roller coasters of the heart

Youth ministry is not for the faint of heart. My heart has been on a roller coaster all day.

My heart sank when my day started around mid-night with anxious texts from a former youth who was deeply worried about recent decisions. It ached later this morning as I had conversations with a parent who is going through a turbulent time in their family. My heart laughed as the confirmands practiced the answers to their questions for membership and it soared as they were confirmed before the congregation. My heart nearly burst with pride, sadness and joy all at once as I watch the Youth Choir sing “River in Judea” in worship. It happened again as we celebrated our high school graduates at the Senior Dinner tonight.

In the midst of such drastic highs and lows today, I did get a fair share of reality checks at church. Things like: going on a full out hunt for a coffee cart that had gone missing; accidentally making the congregation sing the doxology twice during worship (One more time for the cheap seats!–oops!); a brief moment at a committee meeting to conduct a little everyday business; helping a Church School teacher make copies; and spreading plastic table cloths around the fellowship hall.

From the emotionally intense to the mundane, this roller coaster of activities and emotions sums up why I do what I do and why this Sabbatical is so welcome at this point in my ministry. As a church worker, I get the great privilege of walking alongside others as they face some of the hardest, and conversely, some of the most joyful days of their lives. I get to share in the deep pride that parents experience when their child joins the church and I shed tears along with them when the pain of family life is deep. And I get to work behind the scenes–organizing, planning, and enabling which I truly love!

But this was my last day at church for three months. What now???

In a matter of minutes, I will remove my church email from my iPhone. I will not head into the office for months. I can’t help but feel a little like this is the end of the day at Carowinds amusement park. You know those days. You’ve been on all the rides from the Vortex stand up roller coaster to the kiddie Snoopy Airplanes. You’ve had frozen lemonade and floated freely in the water park. And it’s all been really FUN! But it’s also been crowded and hot. You had to stand in line beside the guy that talked way too loud. You got stung by a bee on the rapids ride and and by the end of the day, you can’t think straight. The only thing that helps you make it all the way to your car is knowing that it will be quiet and air conditioned when you get there.

Yeah. That.

I’m tired. Deep down. Like a 6-year-old after a long, hot day at Carowinds. But I’ve had SO much fun. The loud talkers in line, the bee stings, the heat, and the crowds are all worth it to be able to get on those roller coasters like today. The rides have been terrifying at times, and have even left me dizzy, but mostly they were exhilarating and gratifying. I wanna go again and again.

But maybe after a Dramamine and a nap.

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