There’s something that just feels a little different during this time of year. And not bad different or good different . . . just different. Kids are going back to school and they’ve had a growth spurt over the summer and they’re four inches taller and their voice is an octave lower. Or they’ve spent their summer traveling or at the lake with their friends and they have so many stories to tell — or they’ve spent their summer working and now have this magical thing called money. Or (like a bunch of our kids) they have spent their summer giving up some or all of those things to put themselves second and to serve people in places like food banks and homeless shelters and nursing homes and camps and they are now more compassionate and kind and patient for it.
But now, in what was almost four months but seems like it was just a moment, we look around and everything has changed. Everyone looks a little different and sounds a little different and thinks a little different and hangs out with different people . . . and there’s this small window where what’s different is becoming the new normal. Things that seemed so solidified a few months ago at the end of the school year are now a little more malleable and everything seems brand new again and things are starting over.
There’s a subtle magic to this time of new beginnings — because we have the chance to make the world around us a little bit better. We can treat people differently, we can reach out to people we have excluded in the past, speak up for ourselves and others when we would have been silent, give people who have hurt us another chance. We have the chance to offer an open hand instead of a closed fist, to create space for the people that have been forgotten or outcast, to invite people in instead of push people out.
But if you walk into the Justin on Sunday morning, the first thing you’ll see is a super-sized welcome mat that says, “Welcome Home.” Because as much as some things can change, some things stay the same. The Justin is still pretty much the same. The Justin is one of those places where you don’t have to be perfect. Where you don’t have to check all the right boxes, where you don’t have to cover up every mistake so you’ll fit in. Where you don’t have to have your life all figured out. Where imperfect people come to find a place that loves them for who they are, as they are and where they are. Where you will always be welcome and that hopefully feels like home.
The best news in all of this is that none of this ends here, none of this ends with Youth Ministry or First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth. Because all of this is just a reflection of the God that is present in this place and in our lives. God doesn’t ask us to be perfect, doesn’t ask us to check all the right boxes or cover up our mistakes, doesn’t ask us to have it all figured out or even a little bit figured out. God knows us and loves us and welcomes us home over and over again.
We are so excited to kick off the school year this Sunday and we cannot wait to see all of you again!
Associate Director of Youth Ministries