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.
Thanks for sharing this Crystal! I’d love to share it via Twitter with all the @YoungLifeLeader followers.
Hi Drew. Absolutely – share away. Have a great Monday.
Wow! Wonderfully well written. God bless you for the work you do!
Thank you Amy. The same to you on your writing and communicating.
You are so right. Thank you for pointing out the real role models.
Wisdom does not rant and rave in outrage about evildoers misusing power; wisdom gently and quietly helps rehabilitate those whom the evildoers have victimized while patiently training another generation of leaders in the more excellent way.
Keith: yes, it is all too easy to rant and rave (as so many do, often on both sides of many issues). Much more beneficial to instead focus on truth, and in the process not only draw attention to what really matters but also equip oneself – and others – with wisdom and discernment about the many tangled and distorted issues in the world.
Great response to this social situation. Too often we focus on the depravity of this world and the things wrong within it. Situations such as these seek to avert our attention and waste our time rather than spending it where it should be focused.
Jon – Indeed. Focusing on the depravitiy of the world would require more time than anyone has – which is not to say we should overlook the brokenness that surrounds us all. When we live our lives focused on Love and Truth, then Love and Truth fill us, spill over, and hopefully play a small part in countering the brokenness.
I just stumbled across this blog post, and I am so glad I did. I am a 20-ish year old college student, and this was so beautifully written and it is one of the most encouraging things I have read in a long time. Thank you for pushing me closer to Jesus!
Kelly – I think I would like to meet you. THANK YOU for being a 20-ish year old college student who cares about life, love, and the Lord… I suspect that you are going to change some lives.
You are wonderful! And just so you know, a lot of us Young Life leaders here at JMU have been sharing the link to this post on Facebook. You have encouraged us so much with your words 🙂
Fact: your comments have encouraged me. Truly. How close are you to Rockbridge? I have some friends who work there – such a beautiful place.
I am so glad! Currently I’m at school in Harrisonburg which is only about an hour away from Rockbridge. I’m usually there a few times a year – which is a huge blessing because it really is so beautiful!
This was a really great article! With all of the backlash about Miley (which is well deserved) it was very refreshing to have you quote a Bible verse to her…not one of condemnation but one of hope and love for herself. Maybe if we were more encouraging and offered positive criticism more often, today’s youths wouldn’t be so starved for attention, whether it’s good or bad! Kudos to you for showing a positive and loving reaction to her! ♥
And a HUGE THANK YOU for shining the lime light on some MUCH deserving youths that are making such positive and rewarding changes in our world! Our youth needs more stories like yours and less like Miley’s!
A huge thank you in return for reading about our college leaders – they are my heroes. As far as my response to Miley: condemnation is almost always the easy response in situations like this. There was plenty of that already out there. Better for me to use the moment as an open door to write about people who normally fly under the radar. And there is this: it did not cost Jesus any more – or any less – to save me, you, our college leaders, the teenagers in our community, the apostle Paul, or Miley Cyrus. We all are offered much more than we deserve, at a cost we cannot pay, by a God who owes us nothing.. If that’s not unfair (in a good way) I don’t know what is.