The young man faced the deliquent teen audience and recognized the bored look on most of their faces. He was under no illusion that they had come to hear what he had to say. He knew, because not too long ago, he had sat where they were and counted the minutes until they could play basketball, which was always the reward for coming to listen. He watched as they shuffled in and wondered for a moment why he had bothered to come. It started as a favor to a social worker at his campus ministry and after he prayed about it, felt God leading or dragging him to do it. He could feel himself doubting his reasons and was beginning to regret his decision. He put his head in his hands and started to pray.
Dear Lord, help me to say the right things. I don't want to do this. The past is still so painful and i don't wanna go there. Why can't I just leave it behind? Why do I have to face it over and over? What good will come of this? Okay, I prayed about this and you didn't tell me not to come so I figured I was meant to come. But maybe that meant your answer was no? I'm so confused! Please just give me the words Lord, give me the words.
He raised his head as he realized his introduction was over. Slowly he approached the podium and looked them over; letting them know he was appraising them too. A few looked a little uncomfortable and he smiled.
"I'm here today not because I want to be---just like you, I'm being bribed to be here!" He could see he had the attention of some of them now.
"No, I don't get to play basketball afterwards", he paused at their nervous laughter, "but I'm being bribed just the same. See, I prayed about this and the favor of my God is very important to me. So important that I agreed to come here knowing from my own experience, most of you will walk away and care less about my talk." Now he definitely had their attention and he felt a power come into his voice and stepped away from the notes he had painfully made the night before. It briefly crossed his mind that he had no idea what he was going to say, but he knew it didn't matter.
"I'm here because I want to ask you a question. I'd really like to hear your answer. The question is, "how heavy is your sin"? What have you done that is so bad that you can't even talk about it among yourselves? I didn't come here to give you a sermon, I really didn't. I came here to tell you how this place wasn't the end of your life. I wanted to give you the steps to walk away and never walk back! But let's get real here. You get enough talk about "steps" to take and "motiviation skills". So I'm not going there. Instead I want to know how heavy is your sin? I'm asking because I did sit where you sit not that long ago. And I can tell you my sin was so heavy that I couldn't talk about it to anyone! I'm not talking just about the law you broke because you talk all the time about how tough you are and how the law didn't touch you most of the time! Yeah, you smile because you know I'm telling the truth!
But what was in your heart during your worst crime? Man, that is something no one here is going to hear about, right? See, the law can convict you for a certain length of time but God can convict you for eternity! You might act cool and act like it doesn't matter, but if that's true, why can't we talk about this heavy sin? I couldn't because mine was of a sexual nature and it was so terrible that to talk about it would mean risking getting beat up in the middle of the night. I couldn't talk about the sexual fantasies that wouldn't go away no matter how much I tried to ignore them. They had such a hold on me that they were almost a constant companion. I couldn't talk about how I felt like I was drowning and no one could help. I was trying to get out of this place so how could I share this with a counselor who may never turn me lose if he knew how corrupted my soul was?
How heavy was my sin? Worse than you can imagine. Am I free from it now? Not quite and I may never be free in the sense I am never tempted. But I have learned that I do not have to be held hostage by my sins. I did have to go back in my past, painful as it was, and figure out where it all started. That was harder than facing the crime itself. The past was a dark and scary place and I had built a solid wall so I wouldn't have to think about it. It took all my strength to start breaking down that wall and find out the truth. Counselors can help you, that's no lie, but I know it's hard to trust them on the inside. So you better have someone you can trust. I know I am in a government building but I am going to say it anyway.
The person who walked into my life that I could finally trust with this horrible truth about myself was Jesus. Trouble was, I knew him from way back and I wanted to run when I saw him coming. I wanted to hide because my sin was that great. Forget the law man! This dude knew what was in my heart! I tried to tough it out and act like I didn't see him. Tried to hide behind my anger and arrogance. I was sure he would be totally disgusted with me and quit. What I hadn't counted on was people praying for me. I mean down on your knees praying for me! I had forgotten how powerful prayer was when someone stepped in for you. One day I couldn't hold my head down any longer and I looked up. I dreaded looking into his face with my secrets all laid out before me. Something happened in that moment. I found that my sin, as horrible as it was, could be forgiven. When it came right down to it, it wasn't the time I couldn't do, it was living my life with something I could never forgive myself for and knowing the world never would either. I had to finally realize I couldn't change the world, but I could change me.
You're going to walk out of here in a moment and play basketball. That's okay. I just don't want you to play it for the rest of your life behind chained fences. Some of you are going to leave this place with the best intentions of getting your life together. But you will also have to go back to the house where maybe nobody really wants you or where your only friends are future gangsters. Good intentions won't get you around either of them. But you take God back there with you and you can survive poverty, harsh reality of uncaring people and friends you have to say good bye too. You will still probably fail with most of your efforts the first year because you aren't used to sticking something out when it's hard. You are going to want to give up and sometimes you will. I know because I went down as much as I went up for awhile. The difference is that I knew that I didn't have to stay down and I wasn't a failure because I couldn't get it right the first time. I had to accept the fact I wasn't used to sticking things out when it hurt so much. God had some lessons I had to learn and I'm not going to lie to you, they were painful relevations about my real self. I didn't like what I saw most of the time, but this time I didn't try to cover up that reality. I knew that I didn't have to stay that way. It was up to me to allow God to help me change.
I'm not standing before you a complete success. I'm no where near that. I still don't know what I really want to do with my life. I'm still scared of school and yet I know education is the ticket out of dead end jobs. I still slip from time to time, but I pick myself up and get on my knees
and ask God to forgive me again. I can tell you, there is no experience that will humble you more than going to God time after time and asking for more strength because you slipped again. For awhile I was always afraid he would get tired of my failures. Then one day God asked me to quit thinking about my failures and to concentrate on where He had taken me so far! To start concentrating on where I wanted to go and not where I had been.
You can leave now. Go play your mind games and pretend nothing I said matters. I said I came here because God's favor was more important to me than my fear of talking to you. I came because someone once came and reintroduced me to God when my sin was so powerful it was starting to destroy me. I just wanted to tell you that you really do have a choice. I'm giving you fair warning, I'm going to start praying for you. I don't need to know your name. God already has it written down in his heart." His heart still pounding, he turned and walked away.
He managed to smile to his friend feeling that his words had probably gone on deaf ears. The leaders were telling them were to go for rec time and he slowly gathered up his things. His friends nudge him to turn around and he saw the guys coming toward him. They began slowly telling him they respected his honesty. A few had questions so he sat back down and they talked. As they would step aside a few more would come up.
The social worker told him later it was the first time no one left to play basketball after the speaker finished. He knew it should have made him feel good, but there were so much sadness inside of him. He wondered if doing God's work would always feel this heavy? Probably, he reasoned, but it was still lighter than the sin he had left behind.
Donna, i started reading and then stopped. But thanks for making the SPEAKER go on, pick up his couragr and talk his talk....
i liked the way you presented this message of hope, or scary, to some. In a juvenile center/school, with a social woker's intervention. Let every preacher be like a social worker to introduce us to Jesus who will courageously share the word of His Father. Peace and Joy in Jesus
Awesome! Awesome! Awesome piece! I usually do a pretty fair job of leaving a nice comment for great articles, but friend, all I can do is sit here dumbfounded and keep mumbling "HALLELUJAH!" This story just makes me want to praise Him over and over for lifting that heavy, heavy burden of sin off my shoulders and replacing it with a cloak of love. Bless you!
A great piece of writing! Held my interest until the end. This is a wonderful example of our Savior's mercy and grace. I pray this article reaches many..Now, I can go play basketball(just kidding, altho I do love the sport). Keep on writing for His glory.
What a powerful story. I was so engrossed in the realness of the words, I was shocked to find myself that the end. Christian life is never promised an easy go of it, but you are so right, it is much lighter than the sin we leave behind. Thank you for sharing this, it is truly inspiring. God bless, Nancy