Today I was talking to a mother who shared with me a story that made me smile and cheer her on.
She told me that her teenage son was beginning to make friends with a girl at school who had a reputation for being a trouble-maker, promiscuous, badly behaved and connected with gangs. This mother pointed out to her son that he should be a little careful around her. So when this young girl asked her son out to the movies my friend, understandably, was seriously frightened. “Is this the beginning of my son mixing with the wrong crowd?” She wondered. Instantly she saw in her mind pictures of her son sitting in gaol because of some crime he had committed; graffiti, stealing and worse.
All of this because she had allowed him to mix with bad company. All because she had allowed him to go to the movies with a troublesome girl.
Mothers in my friend’s church group warned her about this young girl and made “tsk, tsk” sounds when she told them that her son was going out with her one day. Most of the mothers were telling their sons to avoid this girl and they were avoiding her family.
But my friend had a nagging suspicion that this was not the point of being a Christian.
She was frightened but even so, with tears in her eyes she asked me “I mean, what is the message of Jesus all about if not looking out for those who we see as a problem?”
Even though it might have come at a cost to her, she felt that her son might be able to be a friend to this young girl who was labeled “suspicious”. So my friend ended up driving her son to the movies, waiting for the end of their “date” and then drove them home.
Nothing happened on that movie date of course and everything was fine. The girl shared with my friend’s son about her difficult life and he invited her to church. Lately she seems to have changed and my friend says that for the first time she is hearing a bit of kindness and hope coming through this young girl’s words.
I loved hearing this story.
I am not a mother but I am fiercely protective of those who are my close friends and family. I can’t imagine what it is like to enter into those shaky teenage years with a son or daughter and watch as they potentially slip through your fingers. As they wrestle in the twilight between childhood and adulthood, it must be disorienting, painful and frustrating as a parent.
I can imagine that every instinct in a parent’s tense body would be to hold their children closer and protect them from the forces in our world that could take them away forever.
But here’s the thing that my vulnerable and bold friend discovered, the way of Jesus calls us to be courageous in the ordinary things of life. Often we will need to give up our comfort, certainty and protection of our own children, time and resources and channel that fierce love we hold, towards others.
This sometimes looks like we are abandoning our own. But of course we are not. Instead we are teaching our own what self-giving love is all about.
We are slowly, painfully, turning outwards, at great cost sometimes, redirecting ourselves from an inwardness that we are used to. We are loving others despite being afraid of what might happen.
This is the way of Jesus. This is what my friend practiced recently and in doing this she has possibly changed a young girl’s destiny and trajectory forever.