Last night I was at an event at the Hayward High School. It was a group called “Break the Grey” and what they do is they go into schools to speak about freedom from drugs, alcohol and other addictions. They’re a christian group, but they are not allowed to preach at the school assemblies. But they have a very positive message that truly impacts kids and then they hold a concert at night where they can freely share about their faith in Jesus and the message of freedom and hope.

To make a long story short, my whole family attended and we had a great time. As I entered the place i recognized many faces from the christian community here in Hayward and it was neat to see them come together for the sake of our young people. I was also introduced to the lady who originally made it happen. We met and soon after that I was asked if I wanted to be a counselor at the end of the event to be available to pray/talk with kids. Now, these opportunities are so beautiful that I immediately consented and agreed. I love being available to speak with kids, but I’ve learned that these kids are spoken to and talked to all the time, with sometimes not being allowed the opportunity to actually them speaking to us and sharing with us. Somehow we feel they need to be lectured all the time, and so we spend most of our time just preaching at them, talking at them or just coming dow on them, all with GOOD intentions and “WORDS OF WISDOM” and advice and etcetera!

Nothing wrong there, but as God has been doing a work in my heart through being a dad and realizing the things that work and don’t work with my kids, and as I try to learn from my Heavenly Father how to be a dad, I’ve realized that in order to communicate clearly with anyone, specially kids, it is necessary to allow for a true conversation to happen between the two parties, which in this case would mean the opportunity for both parties to speak and to be quiet and to listen and to respond. That means that in order to have a successful communication effort I need to be able to listen carefully and intently to what the other person is saying so that I can fully understand and hear what they’re saying without the anxiety and impatience that floods my heart and mind to begin to talk and speak myself. When a person feels heard and we actually make the effort to listen, it opens up so many possibilities of true connection with the other person. And after we have listened then we can truly offer a response that is coherent, loving, understanding and actually beneficial. Seriously!!!

So, it was meant to be then that at the end of the night, the only two people that I got a chance to talk to were a boy and a girl that were not believers. One boy, 11th grader, shared with me that he believed in all religions, and that there wasn’t just one way to God or to a higher power.  So, what do you do at a christian event, after a big deal has been  made about Jesus, His power, His forgiveness and sacrifice, and after we have worshipped and prayed and had an “altar call”?

And the girl, an atheist who is also bisexual, who has a girlfriend and who grew up in Sunday School, knows the stories but has experienced so much pain and disappointment in her life that has come to the conclusion that there’s no God, cause He has not come through for her. Who tells me she has been shunned by some family members, has had bibles thrown at her, and has been denied access to some churches/youth groups cause they know her sexual orientation. She was very open and honest and transparent, not disrespectful at all, just disgruntled and hurt. She has experienced so much rejection you can just tell.

Yet, as I heard that she was an atheist I said “God, so what would you do in this situation?” What would you say to her? How would you strike a meaningful conversation with her?

And so he led me to just listen and then to ask questions about her feelings, her experiences and how she has formed her image of God based on human experiences and feelings, which isn’t that the way a lot of us have done it too?

We allow others actions, words, life instances, challenges, troubles, pain, disappointments, unanswered prayers, rejection, betrayal, etc to influence how we view God and His message of love, hope, freedom, peace and joy.

Somehow we put 2 and 2 together as if those things represented the true character and nature of God. And maybe in our lives most of what we have experienced is not very good, and we come to the conclusion that if there was truly a good God we shouldn’t be going through all that we have gone through.

Anyways, that’s material for another topic. What I want to center in on is the question she asked me at the end of our conversation as she said this to me “I don’t want to get into an argument or anything, but this is a question I kind of have that leads me to believe that the bible cannot be trusted because it contradicts itself or doesn’t make much sense at times…”

So I said, “what’s the question?”

She said “Well, the bible says that all Jesus came to forgive ALL ours sins, right? Past, present AND future?

I said: “Correct”

She: “So, then that would mean that since all sins are forgiven, then all people should go to heaven, right?”

Me: “Well, yes and no”

She: “what do you mean?

Me: “It’s a choice. And it came in the form of a gift”

Her: “How come?” (Her face totally shocked as I think Jesus was speaking to her)

Me: Well, Your sins are forgiven if you so choose to accept that forgiveness, which would mean accepting the fact that your sins need forgiveness, and to do that you need to accept that the way you are living your life is not the right way. And since it’s a gift, you have to receive it, open it and make use of it. It’s like Christmas. If you are giving a gift and you take it and say “Oh, how sweet, thank you!” but then you put it away and never use it then you can never take advantage of what that gift was meant to fulfill, right? Let’s say you are given a car for your graduation and get all excited and jump up and down and scream at the top of your lungs for joy! But you take the keys and put them away and never get into the car and actually drive it and go places. What good is that gift? Is it affecting you? Is it being beneficial to you? Are you taking advantage of it? It is good for nothing. The purpose that the gift has will never affect you until you actually fully receive it and make use of it.

Her: “well, yeah, that makes sense, i guess…”

Me: Well, think about that. I know you’ve been hurt and that lots have happened to you, but if you are able to separate your experiences and realize that the ones that have let you down are people, flawed and broken just as you are, and are able to give God a chance to reveal himself to you, then you might find out that He is who he says he is and that what he’s offering you is a good thing.

After that then our time ended with just asking if she knew my son Danny and that I’m constantly visiting the school for one reason or another and then if i see her at any school event or when i stop by for any business at the High School and see her I’ll call her out and give her a high five. She was ok with that. And then we went our separate ways.

But my question to you is this…how are you living out the gift that has been given to us? Are you truly taking advantage of the wealth and riches that we have been given? Are you living this life enjoying and fully experiencing that which Jesus offers you and I today and that He so costly a price paid to grab a hold of?