Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Timothy 4:12
Today I was reminded what a blessing it can be to return to somewhere that holds so many deep personal memories. To walk around a place is to relive those memories, to see them again, and to fully comprehend their value in life. To understand this is to put life itself into perspective, to marvel at its wonder and to truly hear God’s call.
2 months ago, things that were said there really upset me. I made the decision to take a break, to focus on myself and to evaluate the worth of returning. It really shocked and scared me that a few words could break me down to someone so vulnerable, and cause me to relive past events that I had bottled away. Things that you never even thought would affect you again can suddenly all come flooding back in glorious technicolour. What upset me further was that this was somewhere that I had always felt valued equally as part of the community, it was where I had grown up physically, emotionally and spiritually. Yet this was suddenly a place where I felt isolated and vulnerable.
Sometimes it seems when something like that happens, that the easiest thing to do is to run away from it. And that’s what I did. I walked straight out into the car park, found my Mum, and just started crying. All I could do was cry. And that’s what I needed then was just to let all those frustrations and emotions out. It seems childish now, but the thing I wanted more than anything was to drive away and to never come back.
I decided to take a break, and to think about which decision I was going to make. The words of Nanny McPhee (great films if you haven’t seen them) kept circling round in my head during that time. Did I stay or go?
When you need me but do not want me, then I have to stay. When you want me but do not need me, then I have to go. –Nanny McPhee
At that moment in time I felt neither needed nor wanted. I thought I had to go. But as time went on over those 2 months, I saw that not being wanted meant I was firmly needed. I wanted to change the attitudes that were engrained in that society which had so affected me. I wanted to challenge the stereotypes and prove that I was something more than what I seem. I wanted to show that young people like me are just as equal as anyone else. I decided that I would return, stronger and more determined by my emotional defeat.
It was only today, returning to the place almost 2 months on, and talking it through that I fully saw that I was needed in these ways. I believe that this was God calling me to carry on. It was God calling me to prove what I believed in my heart was right. And this urge I felt to pick myself up and move on, that was God moving in me.
I walked around the place today and I tried not to see all the negative things that I had been replaying in my head over and over, but I remembered the happy times. I saw me as an 8 year old, entering the building for the first time in awe and wonder. I saw me as a 10 year old, reading scripture for the first time; as an 11 year old walking barefoot as a King; as a 13 year old confirming my witness; as a 15 year old giving an innocent and wonder-struck and excited 4 year old a flickering candle; as a 16 year old welcoming and guiding, in Christian stewardship. And there were so many more, like a good Pandora’s Box being opened and brimming full and exploding all at once on to the white wall of canvas. These were the things that make me who I am. I knew that I had to keep going, because that was my calling. I had to return, because God was calling me.
It took more faith, encouragement and determination than I ever thought to pluck up the courage to take the decision and say yes to God, to say yes to continuing. But I did it. And now I feel stronger to cope with challenges that life is going to throw at me. Because I know that along the way there will be days where I find it hard to know what God wants and needs me to do. And after those days you need to pick yourself up, examine, and ultimately, move on, made stronger by what has happened. The ability to pick yourself up, perspectivise (NB new word: to perspectivise = to put into perspective), and go out into the world a stronger and better person for that is an ability that we should never take for granted, it is something that defines who we are, and how God shapes our lives.
If you are a young person and you feel unwelcome in your Church community, you are not alone. Don’t let anyone tell you that ‘young people are not needed in this Church,’ ask you ‘what are you doing?’ or ‘why are you here?’ I’m ashamed to say that it won’t always be easy, but you are always welcome, and always needed. It takes a lot of strength to be strong, and carry on doing what you’re doing when people don’t make you feel welcome. But be strong, and I’ll be strong with you.
Here are two little motivators that have helped me in the past to pick myself up and move on when I didn’t necessarily hear God’s call. I was reminded of these during my 2 month period of reflection, and I hope that they might be of use to you too.
- The first is this anonymous quote: “Every day may not be a good day, but there is something good in every day.”
If your struggle to find a reason to pick yourself up after something happens, take a break, pause and reflect on what happened. Find that something good. For me, my silver lining was my recognition of God calling me to carry on and to use what I have experienced to challenge the perception of young people, to encourage others and to be someone that younger people might look up to. The best motivator is to find the good thing that happened that day, or what good could come out of a bad situation, because something will be there, you just have to find it.
2. The second is this song.
I know this song is about a break up, and may not seem relevant, but when I was younger and felt sad or upset about something, I always used to listen to this song and it made me feel just a little bit better. So if your motivation is not God or you are struggling to find a positive, give this song a listen, read the lyrics. Hopefully this will give you the inspiration and the motivation to pick yourself up and carry on.