I’ve been living in Guatemala City for three weeks today. It still doesn’t quite seem real to me. Maybe once I have gone home and come back again it will feel more like a reality that this is my home for the next 8 months. At this point, I am still not attached enough to this place to want to stay longer. I still have up the thick walls of defense that I used to help me survive these first weeks of transition. Knowing that I will be going home for Christmas has, I think, given me a false sense of security. I know that I will be leaving for a couple of weeks, and I’m afraid that once I go home, I won’t want to come back. I am already looking forward to that break a great deal. But I didn’t make this commitment lightly, and I don’t think I could bail on this place even if I wanted to. I couldn’t handle the guilt or the ramifications of what it would mean to my soul if I gave up on myself like that.
So, that being said, I am trying to settle in for the long haul. I am trying to at least tear chunks out of my walls so that I can make it easier on those around me. This isn’t the first time I’ve gone to an unknown place and situated myself into a community of people that don’t know me at all. However, since I have gone through this same process numerous times in the last 4 years, I know how I am coming off to these other people. And while I am just doing what I have to do to survive, doing what I instinctly do to cope with the upheaval I’ve just put myself through…I don’t act like myself. I don’t come off as the person I really am.
Maybe it’s not possible to do something like this and not build up the walls and defenses. I don’t know how other people react to it. I just know how I am. And since that summer in Wisconsin, I’ve been a lot more aware of how I appear to those people around me. I’ve tried to change, to soften, to trust more easily, to be willing to give of myself without spending the weeks analyzing and observing those around me.
I thought I did pretty well adjusting in Texas, at the time. But looking back, I can see the walls I built clearly defined around my personal life. There was one person who gave me the chance to start a friendship, but it took me so long to get comfortable with her and to allow her inside even that first wall, that I lost most of the summer before I came to the point where I was comfortable enough to seek her out.
Some days I think I’m growing up. There are other days when I still feel like a middle school version of myself.
So, I’ve been here 3 weeks. I’ve tried to get the lay of the land, so to speak. I’ve been watching, observing, stepping in when I pushed myself, trying so hard to relax that I think it is back firing somewhat.
I am fighting some of my personal demons again, and the struggle is one I thought I’d put behind me. For better or for worse, my personality is not the one of your typical youth minister. I’m can’t get on the same maturity level as middle school kids, I’m not loud—even when I want to be, I know nothing about video games, I hate talking about bodily functions, I don’t even want to be a part of a huge youth group that has over 100 kids each week. And you know what, more power to those people who can interact that way with teenagers. But I had to accept a long time ago that that just wasn’t the way God put me together. I’m still trying to reconcile that fact with the calling I feel God has placed in me. Sometimes though, when I’m not looking, Satan creeps into my head, disguised as my self-esteem, and tells me that because I don’t fit the mold, I can’t do this. That there is no way I can be effective by just being myself.
Being here these 3 weeks, working with a youth minister who very much fits into the stereotypical youth minister mold, Satan took some pretty good whacks at my heart and even has me doubting not only my ability to stay here through my commitment, but also questioning my life and my calling/purpose.
I’m speaking at youth this coming Thursday and I think this is what I am going to share. I need to be willing to make myself vulnerable to these people. How else are we supposed to grow and fellowship with one another if they know I’m holding out on them? And trust me, teenagers have incredible radar with that stuff. You can’t fake anything with them. They know it.
So, I’m going to put myself on the line.
Maybe I’m growing up after all.