Sometime’s Good Enough is Good Enough

There’s a lot of talk in youth ministry about excellence and ‘raising the bar’ and setting a higher standard.  And there should be.  We never need to look at the ways we communicate the exceptional love, forgiveness, and mercy of Jesus in a mediocre light.  We should strive for excellence in everything – not for excellence’s sake…but merely because the message we communicate is not mundane or cheap in any way.

I digress – that is NOT what I learned at camp this summer.  I already knew that.  I also already knew that I have a pretty high propensity for perfectionism.  Every single thing on a Wednesday night talk can go exactly as planned, but if the music starts 12 seconds late, I think the entire night was a bust.  I could spend three hours (and used to!) making sure all the letters on my bulletin boards were in exactly straight lines (yes, I know that jumps the fence of perfectionism into the pasture of OCD.)  In preparing for events, I get so ‘worked up’ about everything going just right that I really get a little crazy.

One year, I was planning a spring retreat.  One of my student interns was working hard – but a little more reserved, sullen than usual.  When I asked him what was wrong, his reply was maybe one of the most memorable accountability checks I’ve ever had.  “I hate it when you get this way.  It takes the joy out of ministering with you.  Sometimes good enough is good enough.”

Wow.  That was almost seven years ago and that healing sting is still fresh and refreshing.

Anyway – so as I was preparing for camp, I kept that mantra going in my head (as I do now before every major thing I do).  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be Godly.  I need to be obedient to do the work God has set before me and trust that things that go awry are part of The Plan.

So as we are driving our 1,100 miles to camp in luxurious 15-passenger rental vans this summer, my mantra is getting a work out.  The vans are nice – not limo nice, but definitely not junk yard ghetto, either.  But as we get further and further from home, something becomes very apparent.  They are in desperate need of alignment.  As we approach the half-way mark, students are losing fillings as we bounce along the highway.  Milk left over from our traveling breakfast has turned to butter.  Those of us stressed during the preparation for the trip have experienced one of the best massage chairs ever.  We’re gonna have to slow down or these vans are going to bounce off the road.

But wait!  That’s gonna put us behind schedule.  We’re gonna have to adjust all our times.  This was not in our plan for the week!  “Sometimes good enough is good enough.”

Obviously, this wasn’t something for which we’d planned.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a serious breakdown on the side of the road.  (Incidentally, if you ever DO break down on the side of the road in New Mexico, be prepared to wait a while…that place is pretty desolate!)  But in the interest of safety, we were gonna have to slow down our trip a little bit.

We did that – we only arrived about 20 minutes later than planned (not even enough to adjust our schedules at all.)

Throughout the week, we had a few more opportunities to invoke our mantra.  And at one point, it was my honor to pass along the sage wisdom of my intern to another of our adults.

“Darren, don’t you think we should call the rental company and try to get them to replace those vans – or at least repair them?  The alignment is really ridiculous.”

“You know, we’ll just adjust our drive time on the way home to accommodate the alignment.  We don’t need to sacrifice our week here for a simple alignment – sometimes good enough is good enough.”

“Hmmm.  OK, then – you’re right. It’s no big deal.”

Sometimes good enough is good enough.  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be right…or holy…or a part of God’s perfect plan for your ministry.  Sometimes we can even see God more clearly through imperfection.  Sometimes good enough is good enough.

Helping Kids Find Their Way Home

When people have wandered far from the Lord, the road back can look too long and grueling to make the destination worth the journey. But it is worth it. Those of us who have made the trip know what’s waiting at the end.

Pull out that GPS.  Hop on MapQuest.  It’s a REALLY long drive to anywhere from Corpus Christi, TX.  It’s about 1,100 miles from Corpus to Durango – and, ironically, about the same distance back.

On the way to Colorado we had three vehicles and six drivers.  Someone was always rested and ready to go the next leg of the trip.  We took the trip in two days and changed drivers every 3 – 4 hours.  Safety first!  It seemed like an easy trip, to be very honest.  We stayed overnight in a nice hotel.  We enjoyed sometime at the pool, ate a nice breakfast, and leisurely traveled the remaining miles on the second day.

The road home, however, was not as tranquil.

We found out about a week before we departed for camp that my son had won a state writing competition for our region.  He needed to be in Austin, TX, on the last travel day of camp.  So after conferring with our camp team, we decided that my son and I would leave a few hours earlier than everyone else, take the luggage van and drive straight through from Durango to Austin.  I would meet up with the team the next day as they drove through San Antonio.

As we drove the almost 1,000 miles to Austin that day, I realized what it must be like for people who wander far from home.

We started the trip back with a fresh outlook – a good night’s sleep – a full tank of gas – doughnuts from the best doughnut place in Durango.  We were excited about the trip. I think kids who turn back to God after a stint ‘far from home’ might feel the same way.  Their outlook is glorious.  They have fuel for the journey and they are just excited to get back to where they know they need to be.

After about 250 miles, my son and I both realized this trip was gonna be a lot longer than we had anticipated.  We started our IV drip of caffeine and sugar and kept plowing forward.  I think maybe when kids start coming back to Christ, they might keep going at the first sign of fatigue. It’s a tiring journey, but they know they need to be where they are heading. Help them plug into a source of energy for the journey.

After about a half day of driving, we were both tired and getting cranky.  And though we were meant to encourage one another on this trip, we started fighting.  It was a pretty intense argument over how difficult this journey was going to be.  Instead of helping one another along the way, we started taking shots at one another. I think kids who are trying to crawl their way back to Christ will do this, sometimes.  As the road gets rough, they start ripping on the ones meant to help them find their way home.  Sometimes when that happens, we give up on them.  We see that as the end of their journey, not just a crabby, exhausted, road-weary traveler lashing out during a weakened moment.  During those weak moments, help them find the strength they have in Christ, in fellowship, and in accountability.

We still had about four hours left in our drive when I finally had to pull over at a rest stop and use it for its namesake.  I was just so done with driving.  I could hardly keep my eyes open.  My extremities were shaking from fatigue.  I had a difficult time focusing.  I slept for about 15 minutes.  I couldn’t believe how much that little rest refreshed me.  I was still tired, but I was able to finish the journey.  Sometimes, as kids make their way back to Jesus, they’re gonna have to stop for a breather.  This is an intense trip in every way, but especially emotionally and spiritually.  Recognize that as long as they aren’t going backward, they are facing forward – and that’s a good thing.  Rest is good.  Give them a breather – then wake them up in 15 minutes for the rest of the journey.

After almost 20 hours on the road, we finally made it to Austin.  In the dark cover of night, we rolled into our hotel parking lot.  My wife had already checked into the hotel, so we were able to walk straight to our room and collapse in complete joy that we had made it home, even though that road was a long, arduous one.  We slept well that night.  The road home is long.  Walking it with kids can be almost as tiring as making the journey for yourself.  Make sure there’s a safe place to land when the journey is complete – for both you and your student.  Surround yourself and your student with people who will welcome you back with encouragement and joy!

When people have wandered far from the Lord, the road back can look too long and grueling to make the destination worth the journey.  But it is worth it.  Those of us who have made the trip know what’s waiting at the end.  Stand firm with your kids.  Love and encourage them as they drive.  Don’t give up on them and be there with an open and rejoicing heart when the trip is finally complete!

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