I lead a program called Summer RISE for rising 5th and 6th graders. We meet at Park Avenue Baptist Church. With a commercial kitchen, a library, my classroom with several breakout rooms, a big rec room and even a full gym, we are really blessed to have such a wonderful facility to call home. Because most of my students are 6th graders, they’ll be going to Calvin House for the first time in the Fall. In order to help with that transition and to be able to do other large activities like skits and sport clinics, we have the Calvin House students come to Park Ave on Wednesdays.
Our Wisdom of the Word (WOW time) was in Daniel this Wednesday. We are exposing our students to individuals in the scriptures that by circumstance or by direct call, were asked to go beyond their own self-imposed expectation of themselves regardless of the culture and circumstances around them. Our lesson was simple today. It was just about Daniel and his 3 friends keeping the names that were given to them to remind themselves of who they were in God’s site and not to let the world (in this case Babylon) steal their identity or label them with something else that reflect the current culture and the false idols.
Then we moved into our ThinkTank Room. This is a room where we take risks, RISE to a challenge, Work to Make it Work with our team, and try new things. Only positive encouraging feedback is given in this room and we work to support each other when doing hard things. So we broke up into groups to do an exploration initiative(EI).- We spend time doing some sort of physical challenge that involves communication, problem solving, or brainstorming. Our activity today was a Name Game. It was super simple and super fun. My team of all boys stood in a circle and while holding a squishy ball, we said our name then threw it to another person. After doing that for awhile, we changed the game; we looked a person in the eye, said their name and threw them the ball. Lastly, we made a pattern with the ball where everyone had their name called out once so that no one was skipped. Once we got that down, with one ball, I threw another ball into the mix so that 2 balls were going in a pattern. If a ball got dropped, we waited. Simple, right?
After that game, we shouldered up (stood shoulder to shoulder in a circle) and dropped our heads and closed our eyes. Each boy went around the circle and said each persons name without looking. Everyone knew them by heart. Before we closed, I talked about how there is a God in heaven who knows your name and that when He calls you to do something for Him that’s out of your comfort zone and feels hard, that He knows you so well, He can call you by name. I told them that we’d be journaling after lunch about how it feels to have this circle of boys, your new team, look you in the eye and call you by your own name. One young man from Calvin House popped his head up and said, “It makes me feel…like….regular.” Well I broke my own rule that morning. Some of the boys smiled and giggled and said something a little snide like, “Boy, it just feels regular.” We were late for lunch and I let it go which was the wrong thing to do. He happened to be next to me, so I patted his back, made eye contact, gave him an affirming nod and whispered, “Thanks for sharing.” I tried to fist bump him, but I was left hanging.
While we were down in the cafeteria, this young man walked over to the trash can to throw his lunch away and I happened to be standing there. He made quick eye contact with me so I said his name and asked him what he thought of the morning session. After a couple of non-committal statements and shoulder shrugging, he asked me, “You know what like, regular means, right?” This was my chance to fix a broken place in ThinkTank, so I stepped in, put myself in a humble posture and told him how sorry I was with the way that I treated his feedback and that I’d like to know what he meant by the word regular. I said, “Help me understand that word, what’s another word that describes regular?” He popped his eyes up to the ceiling, thought for a second, then looked down and said. ‘Just normal’. When I made eye contact with him I could tell , he was dead serious. He wanted to clarify his position. I shook my head and said, “Yeah, it makes me feel regular too.” He turned and walked back to the table.
It was probably a 30 second conversation, but it spoke volumes to me. My prayer is that these students can look past their own circumstances in their family situation, their school setting and their culture pressures and set their eyes on all of God’s bountiful provision He has for them in Christ. I want so much for them to elevate their thinking about who they are and see that in Christ all spiritual blessings come from a relationship with Him. But there was one thing I didn’t anticipate. Before they can even begin to think that way, they first have to see themselves as “regular”. This young man had eye contact with boys who didn’t know him and now they do and for him, that was enough to make him feel noticed, included, seen, acknowledged….normal. And I’m claiming that as a first step in a long line of steps that God is using to show each of them, or at least this young man, that they are worthy in His sight.