Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kindle or Dwindle

This morning at the Detention Center one of the Youth, Bobby, gave the lesson at Church. We hold worship services with the kids down there every Sunday. They choose whether or not to attend. Most choose to participate. Lately, three different young men have volunteered to teach the lesson. Each time, they've done marvelously. Their lessons have been heartfelt, insightful, correct and inspiring.

When we read about these "hoodlums" in the paper, we automatically think the worst. Consequently, I try to avoid reading about them in the paper. At the Center, I just see kids, good kids. I rarely have a clue what they've done. Going by the severity of their punishments, I'm not blind to the fact that they've committed, some of them, horrendous crimes. I would just rather deal with them without tainting my view with details.

My calling is to love them not to change them. I am not able to change them and would be foolish to try. This is a new experience for most of them though. Most of them have lived their entire lives with someone on their case; someone trying to change them; someone disapprovingly yelling at them. I get to love them just the way they are and I tell them so. The irony is, they change. Why is this? It's simple. When someone tries to change them they resist. They rebel. From there they decline into despair, bitterness, feelings of unworthiness. In contrast, when someone loves and accepts them just as they are, warts and all, they thrive. They feel hope and begin to see possibilities, opportunities and they change. They change themselves.

Who among us needs to be told what we're doing wrong? Don't we already know? Who among us wouldn't rather do better? Wouldn't we rather be helped to do better than punished for not?

So look at Bobby and Don and Chase. Kids in prison for serious crimes for which they are suffering the consequences - appropriately. Look at them again. Kids who delight in teaching the gospel and lifting the lives and hearts of their fellow men and women. What precipitated their bad behavior? What stimulated the good?

The Nephites often dwindled in unbelief. When I think of dwindle I think of a campfire at the end of the evening. Once roaring, hot, bright and delightful, it dwindles to nothing and we fade away to sleep in our bags. In the morning, a few sparks remain, a little tinder is added, fuel supplied, a few puffs and walla! Fire again blazes to our warmth and delight. People dwindle like fires. Deprived of fuel like love, inspiration and possibilities they dwindle and die. Instead of throwing the cold water of chastisement on such dwindling souls, why don't we kindle them back to life with the breath of love, the tinder of kindness and the fuel of opportunity and encouragement.

We, in our effort to help are often too quick to chastise the wayward. Recently, I attended the Baptist Church of my good friend Pastor Jim. In his sermon he taught a wonderful lesson that I shall always be grateful for. He was discoursing on Hebrews chapter 10 verse 25. He said that one of the values of meeting together was the need for good old fashioned exhortation. Now, before we go on, all my life I equated the term exhortation with chastisement. Chastise means to censure severely or castigate. Now, listen to what Pastor Jim taught. From the Greek, exhort, in this context, means to call near, or call alongside. In other words it means, "Come, join me, walk with me, feel of my love, put your arm around me and let me put mine around you. Let's do this together." Will we throw the cold water of chastisement or will we breathe the warm breath of exhortation.

The fire is in them, every one. Be they prisoners, or students, or neighbor kids or our own sons and daughters, they will dwindle if we don't kindle.

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