Monday, September 17, 2007

Some Random Thoughts While Waiting for a Mud Mask To Dry

We've been trying to go to bed earlier this school year-- it suddenly occurred to both of us that we'd probably feel better if we went to work with a full night of sleep behind us.

We're geniuses.

Tonight, though, I couldn't stay asleep. We went to sleep early-- like, around 8:30-- and now my prince is still back there sleeping, while I am awake wondering if I told 1st period that they would have a quiz tomorrow or on Tuesday.

I'm also thinking about my car. My beloved piece-of-poo 1989 classic Toyota. The thing just keeps ticking, but I'm nearly done with it. I honestly adhere to the belief that one should drive one's car until the wheels fall off, and it should be noted that this former Hudgens is completely capable of figuring out how to make at least one of the wheels fall off (we're incredibly creative with breaking automobiles. One night, years before cell phones were common, my friend Kristen and I were summoned by my little brother to meet him at a gas station somewhere in North Georgia. Seems that he had gotten a wild hair to drive home from Toccoa Falls in the middle of the night. He got bored because his radio was broken-- see?-- so he pulled out his guitar. My little brother was driving down 85, I'm pretty sure, in the middle of the night, in a stick shift little Nissan truck with one foot propped up on the window, the neck of the guitar out the window, cruising and singing Grateful Dead, when all of a sudden something went "snap" and he was quickly headed off the next exit without breaking anything on his body. Don't ask me how he did it, but he did, and when we drove up a couple of hours later, he was happy as a clam, sitting in the bed of the truck, playing his guitar and drinking gas station coffee. Turns out it was the timing belt. Kristen rigged something up-- I swear to you, I am not lying-- with a cord from some of Nathan's camping gear (I think it was a sleeping bag drawstring) and he followed us home. He drove that truck til it was patched together with so much duct tape and running with ropes and strings that he couldn't give the thing away. I don't know where he left it, but that's what Hudgenses do with cars. Don't even get me started on Enoch, the Caravan that would not die).

At any rate, it's time to abandon this vehicle somewhere. She's been the Nameless Faithful Car (I just never got around to naming her) for about 8 or 9 years now, and it's just time. And for the first time in my entire life, I am considering buying a car worth more than $1500.

Yikes and pass the checkbook.

But we'll see. There is always the Rabbit (1979), which I adore. It's straight-up ugly, but you can't beat it for character and it runs like a champ. Well, it will once a few things are tweaked. Question is, how long to continue with cars you must "tweak" all the time? I can't imagine what I'd do with a car that I could lock, that doesn't make inexplicable noises, even when it's off, and that had air conditioning. I might have to move into it.

In other thoughts, I've been thinking about a topic that seems to come up for me about three times a year. It's weird how it happens-- I think that working with youth and young adults has everything to do with the recurring nature of the thing. I keep thinking about how good it is that the Lord does not continue to hold our sins against us. When I think of the things I did and said to people-- and not just a select group of people whom I am convinced had issues that stretched waaaay beyond my influence, but pretty much everyone I knew-- when I was in my early 20's, I am eternally grateful for the [for the most part] incredible generosity of the adults the Lord put into my life.

I remember a conversation I had with my friend Leonie, during my DTS in Cimarron (YWAM). I was a brand new believer, and she was a full time missionary who had given her life to serving the Lord and investing in buttheads like me. I was 20 years old and an idiot (not to say that all 20 year olds are idiots, but I was: combine ignorance and pigheadedness and you get an idiot-- me) and I was arguing with her over a verse in 2 Peter or something. I remember my argument to this day, and without going into it, I was obviously incorrect. She sat and said, in her gentle Aussie way, "Sam, just look here ("HEEyah")-- this is what it says." I promise you that I looked at the verse, saw exactly what she said, and was convinced that she was wrong.

Oh my gosh, how infuriating for her, I'm sure.

But how loving she was toward me. Oh my gosh, she was amazing.

During those formative years, God was so good and faithful to send people who seemed to have hearts of pressed gold into my life. It was like the Lord brought people who were gentle and wise and so humble that they didn't have to win fights with me, and made them my leaders. And the patience went beyond intellectual and theological things-- people in their 20's are going through so much hormonally, seems that they are sometimes so overwhelmed with the right now, and their intensity can be driven in so many directions, to be friends or leaders or mentors to them can be exhausting. I'm fortunate that the 20 somethings in my life are some of the most exciting, mature, hilariously funny individuals I have ever known, but me? I'm lucky that I didn't get shot by any of my leaders.

But some of my leaders failed me, and I mourned that for the longest time. Does it matter, as a leader, if you are right when it comes to the life of one you are mentoring? My understanding, watching my mentors in Oregon and experiencing their patience with me, was that the mentor is somehow out of the picture-- removed, almost clinical, when it comes to the life and issues of the person they are investing in. What I mean is, like parents who do not decide to just not be friends with their children any more when they make them angry, mentors do not take the mistakes of their "pupils" personally. Maybe. I don't know. It's just that, when I think of the kids I have invested in over the last 10 years, it occurs to me that some of them have done some pretty slimy stuff, but I still love them.

But I think I got too close to some of my leaders. Or did I? Should there be a strict line which leaders put into place and determine not to cross? When I think of the friendships that Don and I have with kids who are 10 years younger than us, or more, our hearts are completely open to them, but we do not lean on or depend upon them in the way that we might our peers or each other. Is it because they can't "handle" it? Because we are so much above them? No, not at all. Instead, in my mind, it has everything to do with us remaining a source of help for them. We remain someone that they can come to. Someone whose house is open to them at 1 in the morning, someone they can confess sin to and receive counsel. As soon as I unburden myself on them in return, the sense that I am there to serve them vanishes and the pressure to make sure that we have "equal time" in the relationship shows up. In the lives of my precious younger friends, I want to give them room to be dorks and make stupid decisions and know that they can come to me for love and acceptance any day of the week, and that I do not expect a thing from them in return. Mine is to serve them. Theirs is to let me if they want.

Anyway, it happened in at least one relationship that the signals were mixed. I think that if I were the peer of these leaders and they were seeking me out for advise (which is honestly hysterical, if you knew the details), I would have advised them to hold me at arms-length for a season, but never to abandon me. I mean, why take a mentee's stupidity so personally? Do we only lead when it is easy? Do we only invest in the lives of youth when it feels good?

The question it left me with, and one I still struggle with to this day, is this: is it possible for people in their 30's and 40's to have equal, positive friendships with people in their teens and 20's? You have to know: it's a question only. Don and I are in our 30's and 40's now and we have friends we dearly love who are in their 20's...but there is a separation between us, and I think that it's a good one. I believe that it's one which our younger friends appreciate, and it's one that makes me keenly aware of what I do and say around them, and aware of how I respond to them when they do things I do not agree with. I treat my peers in a way that I do not treat my students and younger friends.

And you know what? It's a respect thing. It just now occurs to me that my behavior towards those friends who are in their 20's is my way of showing them respect. What Don and I know is this: we had to make a thousand mistakes in our 20's. If there were a song called "I'm so stupid you can't believe it and don't get too close to me because I'm a smart-ass and a know-it-all," it would be the theme song to my 20's. And it was my right and responsibility to fully experience all of that. When I recognize similar paths to humiliation and pain in the lives of my younger friends, something in me wants not to point a finger or nail them on it, but rather, be the older sister whose affection for them runs so deep...I'll meet you for coffee to talk about that stupid thing you just walked through. I'm not your peer-- I won't judge you that way. I'm your older sister who knows that you just need to talk it out without being graded or compared. I respect the rights of my younger friends to make mistakes and I want to honor them by not judging them in it, but remembering how hard it was to be their age, listen without determining punishment or withdrawing my friendship.

Thing is, I write all of this and then I begin to think of the fact that, as we get older, some of those relationships seem to naturally become more equal, and that makes good sense. My mentors in Oregon--Kristen, Lynelle, Pam and others-- have become close friends whom I consider to be peers now, though when I was younger they were definitely trying to help me to grow up (Pam, my fearless roommate...pity her for those months with me!!). The change in the relationships has been gradual and not at all awkward, and I give them all the credit for gracefully leading me into the new way of relating we have found. You seem to notice the growing when suddenly, the whole conversation isn't about you any more. You ask and honestly want to know how they are, what their days were like, what's hurting them. It's not just about me getting advise from them-- though I know that that element will always be there. I have had some amazing mentors, let me tell you.

Okay, I think that this mud mask is going to be peeling away enamel from my teeth if I don't go wash it away soon. It's good to be able to "talk" these thoughts out. I'm always interested in the mail people send me after reading something I have written down here, and my hope is that this theme I keep revisiting (as a result of a particularly heartbreaking and embarressing scene when I was about 27 or 28) speaks to something in you, too. I haven't figured it out and am open to other's insights, but I think that I might be on the right track.

The last thing is this: my little brother's wife (um, they are in their 30's) is pregnant!!! Yahoo!!!


Once upon a time in a faraway land... said...

Great log Sami - thanks for your insight and sharing your heart. I hadn't thought before of how our relationship shifted and changed - it was so organic but I can't remember not thinking of you as a friend. The roommate time was good - I pitied you, especially that ONE night... :-)

I'm proud of the woman that you've grown into - always knew it would happen.

Love you much!!!

blessedjourney said...

You and Don have been awesome mentors and friends to someone I love very much and I thank you for all you have done for him and for so many others. You may never know the influence you have had on so many young lives. I love you both a lot!

Samantha said...

that is so mutual, rene. we love you and yours, too :)

and thanks for that, pammi. you have been amazing in my life.