So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.
– Revelation 10:9-10
Having the honor of working with high school students in the community in which I live and have been called is a grace that leaves me amazed and incredibly thankful. Getting to hang out with these kids—listen to them, talk to them, pray with them, play with them, live in biblical community with them, and lead them—is what God has graced me with as a calling.
In doing this day-in and day-out, I have gotten to know these students, their parents, teachers, coaches and their community really well. It’s incredible how much I learn about these kids by not talking at all, just listening. Listening to their conversations with each other, actively listening to them when they are in conversation with me. Listening to their questions and what they are interested in and (one of my favorites) listening to them pray. In all of this observation and listening I have noticed trend. When life gets difficult and the deep abrasions that are caused by living in a fallen world are overwhelmingly painful, the body of Christ is one of the last places that a student wants to go to in order to seek refuge. I’ve seen this inclination in our culture when divorce affects our families, when a eating disorder is unconquerable, when a relationship becomes lustful, when a student is feeling depressed, unloved and unforgiveable. For some reason during theses valley seasons the body of Christ is not seen as necessary, comforting or inviting to suffering and broken people.
For the past few weeks this reality has had me broken and in prayer for the hearts and lives of our students and also for my own heart.
Much of my prayers and devotional readings have been focused on this trend that seems to be pervasive in the church as a whole. Why, when we are in the valley of the shadow, do we not run to the Lord in great desperation? I think the answer is as tragic as it is simple: We do not see Jesus as the answer. The problem is sin and the solution is Jesus. But I think many of my students see the problem as being personal and circumstantial. They view the church as a place where ‘good’ people get better, where hypocrites pretend and the Bible—although true—is irrelevant and incomprehensible. All the while Jesus is beseeching their hearts saying “take My word and eat it.”
I don’t think the book of Revelation is promoting a mass physical consumption of the Holy Scriptures. What I believe the invitation is saying is, do not just have the Bible on your bedside table; don’t just read it when you need to feel better, don’t just study it for the sake of knowing things. The invitation in the book of Revelation is compelling us to take the Word that has become flesh and hold it up as a mirror to our souls; it is an invitation for the words of Scripture to penetrate our hearts and lives. Bonaventure said it well, “to know much and taste nothing—of what use is that?” My fear is that our students ‘know much’ but they have not participated in a lifestyle of opening the inspired and living word of God and letting it read their hearts and revealing to them as if it were a mirror. I fear they do not see their own participation in the metanarrative.
My heart has been incredibly burdened for our students, that they would see Jesus as their only their only answer. I hope that they would not see the Bible as an owner’s manual but as the Word that “became flesh and dealt among us” and is now living in us.
Lord may my every heart’s desire be to accurately teach the word of God to the student body that You have entrusted me in a way that promotes their hearts to crave more of You, that they would see You as sovereign, that they would claim You as their supreme joy. I pray that when they’re in the valley they would run to You above all else. Father, I confess that all this is a work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of my students, so Holy Spirit, open the eyes and hearts of my students that they would “take it, and eat it” and treasure You above all.