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When I was in the seventh grade, my family returned to church after about a year-long hiatus. When we returned, there were a lot of new faces--faces of lots of people my age and a little older that weren't there before. At that time in my home church's life, there was an active youth program that pulled about 20 kids every Sunday. That was a really big deal for my hometown!
That summer after seventh grade, a "teen club" opened at the mall in College Station. Only teens between certain ages were allowed to go, you had to show a school ID to get in, and there were limited hours. By the time we returned to school in the fall, the teen club was the place to be on the weekends! The popular kids at school talked about how much fun they had and even some of the cool girls of the youth group couldn't stop talking about it. At an after-church lunch at the local Pizza Hut after church, I remember some of the girls in youth wanted to go, since it opened at 2 on Sundays and closed at 6. They invited me to join them. I remember taking the walk from our booth over to my mom's booth and she didn't just say no--she literally laughed in my face! "No way are you going to that club!" she exclaimed. "But mom," I complained, "All the other girls are going! They are in youth group--they go all the time. It's safe--they'll even let me ride with them to and from the mall! PLEASE?!?" My mom was adamant: "No--you are not going to a place where they teach you how to party at 13 years old!" "It's not fair!" I whined. Mom responded, "Well, that's life. Get over it."
I remember going back to my table and telling the other girls how lame my mom was for not letting me go with them. When it was time for us all to go, I was as slow as could be going to my mom's car--I wanted her to feel guilty for saying no. I pouted the whole 3 minute drive home. When we got home, I went in and my dad asked how lunch went. I explained to him: "It was so fun until mom said I couldn't go with the other youth girls to the mall!" Of course, mom had to pipe in, "Yeah--the teen club at the mall!" Dad wasn't quite as harsh as my mom, but he agreed wholeheartedly--"NO WAY are you going there. Ever. You can just get that idea out of your head!" I'm pretty sure at that point, I stomped in my room, slammed the door, and my parents chose to let me have a teenage temper tantrum on my own.
It's funny looking back on this argument with my parents. My parents saw a bigger picture that I just couldn't see. Coming from their line of work in probation, they knew of things happening to children and teens that the general public had barely been aware of at the time. It's amazing how times have changed--a teen club could never exist today--it would be too easy for sex traffickers to take a kid away forever! As frustrating as it was at the time to not be able to go to the "hot place" that EVERYONE was going to on the weekends--I see now that it was done to protect me.
We just finished our sermon series on Jonah. Jonah's tale in the Bible is FULL of "it's not fair!" moments: "Why do I have to go to Nineveh? Can't you get someone else to go? Why can't I just flee to Tarshish in peace? It's not fair that I have to sit in the belly of this fish for three days and three nights! Fine God--I'll go, but you better be true to your word if I proclaim it to the Ninevites! Wait...what did you just say God? That you're not going to destroy them?!? God, I just wanna die--I can't stand the fact that they get to live and that you forgave them, of all people! Kill them all--that's the fair thing to do! Fine--you're not going to destroy the city? I'm gonna sit outside of it and watch them and wait for them to screw up again--BECAUSE THEY WILL!!!"
It's easy to look at those unfair moments in Jonah's story and say how ridiculous he looked...just like it is easy to look back on my teen club story and laugh at how ridiculous I was when I was told "no way!" As adults, though, if we really look at ourselves, we are just as bad. Funny enough, where I have seen the ridiculous moments the most have been in regard to politics.
In a couple months, we will have our presidential election. As a pastor, I will not tell you who I vote for, nor will I talk about the election in a sermon--my job is to love all of you, no matter who you voted for or what you believe politically. What I will remind you, though, is that, like in any election, someone will lose. Someone will wake up the day after and be disappointed, angry, or sad that the person they voted for lost. Life is not fair--and it's a truth for elections as much as it is for anything else in life. The ones you think should win or will do best, don't always get the trophy or the job. The ones who work the hardest behind the scenes rarely get the credit or compensation they deserve. Sometimes, you can practice and practice and practice some more, but someone out plays you in football. There are times when people who hurt us get away with what they have done with zero consequences. There are victims of crimes who do not see their abuser face jail time for their crimes.
So what should we do about it? Should we pout like Jonah did under a bush waiting for the city to fall? Should we stomp our feet and pout in our room on a Sunday afternoon like I did when I was told I couldn't go to the teen club with my friends? Should we share memes about the "other" political party we do not like to try to show people why we are right or why they are wrong? Should we refuse to talk to someone because they don't agree with us? Or do we, as adults, take a step back and ask God for peace and understanding in those difficult situations? Do we try to look at the bigger picture, maybe one we do not see, and ask God to reveal how he will take this difficult moment and turn it in to something good? Do we take those moments of disappointment and know that, at the end of the day, God is still God and we are not?
So many things in life are not fair. As Christians, we experience the same type of fairness level as others....but unlike others we know the Gospel, the good news that Christ died for our sins and defeated death. Darkness, disappointments, hurts, failures, and a lack of justice are NEVER the end of our story! Because we know this truth, we should strive to walk away from even the toughest of unfair situations with faith that one day, this too shall pass and that one day, God will make something beautiful out of something that looks utterly and completely destroyed.