Feb 17, 2011

A "Twisted" Conversation

I was trying to hold a small group discussion after a fellowship meal with a group of 18 and 19 year old street-dependent youth. But I was failing. They were antsy and uncomfortable, at church for the first time in a long time for many of them. I wanted to check in with them and see how they were dealing with being at a church and being out of their element, but they kept taking the conversation back to drugs and alcohol. I grew frustrated.

I decided to go with the flow. "You guys keep bring up alcohol and drugs." Quiet. "I believe God invented alcohol" In response, I got a chorus of sometime accurate, sometimes wrong quotations about wine from the Bible. "Yep. He invented it and He thinks it's good." Now I got a bevy of complaints: "Then why does the church condemn people who drink?" [sic] "Then why do they put me in jail for drinking?" I helped them along with a bit more information: "I believe that God created everything good... everything. But man--or the nature of man-- twists things and makes it bad or wrong." I got some agreement, but not much. They insisted, "Alcohol isn't bad!" I asked them, "Haven't you known or experienced someone who has perverted alcohol into something bad?" They upheld their strong denial. So I shared, "I know many people, some your age, who are quite certain that they cannot drink any alcohol at all. For them it's totally bad. I personally am able to drink alcohol in moderation without feeling this evil. But it's different for everyone. I don't think we should make absolute statements like "All alcohol is bad. Or alcohol is always good. It depends on if it leads the person into evil. But I am certain that God created wine and drink and is probably very proud of the very complex and wonderful creation." They discussed that a bit but just couldn't agree. Alcohol is too much a part of their lives.

"How about pot?" Now the chorus grew even stronger. "It's good. It's always good," they cried. I responded, "Maybe so. I definitely see some benefits of pot use for some people. But I tell you, I have had street kids come tell me that they know pot use leads them away to evil places. I've had street kids tell me that pot ruined their lives. Believe if or not!" They really didn't want to believe me.

"How about heroin?" I asked. Now the chorus swung completely the other direction. "It's always bad. It makes you fell so good but then it hurts you so bad. When you're hooked you will do anything for the next hit." No one would come to the defense of heroin. I summed up, "I haven't seen much benefit to heroin use, although there may be some small pluses for some people, but they are heavily outweighed by the negatives. But I do believe God created the poppy plant and it's underlying chemicals for good. It's man's nature that has ruined it." They continued to vilify heroin in 100% accord. So different that their view of alcohol or pot.

Finally, I turned the conversation toward SEX. It had gone there momentary several times but I had pulled it back. Now I went in with gusto: "What about sex? Is it good?" Quickly they began exchanging stories of promiscuity, stories of conquest, stories of virginity lost at 12 or 13. "God is author of sex, too! He knows all about it!" They giggled and continued the exchange of sex-lore of late teenagers. I said, "Sex can be bad, too. Right?" I got a retort of jokes. I continued, "I'm not talking about unsatisfactory performance. I'm talking about people who twist it into something evil and hurtful." They grew quiet. "I think you all know someone for whom this applies." They agreed. 100%. I know sex abuse runs deep in street youth backgrounds, but I didn't expect such a quick change in their attitudes. This surprised me, especially since they couldn't support any negatives on alcohol. I recovered, "God invented sex. It's a wonderful union between a man and a woman that physically completes a mind and soul union. That complete union is intended to last a lifetime. It's a really good and wonderful thing." We continued to discuss their fears and concerns over sex. Including fear of being with one person, fear of sex becoming boring, curiosity and desire to experiment, lust, pornography and fantasy romance. One young man admitted, "I know I will grow wiser. I won't always be like I am now--I'll grow up. This is probably how it happens--talking, like this. I think I do want what this kind of sex. But I just don't see how to get it yet." 

We ended our discussion for the evening. I closed, "All these ideas are found in the Bible. Wrestling with and understanding life is part of being Christian. Talking about and even supporting one another through all these types of issues is part of being in Christian community." This seemed to contradict their expectation and experience with Christian ideas. "It's not about condemning others or controlling people. It's about trying to find the heart of God and understanding all these complex issues in light of God's desire." This seemed more attractive to them. "And in the process we find a friend in God, a friend who saves us from a life of being a slave to twisted half-true things. A God who knows that we are each created good and not meant to be mere shadows of what we could be. A God who is deeply hurt when we turn away. A God who longs for us to get to return to Him." I prayed that they would each give it more thought and even begin their own journey toward the heart of God.

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
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