The One Who Got Away
We have a saying here at Forerunner that I think is pretty catchy. Out of all the slogans that are tossed on coffee cups and t-shirts, I think this one takes the cake. It is short. It is powerful. It is gold.
Here it is.
Invest. Love. Transform.
Well, what do you think? Do you like it?
I’m not going to lie, I love it. I think it is the best.
This whole mentoring thing isn’t that hard. In fact, it’s pretty easy.
Invest. Invest time and energy.
Love. Love these kids no matter what.
Transform. Watch these kids lives be transformed because you invested and you loved.
Like I said, simple right?
I have told you many times that the Lord has taught us here at Forerunner so much through adversity. He has taught us so much from our perfect plans turning out the exact opposite of perfect.
When we started this program years ago, we thought that changing a kid’s life really was as simple as showing up and loving them. We thought we had this perfect plan and formula that would change every kid into a perfect little angel. Just follow the plan and change a life.
Boy, were we wrong. We learned that we are only a part of the equation. We learned that there is something going on that is so much bigger than us.
Yes, it is our job to invest into our young men. We show up. We take time out of our schedule to show this young man that he is important and that he matters. We talk to him. We guide him. We are with him through the good times and the bad.
We love no matter what. It doesn’t matter if he is a straight-A student or if he is failing every class including PE. It doesn’t matter if he is starting Running Back or if he is starting Left Out. It doesn’t matter if he is clean cut and good looking or if he makes Quasimodo look like Tom Cruise. We love the kid. We love him because Jesus first loved us. He loved us no matter what. He loved us and he didn’t look at things like accomplishments, accolades, or appearance.
Now this is where it gets tricky. The first two things are part of the job description of following Jesus.
Phillipians 2:3 says we should consider others more important than yourself
Galatians 5:13 says we should serve one another humbly
Romans 12:1 says we should be living sacrifices
John 13:34-35 tells is to love one another
Matt. 22-37-39 tells is to love your neighbor
John 15:12-13 tells is to Love as Jesus loved
Here comes the curveball. Are you ready for it?
It's not our job to transform.
Let’s look at The Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:3-9 and 18-23 for more insight.
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Let me explain. We are the farmer. We are tossing out seeds whenever we show up. We are tossing out seeds every time take our Forerunner out to eat or every time we help them with their homework.
We are tossing seeds when we love them no matter what. When they are rude, we are kind. When they are impatient, we are patient. When they come with anger, we come with peace.
But what happens to those seeds is not up to us.
That’s up to God.
Only God can take those seeds that we toss and turn those into crops. Only he can turn a person’s heart from stone into flesh. We toss the seed, but it is He controls where the seed lands.
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
And this is the thing about God, sometimes He does things in mysterious ways. His Kingdom seems like an upside-down Kingdom from time to time. It is so contrary to the ways of this world.
Think about it.
Love our enemies.
The first will be last.
Don't retaliate. Turn the other cheek.
Those things don’t make sense! But that’s God. He does things His own way. And sometimes He does that to grow our faith in Him and to help us trust in Him alone.
If we toss 100 seeds over 8 years, the first 99 might land on rock or get choked out by the world. We might be tossing the seeds exactly like He told us to and not be receiving the results we think we should get.
But what about that last seed?
What about the 100th seed?
That 100th seed could turn into a mighty Oak tree that changes everything around them.
He calls us to be faithful to keep tossing seeds. He calls us to trust in Him. We trust that he is in control and He will transform lives whenever he is good and ready. We trust that he will save in His own timing.
I’ll close with a story.
One of my good friends and his wife were serving with Lake Highlands Young Life in the 1980’s. They were newly married and wanted to serve the community by pouring into ten kids who were just like the young men that we serve through Forerunner. Ten kids who had a life that most would consider an uphill climb.
My friends invited those young men over to their house every Sunday night for pizza for years and years. They ate together. They stayed up late and joked around together. They talked about Jesus together.
Eventually, my friend and his wife came to build an amazing friendship with these boys. They came along side these young men as they dealt with the ups and downs of life. Over the years, they began to see fruit in all the boys. Life was good.
Well. They saw fruit in nine of the boys. The other one… well, not so much.
Nine of the boys opened up and trusted my friends. One did not.
Nine of the boys were grateful and put their trust in my friends. One did not.
Nine of the boys hugged my friends and laughed with them. One did not.
You get the picture. My friend and his wife called him “the One that got away”.
Fast forward to today.
My friend is currently in his 50’s and is long past his days of eating pizza and staying up late with teenagers. He has a family of his own with three adult children. He has a successful business and is a Godly man in our community.
One day he was filling up with gas at the Tom Thumb off Skillman and Royal. He was leaned up against the side of his car minding his own business when a grown man started to approach him.
My friend isn’t the biggest of fellows and became a little uncomfortable when he saw the 6’6, 300 pound man coming straight for him. He put his head down and prayed to the Lord for protection.
My friend was trying to get into his car when the man said “Excuse me Sir... Sir... Hey you!” His voice kept getting louder and louder.
My friend turned around, somewhat paralyzed with fear.
“Uh yes..." he stammered. "Can I help you?”
The big man said:
"You don’t remember me, but I wanted you to know that you changed my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of what you and your wife did for me. I am now a father myself and I learned a lot from watching you those Sunday nights when I was in high school. I just wanted to say thank you."
The man gave my friend a big hug and he was on his way.
That man was “the One that got away”.
He was the one who did not.
He did not say thanks. He did not open up. He did not show any signs of change.
Well, I guess I should say “He did not…. in our timing."
It took a while, but he did say thanks.
It took a while, but he did open up.
You see, on the outside, that one kid seemed as if he wasn’t receiving anything at all. But on the inside, God was doing something. The change wasn’t fast and the change wasn’t obvious at the time, but God knew what He was doing.
He transforms in his own way. He transforms in his own timing. He transforms the one who got away.
Give us a heart to believe that Lord.
Give us a heart to invest into others. Give us a heart to love the unlovable. Give us a heart to trust you as you work behind the scenes.
Thank you Jesus
Thank you Lord that no situation is too much for you. Thank you that it is not up to us. Thank you that we get to join you as you transform the lives of our Forerunners.
Invest. Love. Transform.
We invest. We love. God transforms.