A few years back, my wife and I were at the Storyline Conference with noted author Donald Miller. We decided to go to this conference in Nashville at what we believed was a pivotal time in our family life. I was in ministry at a congregation, and while everything was fine, I wasn’t sure what I was doing or where I was going. I enjoyed my job but didn’t see a future where I would be fulfilled and happy over the long term.
This particular conference seemed to be something that would at least help us think through these questions. The focus of the conference centered on understanding yourself as a character in your own story. We worked through our backstories and thought a lot about what we wanted.
There was one section of the conference where Miller riffed a while about relationships. During this particular section of the conference, he said something regarding relationships that has stuck with me –
“Sometimes we are just ONE good relationship away from everything being okay.”
Read that again.
One more time, now.
What a simple, yet powerful statement. These words seeped down into the recesses of my soul and found space to take root. The cost of the conference and travel to get there might have been worth it for those words.
Because the source of my discontent might not have been my job as a minister or the mission I believed in.
I was just very, very lonely.
Actually, both of us were. And, we couldn’t see much of a way out of the loneliness while being on staff at a church where there were very few families who were in our situation.
Why is this little story important, especially for those working with and loving teenagers? For my wife and I, the solution wasn’t really that profound. We needed relationships and we needed to figure out how to be in a place where we could find them. And, we did. We moved to a town and found jobs that put us in places where we could find people to live life with. We found some friends. Obviously a lot had to happen to solve our problem, but the problem itself was really simple – we needed friends.
And, Don was right. While we have our fair share of struggles and frustration in life, things are a lot better.
We were just one (or maybe more) relationship away. This made all the difference.
A Teen Lifeline support group operates on this idea. Sometimes, it’s the really simple solutions that make the biggest difference. Maybe it’s a different relationship. Or, maybe we could start doing one thing just a little differently. Then, the world opens up and we wonder what life looked like before.
Just like you and me, teenagers can get lost. And in the confusion of being lost, they lose sight of the fundamental, important things that brought joy and happiness to begin with. Our groups help students reclaim what was lost and discover what really matters. They face their problems by finding their courage and strength in themselves, others, or God. And discovering that the solution is so simple makes it so much better.
So maybe we don’t need to try and fix everything for our students, or ourselves, for that matter. Maybe instead, we help students to find the simple way that could make a huge difference.