There are a lot of labels that we put upon ourselves. There are a lot of labels that are put upon us too. As we get older, we want to believe labels were something from a bygone era of our childhoods, that we have moved past them. Unfortunately, we have a hard time dissociating our past from our present. A lot of what we experience when we are young carries over into our lives now, and in little, almost imperceptible ways, they shift our perspectives.
There is a challenge in this. We all influence the younger people in our lives. You may be a parent or guardian; the influence is clear. You may work with young people at a school or as a coach, or in a youth group. Or you may go to the same church as young people and kids. The challenge is clear to the church; we need to make disciples, instructing future generations what it means to be a follower of Jesus by leading the way. Ultimately (back to the original point), we need to be helping them understand that their worth and value are not determined by a label or any esteem we find in our “self” or the world around us. The chief way we can do that is to understand and live that out ourselves.
John the Baptist hit it right on the nose,
“He must increase, but I must decrease” – John 3:30
Our minds are a crazy vortex of neurons firing in a million different ways; God is a marvelous creator, isn’t he! There is so much going on in our brains; it is easy to let some of those thoughts or beliefs fly by without recognizing their impact on the way we think and see ourselves. However, we allow those to take root, and we start to see our value and worth directly tied to our ability to achieve, do, make, etc. When we do this, our self-esteem rises and falls with it.
For us to lead well in the lives of young people, we need to be confident in who we are, in what we know, in the words that we say about ourselves, and to ourselves. If we carry with us a weight of dissatisfaction or self-deprecation, how much of that are we teaching and influencing young people with? This is a moment to reflect. Where are you at with this? How much of your life is built on what you can accomplish and what you have done versus living in a mindset of Christ increasing and I decreasing? When we live in that state of mind, we live in mindfulness rooted in the God of the universe himself. We then have a greater opportunity to influence the next generation toward a never-changing Jesus worthy of all the glory.
Cody Kiwaczyk is the youth pastor at Alive Church in Tucson, Arizona.