That time in the church van…

So which seat are you?

I didn’t really grow up in youth, so I guess now I’m usually 1.

Church van time is some of my favorite time. I believe the core of youth ministry is relationships and there’s something about suffocating together in a van that brings people closer together. In fact, I’m leaving today to take a bunch of high schoolers on a weekend retreat and I’m looking forward to the van time and belting out some bohemian rhapsody!

A lot of good memories in church vans, but nothing will beat this one time. Let me set the stage for you. We were rounding out a weekend retreat with some middle schoolers.

We were coming back from theHelen, Ga. area taking some back roads towards the interstate. A lot of curves and a lot of hills. Imagine a van full of 14 middle schoolers. Loud, sweaty (church vans are always hot), and starting to get a little cranky.

In the middle of jamming out to some high school musical (or whatever middle schoolers were listening to back then) one of the girls right behind me in seat 5 got sick and threw up all over the van.

Just sit in that scene for a second.

Yeah….

I pulled over into the first place I saw. It was a church parking lot, but it was closed- no one was there. We grabbed all the wet wipes, combined all of our water, and did a quick clean of the van.

The whole time I kept checking on her. I felt so bad for her. Can you imagine the embarrassment she felt? A 6th grader getting sick in front of her friends. I mean, middle schoolers can be real jerks sometimes.

But (here’s the really cool part) the students, they surrounded her with love. They didn’t chastise her or socially-excommunicate her. Instead of being repulsed or offended by what happened, they leaned into the relationship and comforted her.

This is going to sound harsh, but it’s true. These middle schoolers didn’t let disgust be an obstacle to the relationship. They showed her a glimpse of how God views her and how God views us.

Here’s the deal, in the middle of our grossness….there God is. Not just, overlooking it, but coming and meeting us in it. Not abandoning us until we get it all just right, but loving us right where we are.

Look at how Paul says it, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

In other words, while we are doing the thing that should make us unrelatable to God, He chooses to relate with us. To be with us. To love us.

God isn’t waiting for us to get all shined up and live a life just how He wants us to live it. He moves towards our messes to be with us.

In those moments that we are walking away from God, God isn’t walking away from you. He’s not disgusted by you. He’s not mad at you. Your relationship with Him doesn’t ebb and flow with how “well” you are behaving that day.

He loves you. It’s that simple. Don’t make it harder than it is.

So what’s all this mean? Well, chances are there is a person in your life that you just don’t get. Their life choices just don’t make sense to you. They may even cause you to feel offended, disgusted, or angered. Instead of leaning into the relationship, there is something in you that makes you want to run. Whatever that thing is, don’t let it rule the relationship.

Fight to see the person behind that thing that makes you want to leave. If God isn’t abandoning them in the middle of those things, why would we think we need to? Are we more righteous than God?

Hang with them. Don’t cancel them. Be with them in the disagreement. Be with them in their potentially poor choices. Be with them in those moments that make you feel offended. Be with them when they do that thing that drives you nuts.

Don’t leave them, love them. Do for them what God is doing for you.

How can you better love that person that is so hard to love today?