Soft Soap

by Charlotte Long, Youth Ministries

When we enter a specific unit in Youth Group or Sunday School that I get to lead, I try my darndest to cover at least 3 Pathways into the subject: the Academic, the Spiritual and Tangible (Hands-On or Service). This is not a far cry from the 4 Keys of Vibrant Ministries that our staff uses to create curriculum and serve our families with take-homes (Tradition, Caring Conversations, Prayer and Service). These are not only all different pathways to learning any subject matter, but an acknowledgement that there are infinite pathways to discovering God. Parents recognize in their children early on if they are learners who need visual aids, if they process aural language quickly, or if they need to feel it in their hands to understand something. Wouldn't a God as expansive and incomprehensible as ours be consistently trying to talk to us in as many different ways as possible? I consider it my job to offer multiple "doors" for our youth to try and walk through. You never know which door is going to lead them to their calling.

For example, we did a short unit on Islamaphobia for Youth Group in January. Our first night was mostly intellectual: what is Islam? Why is there fighting in the Middle East? Why do we equate these two things with each other all the time? Where are hate crimes happening in the US? The kids had a surprising amount to say about it. They were well-informed already. Then we had an experiential night. We listened to a radio program about Syrian refugees, talked about casual racism at school and then used a sensory prayer table to pray for those affected by the violence in the Middle East and misunderstanding in our own country. The third week, we purchased Welcome Kits for RefugeeOne, the foremost Refugee assistance nonprofit in Chicago. As I said, there are many doors in.

Often I find that faith requires much more of me than I am comfortable with. My relationship with God feels nice when I'm in prayer, when there's a lot of nice incense and I'm all like, "oooo, I'm so peaceful and holy right now." But that is just the Boot Room of the House of God. The kind of quiet peace we think of is not the kind of grand, all-consuming peace that Jesus offers us - "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives" (Jn 14:27) - the kind that LASTS because it permeates all that we do and say, not just our quiet moments. The kind that is a glue to our lives, not a sweet-smelling smoke. This is the true and difficult part of our faith, the kind that frees us and can cast out proverbial demons. And nothing about it is easy. As C.S. Lewis says, "If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking..."

So where in our lives are we looking for comfort when we should be looking for truth? My first impulse is to say in racial, gender and class inequality. If we were really following Jesus as we say we wish to, we would be radicals. We would be beyond politics, beyond power and beyond the need for understanding or control. We would be only filled with the humility of Love and it would guide all we did. Unfortunately, this feels drastic and unrealistic if we have families, jobs and lives that we're trying to keep together. Believe me, I'm right there with you. And I think God understands our need for peace and security. I think God is practical and that sometimes, for no reason at all, God gives us moments of quiet in a hectic day of errands and drama. I just also think God wants us to have something *greater*. To Rest in God, yes. And also to Go Forth, in God.

I encourage us to look at ourselves during this Easter People time, and see what facet of our lives is too comfortable. The teens go on our trip to ASP every year and they know firsthand that the kind of capital-P Peace that comes from the difficulty of labor in the sun and rain can sometimes far exceed the peace that comes from being surrounded by the comforts of home. Let's see what grand things God is calling us to; what great acts of tremulous Love; what shocking pushes into the Light.