Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Worth of a Soul

Bishop Deets, from 5th Ward stopped by today to ask if I'd speak in their Sacrament Meeting on Sunday.  I was delighted to say, "Yes."  He wants me to address the topic "The Worth of a Soul."  He, being aware that I'd just been released from the Detention Center Branch, thought I might relate the subject to my recent experience. How easy and sweet is that!

Last night I went to the Center to conduct a couple of 12 Step groups.  It was so gratifying to hear the kids rejoice that, though I would no longer be coming to church, I'd still be doing Addiction Recovery with them.  It doesn't seem logical that a bunch of problem teens would have any affinity for an old duffer like me.  Most of the time they don't seem very intent on working the steps, or even quitting their substance abuse, for that matter.

I do think I know why they come to the meetings though.  I think they feel the love of their Savior when they're there.  I think it feels good and while most of the time they don't have a clue as to why it feels good they keep coming back for that feeling.  I wouldn't mind if they felt my love too, but I need to work harder at pointing out that its the love of the Savior that so satisfies and fulfills there effort to attend.

Sunday at 5th Ward, I think the main thing I want to express is that the Savior truly does love even the wicked ones and that their souls are indeed precious to Him.

Another thing that the kids respond warmly to is acceptance.  They live in a world in which there is little about them that appears acceptable.  No body accepts them as they are.  Everyone wants to change them in some way.  They feel that everyone with whom they associate wants to change them.  Parents want them to get good grades and do their chores.  Teachers want them to behave and do their homework.  Police want them to conform to society's rules.  Peers want them to take risks, dress like the group and break rules.  Detention staff want them to present honor and respect.  No where do they find anyone who accepts them just as they are.  That is until they come to 12 Steps.  Everything I do there is to help them make changes, but never to I hold change up as a measure of their worth and desirability as my friends.  I love them right where they are, doing exactly what they're presently doing.

While it is true that nothing would make be happier than to see them happy and productive and forgiven; I am completely patient with the process.  God will confound them without my help.  Life and its circumstances will beat up on them plenty.  I don't need to do any of that.  This is no secret to them.  I give them complete liberty to make mistakes and poor choices.  I let them know that those choices make no difference to me, except that I'll shed some tears for their pain.  I also let them know that poor choices and unacceptable behavior always lead to misery and then I remind them that when they finally get tired of being miserable, I'll still be around willing to help them find their way to happiness.  I put the burden and responsibility on their shoulders, where it belongs.

I believe that this approach cultivates and softens their hearts and prepares their soil for the seeds I may plant.  If on the other hand I try to manipulate, shame, scold or pressure them, the soil of their hearts will be hardened and nothing fruitful will grow.  We understand this when we think about ourselves, but tend to operate differently when dealing with others.  Who wouldn't rather grow in an atmosphere of freedom, love and acceptance instead of one fraught with conditions and disapproval.  I'm talking about teenagers here.  Obviously, we need to exercise some control over little children.  But, by the time they hit the teen years we ought to have taught them to make their own appropriate choices and prepared them to make them on their own.  Prepared or not, the will be making their own choices.  Universally, the kids at the Detention Center have not been given that kind of guidance and preparation. Most are being raised by parents who haven't learned how to choose happiness themselves, is it any wonder they've failed to so teach their children.

With or without appropriate guidance, God loves them.  He will let them make their choices and he will afflict and chasten them until they're tired of their misery.  Then, if they seek to change, He will facilitate that blessing in their lives.

Now, some will die before this happens.  Occasionally, a youth in detention will ask, "But what if I die before I manage to change?"  I always tell them, "You'll probably land in hell, but I'll be right beside you and we'll work the steps together over there."  Dr. John Lund says, "Hell is just God's Alternative High School."  I believe that.  Hide and watch.  We're going to lead these kids to their Savior sooner or later and I intend to be available to them every step of the way.  Once I am doing this work in Spirit Prison, if I am permitted to tarry, I want to accompany the last person in hell into paradise.  Their souls are that precious to me.

1 comment:

Jane said...

Great thoughts! I love
the quote "Hell is just God's alternative high school"

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