- (I had some issues getting this sent out on time, so if this is the second time you have gotten this sorry)
- “This is not about YOU!!”
- -Several years ago it was my friend Sara’s birthday and we were trying to surprise her by hiding in her room. We ended up having to wait for some time and after awhile people started talking, then danielle (sara’s roommate) would yell at every one to quiet down. This went back and forth till sara was just a few minutes away at which point one of my other friends erik Thyburg was still caring on a conversation (of course). Danielle not wanting her roommates surprise party to be ruined yelled out one of my all time favorite words of wisdom “Erik, this is not about YOU!” We all had a good laugh about it then, but these words have stayed with me throughout the years and i find them returning to me frequently here at Shelterwood. Some of the times it comes as my own voice in my head saying that to selfish spoiled kids who expect to get everything there way, and cuss you out when they don’t. But more recently it has been God whispering that to me when i am tired and frustrated and those same kids who just cussed me out come back an hour later and want me to do things for them, or i have a kitchen shift, or just want to quit. He says to me “Brian, this is not about YOU! this is about me and what i am doing in you and in these kids, and don’t you dare quit on me”.
- Paradoxical strength– I am learning what it means to have Gods strength be made perfect in my weakness. That as a man i can be strong when i am completely broken and don’t even want to fight anymore, all i have to do is turn to jesus.
- New perspective, new heart– probably one of the most important things i have had to learn is how to change my perspective and my heart. For instance, yesterday, I had two kids walk out of the house and continuously refuse to come back. When i caught up with them i gave them the choice of coming back to the house or going up on the hill where people where playing sports, i told them they had 30 seconds to make their choice and turned my back to let myself calm down. They took this opportunity to run away into the school house and hide. Once i caught up with them they continued to “act a fool” and say they “didn’t give an F” and then one of them walked off. Now at this point im pretty frustrated,and im chasing these two punks around the campus, flushing them out of their hiding spots and attempting to corral them while its the girls parents weekends so there are parents and staff walking around everywhere. Im thinking these two little turds are making me look bad, because we are supposed to keep the boys out of sight for parents weekend. And they are thinking, hey they just told us we can’t go outside, lets do it. So basically im sitting in the middle of the campus thinking, these kids are winning. They are not supposed to be outside and they are, they are supposed to be following my instructions and they arn’t, they are supposed to be changing and getting better and they have not been. At this point one of the girl littles who is in a “sheltership” with one of the kids approaches and askes him whats wrong. and he says “im just having a bad day” apparently he was upset because that girl was getting pulled in a week and half. While this conversation was totally unapproved it made me realize i was kind of being selfish. All i was concerned about was my appearance, that these kids where making me look bad and all i wanted to do was get them inside so i could show that i did have control. I was so concerned about looking good at my job that i forgot to be good at my job. God did not call me here to impress parents or staff or anyone for that matter but to love kids. At this point i just sat down and started talking to him and asking him what was going on. This in and of itself was a challenge because i have been really frustrated with this particular kid. Since i arrived 7 weeks ago this kid has beat someone up, sold a bottle of my prescription medication to a depressed kid who used it to try to commit suicide, was dealing drugs at school (different bottle of my medication), stole cold medication while he was off property with me and got himself and two other kids high, and is generally just a “defiant little Sh*t” (in his own words). It was hard to get myself stoked about having a heart to heart with him because his deviance is matched only by his manipulation and lying. As i expected he went on his usual rant about how this place is total bull crap and its not doing him any good, and he knows how to act in the real world and that this is the real world so it doesn’t matter how he acts and bla bla bla. He saying im here to stop stealing money, doing drugs, skipping school. He said and i havn’t done drugs in like 7 weeks. So i called him out and asked about the night he got high on cold meds and he completely denied it. I told him i am not trying to get you in trouble for it because i can’t prove you did it anymore, but i know for a fact you did, because i heard all of your conversation that night. I said you are 18 now, you need to stop blaming every one else for your actions, and as long as you are at shelterwood you still need to follow the rules, i don’t care if you getting pulled soon. (He is my favorite person to call out now, the other day he lied to me and i knew and just said “Bull Sh*t, you are the king of Bull sh*t dude”) Anyway this morning we had a brief meeting with our new CEO and some of the staff was talking about how much they have seen some of the littles change and improve. I realized that being a big is like being a foot soldier in a war, we see the worst of it, we see the blood and the guts and casualties and it feels like we are always losing, constantly in retreat, always under fire but we can’t see the big picture very well. And the truth is we are not only winning, we have Won. Jesus has overcome the grave, and all of the hatred and evil that we see is just the enemies frantic, last ditch effort to take some people down with him before Jesus comes back, but we know how its going to end. It NOT all relative but it does depend on your perspective.
- Joy in all circumstances. This idea of changing perspectives has changed my general attitude toward life. Its amazing how very simple things bring me amazing joy now. Like yesterday, i washed dished for 4 hours and i had a joy that surpassed all understanding. Whereas before even emptying the dishwasher which would take all of 3 minutes would seem too burdensome. I felt like i finally understood Phil 4:12 “ I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” The first week i was at Shelterwood we had this joke among the guy bigs where we would say “Shelterwood, where Joy comes to die”. and at the time it seemed true especially for me. Pretty much everything i enjoyed doing (mountain biking, skiing, hiking, climbing, playing video games) where not an option here. im 900 miles away from all my friends and thousands of miles away from my family. Pleasant and supportive daily interactions with friends where replaced with a mixture of almost constant stress and hostility, which was only alleviated by brief moments of calm which quickly deteriorated into what i image the 5th circle of hell being like. Needless to say it was not an easy transition, but now i wouldn’t go back. All of those things that i used to get my jollies from (mountain biking, video games, pleasant interactions) while good, where just a shadow of Gods goodness and love. I so filled my life with these cheap imitations that i left almost no room for the real thing. The Bible says that man does not live on bread alone but on the very word of God. And in the lords Prayer we are taught to ask for daily bread. I have been learning to go directly to the source of sustenance in all areas of life.
- “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Phil 3:12)
Special thanks to Sara and Danielle for their encouraging letters that i received today.