I leaned against the shower wall, clenching the razor tight in my hand. My salty tears were quickly washed away by the steaming water running down my face. My long, light brown hair draped over my shoulders like a curtain as my head hung down low. The pain that weighed down my soul was so heavy, so dark that the pressure was going to make my chest explode. I had to release it. I took the razor and pressed it deep into my arm until I felt the burning of the blade tearing through flesh. With the first sight of blood, the once overwhelming pressure began to ease. I dragged the razor along my skin until the white floor of the tub was covered in swirls of pink and red and I watched my sorrow wash down the drain.
I am a tribe leader for the DOPE student ministry at my church (Lifepoint Va! Shout out Fred Campus whoop whoop). I get the privilege of leading a small group of high school girls. We hang, we chat, we have girl talk, Jesus talk, we eat, and we spend a lot of money on Starbucks. Week in week out, I get to be a part of these girls’ lives. I hear about their boyfriend’s, their siblings, their friends. I share scripture and holy spirit revelation that has helped guide me in my own life, in hopes it brings them closer to Jesus. The coolest part is, the part that I wasn’t sure would ever happen, they open their hearts and show me who they are in return.
I grew up in church. I had a perfect family by textbook American dream standards. My mother stayed at home until I went to school. My dad worked tirelessly to provide for his family. They had (have) a great marriage. We went to church every Sunday my whole childhood. I was a good kid, until I wasn’t. Somehow, somewhere, despite a life that most would consider perfect, I found myself drowning in a sea of black. An abusive and manipulative relationship, depression, mental illness, sexual assault, self-harming, an eating disorder and drug and alcohol use consumed my entire teenage years. As surrounded as I was by people who loved me, I felt completely alone. My church at the time did not have a strong ministry for my age and I felt disconnected. So I stopped going. Though I knew my parents loved me, I couldn’t talk to them. A combination of fear of disappointing them, punishment, and just a genuine belief they did not understand prevented me from being honest. Instead, I hid the extent of the pain I was battling until the pressure built inside of me.
My tribe coach (the wonderful, beautiful Megan who pours into me and supports me so I can lead my girls) encouraged us to write out our why. Why do we do tribe? Why do we lead these girls? When I first became a leader, the scene of me alone in the shower popped in my head. Me, a broken girl surrounded by people yet completely alone. I thought about how easily adults (myself included) can write off the problems our youth face. How can anything possibly be that bad or overwhelming? And I pictured me, the only relief a swirl of reddish pink down a shower drain. I never wanted another girl to feel that way. I never wanted another beautiful soul, pregnant with revelation and destiny, to be drowning in a sea of blackness. I wanted to be a safe place where they can come and release the pressure building in their chest.
James 5:16 says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has a great power as it is working.” Healing takes community. When I started at Lifepoint, I met some great people right away. I could see that their heart for the students was HUGE. They were desperate to create an environment that was relevant and enjoyable for students. They wanted to show them that Jesus is the answer to all things and give them a safe space to release. I was unsure of myself, but I dove right in. With some hard work, consistency, prayer and about a trillion unanswered texts later, something started to happen. I began to make genuine connections. My why was living and breathing.
But as a single mom my son, who was only in fourth grade when we started and was too young to join a tribe in the student ministry, would often tag along. Immediately, the guy leaders welcomed him. They tossed the football with him, asked him about his life and let him be a part of the dopest nerf war Virginia has ever seen. My son would tell me all the time how much he enjoyed coming to tribe with me. He named a few specific leaders and told me how he admired them, looked up to them because they were good role models. Little did these guys know, my son did not have a healthy relationship with his father. For most of his life, his dad has come and gone as he pleased and at the point when I started leading tribe it had probably been a year since they spoke. Healthy male relationships for my son were lacking. Yet every interaction, these guys made an impression on Kameron. The same guys who would eventually be his tribe leaders.
Recently Kameron has been struggling with a lot of anxiety. Tests at school are overwhelming him. He is having a hard time calming down when he feels stressed. And his father, who is currently incarcerated, has been calling. Day after day, I have been watching my son struggle to cope. We are in therapy, we are doing all the things, but the season has not yet passed. I was talking to Kameron one day about everything that he had been going through and suggested he grab someone at church to talk to. He chose Aaron, the Student director at our campus. Apparently, their conversation was top-secret because Kameron won’t tell me a word of what Aaron said. But I watched this super busy guy who spends Sundays at church running around like a crazy person, stop and sit down on the stairs with my son. He listened to him intently. He prayed for him. Hugged him. And after, my son walked away with a little more light in his eyes. That is when I realized, there were things that mommy was no longer going to be the one my son turned to. I can love him all I want, do the best I can. Just like I felt as a teenager, there were going to be times where he didn’t want to talk to ME. But when the pressure began to build in his chest, he WOULD have a place to release. Tribe.
If you ask me why I serve, I can assure you my answer will evolve daily. It’s because I know there are girls who are struggling with many of the things I did, and I want them to know there is someone who relates. Its because I want my own son to have a safe place. It’s because I legit enjoy learning new slang words I have no business using at 30 years old. Its because hanging out with my girls is a really good excuse to blow my budget on Starbucks every Sunday. At the core, though, the answer will always remain the same. It is because I am desperately in love with Jesus and hope to be a billow of light in a dark world to our NOW generation. It is because I am honored to come along side an amazing group of men and women and support them in their journey as they hunger to do the same. It is because, at the end of the day, every single student deserves a place to relieve the pressure.
And if I only ever change the life of one student, well, that’s why.
What’s your why?
Mkay. Love you! Bye!