Life camp trip. The return address on the envelope was one that I am familiar with, as the sweet girl who mailed it to me was once part of Young Life where I was a volunteer. For a short time, we shared life together and now, as a 19 year-old college student, she is part of keeping Young Life running in her hometown. (I am going to digress here from my main point and just re-emphasize that she is 19 years old. Truly friends, “do not let anyone look down on you because you are young”* – God can use you in incredible ways no matter your age.)
As I opened the envelope, I was suddenly struck by the fact that so many things had to happen in my life to even bring me to the point of ordering this shirt. It is not just another YL shirt to add to my collection – it is a tangible reminder of the countless people who built into my life. All of the VBS volunteers, Sunday school teachers, youth pastors, friends, and Young Life staff laid part of a foundation that would eventually land me as a volunteer leader in Connecticut. While there, I would have the chance to share life, Jesus, and a camp cabin with a high school girl who would, a few short years later, leave her dream college and move back to that same town to lead Young Life. And I would get to buy a t-shirt from her to help send kids to camp. Full circle indeed. The faithfulness of God – past, present, and future – all wrapped up in this one shirt.
As I have sat with my own story over the past week, I have thought about how, as Christians, it can be easy to think that if we are not involved with watershed moments in someone’s life, God is not using us or our prayers aren’t being answered. I see from my own life that this is entirely untrue. There were people who prayed for me, taught me Bible stories, and invited me to youth groups whose names and faces I cannot even recall. I do remember their intentionality, things they said, and how I felt around them, though. And I know with certainty that without them, I would not know Jesus the way that I do now. I would venture to guess that most of our stories are similar – certainly there are big “ah-ha” moments that we remember with great clarity, but there were a thousand little moments leading up to those and laying a foundation in our hearts.
Being intentional about remembering these little moments has been a wonderful reminder that, whether or not I ever see the fruit of prayers or interactions with others, God is at work, often behind the scenes. The paradox is that our faithfulness, obedience, and perseverance in sharing the Gospel absolutely matter, but at the same time, the pressure for someone’s knowing Jesus is not on us. Paul says in I Corinthians that, “It is not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” (I Cor 3:7 NLT) The weight of someone’s salvation and future does not rest on our shoulders. You see, we are simply tools in the hands of God, planting seeds through diligent obedience. He is the lover of souls, He is the Savior, and He will fulfill His purposes even if it requires the rocks to cry out.
We can relax and simply be grateful that He allows us to be part of His story in the lives of His children. This should give us so much freedom! We can get on with loving others and leave the rest to Jesus. We do not have to worry about recognition, results, or knowing the outcome of our prayers because we are not the main thing, He is. I pray that we can rest in that truth today. I pray that we are filled to the brim with gratitude for the way that He pursued our own hearts and for the way that we now have the chance to be even a small part of someone else’s life. It matters.
I am pretending it’s warm enough to wear short sleeves here, and as I look at my new Young Life shirt, I am filled with anticipation over the stories that will come from it. The stories that will be born out of one girl’s faithfulness to move back to her hometown and share the Gospel. The stories that will ultimately, though, be born out of a thousand tiny moments leading up to that. I have no doubt that, years from now, there will be people remembering how a camp trip in the summer of 2018 led them one step closer to Jesus and the life they are living.
Keep going friends, you never know what impact you are having, and that is okay. To those people who shared Jesus and their lives with me, there just aren’t words. Thank you.
*1 Timothy 4:12, NIV