When I was young, we would celebrate my birthday at Six Flags over Georgia. It was great! My mom would pack a big picnic lunch (fried chicken, potato salad, sandwiches, chips… oh, and fresh watermelon – always fresh watermelon) and the whole family and a few friends would head out to the park for the day.
One of my favorite things to do was ride the Scream Machine. Back in the day, this was a huge roller-coaster that would start off with a long, slow climb to the top of the first hill. If you sat in the very front seat, it felt like it stopped for a second before it began it’s decent. Then down we’d go—the big drop straight towards the blue lake. Then, swoosh, up another quick hill and a tight turn and a jerk back to the right. Well, you get the picture. Each hill, each turn, every scream seemed expected and unexpected at the same time. I’d always be exhausted by the time the ride finished, but as soon as we got out of the seats, we would run back around and get in line to ride it again!
I think leading a small group can be a lot like my birthdays spent on the Scream Machine—lots of twists, turns, steep hills and then fast descents. Sometimes I’m hanging on for dear life and other times holding my hands up daring it to get even more exciting. What could be better (and sometimes scarier) than getting to walk with a group of students through their high school years? As a leader, we help them navigate the unexpected and quick bumps of life as a Freshman, the twists and turns of being a Sophomore, the uphill climb—feeling like you are never going to get anywhere—of Junior year and then the seemingly out of control descent of being a Senior. And through it all we point them towards the One who created this wonderfully crazy ride.
I’ve just finished the ride with a group of Senior girls whom I have been blessed to walk with through their last two years of High School. It’s been so amazing to see them struggle and grow, ask questions and seek answers, find (and sometimes lose) friends and love, have trust broken but faith built—to basically ride the roller-coaster with them. Last week was Senior Sunday where we celebrated the senior class and commissioned them to the “next step” in their life. While I am not exactly ready to fully let these girls go, I do understand that my interaction with them is changing. And that is as it should be. So just like the roller-coaster rides of long ago, I am exhausted and maybe even a little spent. But guess what? I think I’m gonna race around and get in line to go again!