“Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.”
Following God moves us past glamour and trend and into the trenches of long-suffering.
I was in a yoga class recently and we were holding poses for longer periods of time. The instructor said that if there was a sharp pain, than we needed to move out of the position. But if it was a dull ache, then we were doing the right thing and we needed to just be present to that. That there was work being done there.
Life has a tendency to carry a dull ache sometimes. And leaning into that ache requires an uncommon faithfulness.
We are blessed with mobility. We can move anywhere in the world, and then move again. There are many church options within most of our communities. We are taught from a young age that we can “be anything” or “do anything.” And then when we tire of those options, we can move on in search of something else.
I am so grateful for the opportunities that we have today that people seventy five years ago wouldn’t have dreamed of.
But we also have a tendency to let our gift mobility get in the way of letting us really put roots down. Faithfulness is hard, and we have so many opportunities to get away.
When I think of faithfulness, I think of my friend Heather and the work she does through at Treehouse.
Treehouse is an organization that works with “at-risk” youth, but as Heather says: “Really every teenager is at-risk. I hate putting that label on them. They are struggling with one or more of issues like depression, anxiety, suicidal, or oppression. But they are also normal teens.”
Heather and I started working at Treehouse as interns the 2007. We shared an office and debriefed together on the roughest of days.
(We also dressed really classy when invited to fancy dinners).
It was a wild year full of full schedules, long hours, and walking alongside kids carrying heavy emotional loads.
At the end of the year, I moved on to an organization that was more focused on elementary children.
But Heather has stayed on at Treehouse for the past seven and a half years. I know that in the grand scheme of a life that might stretch near one hundred years, seven years doesn’t sound that long. But knowing the work that is done and what is required of Heather, that’s seven and half years of an intense ministry and pace of life.
When I asked her what it was that kept her going strong.
“Well, the easy answer is Jesus. That this is a call on my life, and I have accepted it. But really, I feel like I couldn’t not be here. After knowing the kids and going through life with them for 7 years, and after seeing how their lives have changed. I know I’m where I need to be.”
Heather’s daily work gives the gift of showing up: “one-to-ones” (which is an opportunity to take one of the teens out for a snack or coffee and really talk about what’s going on in their lives), support groups, trips, and other structured parts of her schedule.
But she also shows up for emergencies, suicide attempts, families falling apart, and when pieces of life shatter for the youth.
“One thing I have learned of God from the kids is to see the greatness of God’s love, mercy, grace. That it covers everything. It’s not boxed in, it’s not too small. God’s love still extends to this kid who is a prostitute. And this kid who is socially awkward. If I could teach these kids just one thing, I would want them to know, first and foremost, their identity comes from God, from Christ. I think a lot of their problems stem from not knowing where their identity comes. And of course, as we always teach them they are each Lovable, capable and worthwhile, they are loved without strings, and they are never alone.”