Monday, February 23, 2009

Earning Respect

A few weeks ago a conversation with my Monday Night Girls prompted this post about respect. It is so interesting to me how so much of their demeanor and, it seems, their 'issues' are tied up in this deep rooted need to be respected. These girls are victims of the adults in their lives, but their survivalistic response is to demand respect from everyone else in the world--while giving to very few.

You can only imagine how difficult it makes creating a safe small group environment. Vulnerability is seized like a piece of fresh meat in a circle of hungry animals. Anything that starts to touch a sensitive nerve gets turned into a joke as quickly as possible. There are constant sidebar conversations that distract from the main discussion I am attempting to lead.

I realized tonight that the one thing about life with 4 year old triplets that has prepared me for this ministry is the incredibly short attention spans I am accustomed to dealing with. I am walking a fine line--trying to teach these girls how to behave appropriately and treat adults with respect, all while working to earn their trust and respect, not demand it.

I am a big fan of obedience, courtesy and proper behavior. Yet, somehow, God gives me patience to tolerate much more than I could ever dream of tolerating on my own.

Tonight as we were wrapping up our time in prayer, the cutting up was getting a little more over-the-top so I said matter-of-factly, "Girls, I am not going to demand that you respect me, but when we pray, I am going to demand that you show reverence and respect to God. Let's quiet down."

You could have heard a pin drop (for a millisecond) before one of the girls said, "Ms. Jennifer, don't say that. You should demand that we respect you. Tell us to shut up and respect you."

And I thought of my Lord. I thought of the way He lovingly pursues us. He doesn't demand that we revere Him or love Him, yet as we get to know Him, He commands our respect. I pray that God will enable me to model this kind of servanthood to these girls. I want them to want to listen to what I have come to share with them about the love of God.

I am also reminded of the importance of 'entering their world.' The only time tonight when I had their undivided attention was when I referenced 'shoulda put a ring on it.' They were stunned! (And you really wouldn't have believed the shock on their faces when I stood up and danced like Beyonce in that video.) I had instant street credibility.

Incarnational ministry: I believe it is why Jesus had to come and walk this Earth as a man.

Interestingly, the conversation ended with several of the girls 'bowing up' about how they 'had my back' if anybody didn't show me respect. I have no doubt that some of these girls have true affection for me and are unaware of how disrespectful their behavior can seem.

I wonder how often I am guilty of the same.


Karen said...

We reach with what we know and hope/know God will fill in the blanks! He is wonderful that way. We can be cool and be Christians, hard for some to understand. Reaching the seemingly unreachable...don't we all belong in this category! Helping God's young on and know that any effort for his sake will be rewarded.

Sitesx6 said...

I think this is such a great story. As mentors, part of the job seems to be teaching kids how to respect others. I'm so glad you did that. It will bring them such success in the future. It teaches them to always be aware of others. I think it was such an important message to show them how they were disrespecting God and you too.

Kelly S.

Courtney said...

I posted a funny but unfortunate video of my children singing that song...curious as to why you referenced it...I am in youth ministry, and am always looking for ways to get into their world and like you said gain street credibility. :)

THanks for reaching out to them. It sounds like you are doing a fantastic job with them. Those that seem to be the hardest, are often those that will love you the most in return for spending time with them and loving them.

Just curious...have you heard of a ministry called Celebrate Recovery? We have it in our church and here just this month we launched the youth version called Life Hurts God Heals. It's been awesome.

Ally said...

I just skimmed ten of your most recent posts, and this one made me smile the most.

This is part of why God wants us in mission. These girls are teaching you so much and you-them. Praise God for bringing you all together. And thank you for sharing this with us. It's encouraging and inspiring to read how the Lord is working.

And isn't it great how a little understanding of someone's culture goes such a long way?