This last Wednesday night I had the privelage to bear witness to something amazing. Granted, it came upon the heels of a very difficult experience in the lives of many of our students. And because of that we had planned something a little different for our youth group gathering. We also knew that some of the students most directly effected by the tragic experience would be attending that night. And because of all of that we planned a special prayer time to conclude our service. After said prayer time we made space for this most effected group of students to continue to pray and the remarkable thing was the response of our regular students. Even though they were given the freedom to leave respectfully, they just sat…for half an hour. Not speaking, not fidgeting…just sitting.
Earlier in the evening we had talked about the ancient Jewish practice of sitting Shiva. To sit Shiva, close friends or family members would come and sit with those who were mourning and do little else. What made this last Wednesday night so unique was not that the close friends were those participating in Shiva, but that students who had no direct connection to those mourning were those sitting still. And the only thing that I could think of was the fact that these students, although not directly connected, knew the God who is. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses…” (Hebrews 4:14-15)
Sometimes people like to fault this current generation of young people with many things. They are inattentive, too busy, distracted, media-dependent, etc. But what I saw Wednesday night spoke volumes in a different direction. Here was a generation that we label as being attention challenged just sitting; being present. Somehow they knew that in their presence, the presence of God was present. Oh I wish we could get that sometimes. We don’t have to have the right words but rather rest in the fact that we serve a High a Priest who is present in our presence and empathizes with us in our weaknesses.
It’s amazing the sermons I receive from students at times. And this is one I will take with me forever.