“I was on the floor sobbing and praying for someone to tell me it was going to be OK… I felt a presence wrap around me like someone was giving me a hug but there was no one there and I felt an overwhelming sense of calm and now I don’t feel like I could cry if I made myself. Do you think it was the Holy Spirit?”
— Text Message from First Church Member, 16
Late-night text messages are just part of the game in Youth Ministry. As a result of cognitive and hormonal developmental forces totally outside of their control, teenagers often experience emotions more acutely than adults do, and they are just young enough to still reach out to an adult for a lifeline when those feelings are too much.
This teenager had taken a moment of struggle to pray, to pour out the tangled web of their thoughts to Someone they knew was awake and had felt a wave of comfort, peace, and being known and loved. They asked me a nervous, late-night question: was it the Holy Spirit? Was this warmth and love they had felt, from the God who is Love itself?
Without hesitation, I told them yes, because why shouldn’t it be? This sweet young disciple had asked for a sign of God’s love and presence, why shouldn’t I believe they received it?
In my experience of growing up and working in churches like this one, I have found that we are sometimes shy about naming the work of the Holy Spirit, feeling a little less comfortable with the God who comes in tongues of fire than God the Creator, or in Jesus. The Holy Spirit fits the least well into our modern world, but as we approach Pentecost, maybe we can take some time to look for and listen for this person of the Trinity which is still at work in our world.
In Family Sunday School this week, we encourage our adults to listen to the stories, understandings, and testaments of children and teenagers for when they’ve seen and felt God’s presence. We as adults can sometimes lose our holy imagination for the Spirit’s work, but hopefully by listening to the young people around us, we can remember to believe not only in our Creator, not only in Jesus of Nazareth, but in a Spirit of Truth, sent to comfort, lead, challenge, and teach us to this day.
Yes, I think that teenager did experience the Holy Spirit, and I think, once you are paying attention, you will too.
Director of Youth Ministries
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