Fifteen hours after millions of people watched 20-year-old Miley Cyrus offer friendly benefits to a foam hand while twerking in the presence of life-sized teddybears – and fourteen-and-three-quarter hours after the entire world began tweeting about it – I find out that there was a bit of a to-do at the VMA awards last night.
I didn’t watch the VMAs last night. Not even as a way to keep pace with the most recent cultural trends. Instead, I rested after spending a weekend away with six Miley-aged college-student youth workers. And by “youth workers” I mean people who minister to teenagers, regardless of whether they get paid for it or not, which in this particular case happens to be “not.”
Fifteen hours after no one watched us sit around an open fire and talk about things as divergent as C. S. Lewis, Herb Brooks, and satellites, no one is tweeting about those particular 20-year olds – which is really a shame because they are the 20-year olds that are going to change the world, sans cable broadcasting, million-dollar budgets, and infinite wardrobe changes.
Instead, they are going to change the world through persistence, patience, and countless live appearances at such extolled venues as the middle-school cafeteria, the high-school track, and the public city park.
I might like to say a few things to Miley – as a musician: “Please work on your rhythm.” -as a mother: “If you keep hanging your tongue out, it will freeze that way.” – as a mentor: “Maybe we should meet more often.”
But I’d rather say a few things about the six 20-year olds that I spent the weekend with and that most of you will never meet.
I’d like to tell you about how they love middle-school and high-school students with their whole selves.
I’d like to tell you about all the ways they invest in teenagers, just so they will know that someone genuinely cares about them.
I’d like to tell you about how much fun they have, how much joy they exude, how much laughter they share.
I’d like to tell you about how they intentionally choose to live life differently than so many of their peers.
I’d like to tell you about how every day they seek to reflect Jesus in all they say and do.
I’d like to tell you about all of the minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years that they commit to being the hands and feet of Jesus in the lives of teenagers.
I’d like to tell you about how they lead and encourage a large community of other 20ish-year-olds, all of whom are equally committed to knowing and loving and showing Christ’s love to middle- and high-school students.
I’d like to tell you about how much they give up in order to gain the privilege of doing kingdom work in a ministry setting.
I’d like to tell you all of that – and so much more – because those are things that matter. Immensely.
The twerking, the profanity, the lewdness, the degradation, and the mockery seen and heard by millions will all pass away.
But the faith, hope, and love of these six (plus fifty) 20-year olds will remain.
That’s a story (within a Story) worth knowing and being part of.
Update: After posting this, I realized there is one more thing I might like to say to Miley – as a minister: “You are fearfully and wonderfully made, deeply and eternally loved. Believe it.” Really, that would be the most important thing of all.