Have you ever seen an episode of a show where someone gets overly worked up about something and another person slaps them across the face to calm them down? I'm particularly thinking of Will & Grace right now, but fill in any appropriate show you like. Well Sunday night God decided I needed that smack in the face...
Some may know and some may not that I lost my job at the church. Here's a little back story. Our church has a program called Lifeteen. It's an international program that some Catholic churches have and some don't. The point is to have a service that's a bit more contemporary, followed by a "Life Night" that is educational and yet social. Teens tend to get bored at regular service and in a classroom, so for the sake of retention, we want them to enjoy what they're learning and have a say in their faith, instead of just going through the motions. Anyway, about 10 years ago when I moved back from MD, I wanted to be part of the Life Teen band. I was told by the director at the time that I couldn't be in it, and I should join the choir. A lot of things happened between then and last year, but because Jon played for the band, I found out last August that their director (who had changed since I had been interested) was leaving and they needed a new director. It didn't take long before I got the position.
I was ecstatic. Little did I know how hard it would be. I worked my a$$ off to make the powers-that-be happy and finally last spring ended with a great group of people. We blended well, and better yet, we had become very close. However in June I was told that I was being replaced. Not because of anything I did, I was told, but because they wanted the person who had been doing the choir for years to take over. Long story and not worth the details, but needless to say, I was crushed.
Then in August I was faced with a decision. Even though I was no longer employed by the church, I was still part of the Core Team. The Core are the mentors for the teens that run the Life Nights, go on retreats, and, as our motto says, "Lead teens to Christ." This is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had, but I had to decide if it was something that I could continue doing at a church that I felt had really done me wrong. On top of it, I was offered the music director position for the youth Mass on the other side of town. The same position, just a different church. After a LOT of praying and discerning, I decided not to take the position at the other church. For a lot of reasons, but mainly because I did not want to leave the teens and the Core Team that I was so involved with last year. In addition to great teens, the Team surrounds me with people who teach me on a weekly basis, pray with me, and aren't afraid to show their honor for God.
Last week was our first Life Night. I knew it was going to be hard to be sitting with the teens during Mass watching someone else do MY job, but as our youth minister put it, I took a leap of faith. Well that Mass was harder than I thought. Every time a new song started it was something we had done the year before (our church isn't terribly open to "new" stuff, even though the stuff they do is contemporary), and I would start to cry. I literally felt like my heart was breaking. The thing I kept thinking was, "I just wasn't good enough." To put salt in the wound, both the director and the liturgist told me how much they still wanted me to sing with the group, but once the director found out I couldn't make it to rehearsals, she wouldn't let me. But she WOULD let someone sing that she knew, but that wasn't a member of the church, never attended Life Teen Masses, and also wasn't at rehearsals. I know that music like the back of my hand, not to mention I have 3 music degrees...I think i can handle blending in. Anyway, it was very hard and by the end of Mass I was not only questioning my decision to stick with the Core Team, but I was questioning my abilities as a musician. Thank God Kayla (another Core Team member) sat next to me and gently put her hand on mine from time to time, just to let me know she was there.
Our Life Night on Sunday was a social for the Packer/Bear game. This is what we usually do for the first LN so that teens can get to know us and each other and vice versa. Basically it was a hall full of kids yelling and throwing candy. At one point I was a little overwhelmed and went out in the gathering place, and Kayla came out shortly after. We both needed a breather and Kayla mentioned that she thought some teens had gone outside and perhaps we should check on them. We went outside and found three girls and one of them was on the phone. I jokingly asked, "Oooh, is it a boy?" They said "Yes, but it's not good." Apparently she was arguing with her ex-boyfriend she had dated for over a year. They have been broken up for 4 months, but still talk every day. As you can imagine, at the age of 16 it was all very dramatic.
After getting off the phone with him, he then called one of the other girls, who proceeded to argue with him. She told him he should stop by as he said he was going to, but that he wouldn't be able to talk with his ex alone. She hung up shortly after that saying that she was annoyed with him because he said he wasn't coming but instead was going to go home and use his dad's shotgun. I didn't know a lot of the story, but what I did know was that, regardless of whether or not the intentions were real, this kid needed help. The girls seemed to think it was no big deal because he had said it before. I asked the ex to call his parents, but before she could he pulled into the parking lot. I asked the girls to go with Kayla while I talked to him.
I kneeled down next to his car and told him that I had heard a comment that he made that I didn't like having to do with a shotgun. He immediately started crying. When I asked him why he made the comment he said he had no reason to live and that he kept screwing everything up. I assured him that he had many reasons to live, even if they weren't evident to him right now. We talked about things he had done "wrong" and I explained God's forgiveness and why these things were not the worst thing in the world. He talked about how mean his younger brother is to him and I explained that words are the only power a younger sibling usually has over an older sibling. I told him that I saw a lot of myself at 16 in him. I shared with him some of my battles with depression and some of the lessons I've learned because of those battles. I then asked him to pray with me, which he did, and we prayed for God to take his pain away. We prayed for him to know that God loves him and gave his only Son for him, and for us, so that we will have no more pain. We prayed that he will know that he is surrounded by people who love him, which isn't always easy to see. I prayed that he knows God is not ready for him yet and that he still has a lot of living to do here on Earth. I didn't think about anything I said, it just came out of my mouth. His parents called while we were talking, and he told them what was going on. Thankfully they already had knowledge of his depression and had him on medication and in therapy and knew the seriousness of the situation and came to pick him up. When they got there I didn't say much, just told him to remember what we talked about.
After he left I went back inside, completely overwhelmed but in a good way. Kayla had told Matthew and Steve, our youth ministers, what was going on. When I walked in Matthew said "I can't talk to you long because otherwise I'll cry, but I have to say this: Do you think God wanted you here tonight?" Well that was all it took for me to cry again, but this time it wasn't because I was heart-broken or envious of a position, but because of the overwhelming feeling you get when God literally works through you, or as I like to say, smacks you in the face. The events of earlier that evening and the sadness it brought me were wiped away. I knew I was supposed to be where I was and that I had made the right choice.