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A Letter from the Associate Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

A Coffe Mug? You Gave Them a Coffee Mug???
August 4, 2016

I’m terrible with gifts.  No seriously, absolutely terrible (ask anyone in my family). So it will surprise no one that my final thank you gift to my team of volunteers at Hampton was a coffee mug. That’s right, ten years of service and the best thing I could come up with as my final thank you to a group of people who had been my partners in ministry was a coffee mug.

But, this coffee mug was different. This coffee mug was special because of the question that was printed on it. A simple, profound, and honestly challenging question: What would happen if you treated every child like they were made in the image of God?

In my experience, some kids in our churches are easy to love. They’re the kids who show up for everything, whose parents are involved and supportive, and best of all, they’re well behaved.  And then there’s the kids who, at points, are hard to love but are often the most fun and entertaining as well, so it all balances out. But then there’s another group of kids, who go past challenging and firmly establish themselves in the “difficult to love” category. These are the kids who, if we’re honest, we sometimes wish weren’t involved with our church.  They’re the ones who, when their name shows up on a list, everyone rolls their eyes. They’re the ones who, again if we’re honest, no one wants to make time for.

I wish I could say I’ve never written a kid off. But I have. I’m not proud of it, but I have. It’s easy to do actually, in some ways it frees me from the guilt and responsibility I feel.  I can even justify it to myself - why spend so much time on a kid who simply is trouble when I could invest that time into the life of a “good kid.” And yet I catch myself and over and over, and the question comes back to me: how many times are kids like that precisely because so many adults in their lives have wronged them and/or written them off? Maybe, just maybe, if more adults treated that kid they like they were made in the Image of God, they might change. They might find new opportunities and healthier ways of dealing with what life as thrown at them. They might, just surprise us—after all, there’s a precedent for that, isn’t there?

Scripture is full of examples of God calling people. Sometimes he called people you’d expect him to call.  But often God called the losers, burnouts, and leftovers of the world. The people others have disregarded and decided weren’t worth it. The people who were “trouble.” The truth is often the people (kids and adults) who most need our love and need to be reminded that they are loved by the God who created them, are those who bug us the most. May we find the patience, whether it’s a troublesome elder, hurting kid, or pain-soaked soul, to treat every person we meet like they are made in the image of God.

The Rev. Brian R. Wallace, Associatel Minister

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