Day-trader: investing in people

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One of my old jobs had an IRA benefit.  Over many years I ended up with about $7000 worth of investments.  Then the US market dip took it down to about $4000.  Slowly but surely it’s regaining.  But I’m not really believing it will amount to much on the short-term.  It will take many many many years to increase in value.

In some ways, that’s how my Faith life is: small investments that are not worth celebrating today.

There’s something pretty awesome and cool about “day-traders” and the way they buy and then fully sell in the same trading day.  They literally get to see the fruit of their investments each and every day.  Of course, not every day is worth celebrating… but there definitely are days that are hugely profitable.  Some days when then bell rings to end trading, there are huge celebrations.

I want to have days like that!

– – –

There it was. Set with other pieces of furniture at the thrift store drop-off. I turned my head to get one more look.  I realized I didn’t have a photo to remember it by and, as I drove away, I felt a very deep sense of loss. 

It was a 6-drawer dresser that I’d tried to rescue.  I had spent so many hours trying to fix it up but it was beyond my level of expertise.  And so it sat in our garage for years when someone else could have been using it.

Sweet light blue dresser. Going off to live another life, with other people. I’m glad you will be loved and put to great use with another family. It makes me sad that I won’t get to be part of that life. It makes me sad that you will be living life without me.

That blue dresser is a symbol for me.  A metaphor.

For about 15 years I was involved in youth ministry.  For nine of them we were youth pastors.  The job of a youth pastor is odd:  Invest deeply in teenagers and families who will outgrow you and move on.  Of course, it’s a good thing that they grow up.  It would be terrible for them to stay in highschool for ever.  But it is sad none the less.

My husband and I and our amazing team of leaders are life changers.  Every teen came to us in need.  Aren’t we all that way?!  In need of a little more love, a little more guidance, a little more of so many things?  And so we gave and gave.  Days and days of our time.  Months and months of our love.  Years and years of investing, caring, encouraging, supporting, praying, being there.

I have such sweet memories of all of them.  They were so cute and little when they started to leave childhood behind.  So brave and courageous as they started discovering their worth and the joys of putting their gifts and passions into action.  There is nothing like getting to watch humans grow into their strengths!

Oh I love those kids!  They are all like the blue dresser.  Created for a purpose. Being prepared by God for their lives. And, all too soon, they are old enough to leave their families (and their youth pastors) and head off to live life. But unlike the little blue dresser drawer, I do get to witness the lives of many of our much loved youth kids.  They have all grown up now.  Can you believe it?!  I can’t.  They are men and women.  They are living life.

And it’s a sweet thing… I can actually see the fruit of our investment.  Some of them are still local and part of our church family.  I’m getting to watch them put their gifts and passions into action in such beautiful ways.  It’s awesome.  And, thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I get to follow the lives of a bunch more who live near and far.  It’s such a joy to hear them share about their jobs and families and ministries.

I can actually see the effect we had on them.  They are doing things we encouraged them to do.  They are quoting things we talked about.  They are investing in ways that were modelled to them.  They are re-speaking words of guidance I heard them receive.  They have been deeply affected by our investment.

I don’t say these things out of ego. I speak out of amazement. 

Blue Dresser Reminder = The power we have in each others’ lives is incredible. Thank God He has invited us to be His hands and feet.  It’s so cool that He fills us with His Spirit and we get to minister with His life-giving love and power.

My true disciples produce much fruit. This brings great glory to my Father. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last. (John 15:8 & 16)

Blue Dresser Regret = I haven’t done a good job of celebrating the investment.  I mean, It seems arrogant to do so.  But here’s the truth: That blue dresser is better now than before I came into its life.  And the same goes for for those kids.  Every year we had graduation blessings for our graduating seniors.  It was a time to celebrate them and honor them.  I’m so glad we did those annual celebrations.  But if I could go back I would add another layer of celebration:  to thank and honor the people who invested in the lives of those kids.  I’m inspired by Paul’s “ownership” of the work God did through him.  I think I’ve been missing out on a lot of joy that Paul clearly had.

…Onesimus. I think of him as my own son because he became a believer as a result of my ministry here in prison. (Philemon 1:10)

Blue Dresser Inspiration = I want to be aware of and delight in the investment opportunities I get each day.  I want to take time to notice the effect I’m having on the lives around me.  I want to enjoy the fruit of my investment while they’re still in my life.  I specifically thinking about my little kiddos.  All too soon they will launch into their own lives.  I’m also thinking about my church family and the specific people I feel God has asked me to invest in these days.  All too soon the season will change and our lives won’t be intersecting like they are now.  We should celebrate today!  Totally makes me want to throw a party with all the people I love!  We are “iron sharpening iron” and it’s so good!!

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a trip. He called together his servants and gave them money to invest for him while he was gone. He gave five bags of gold to one, two bags of gold to another, and one bag of gold to the last — dividing it in proportion to their abilities — and then left on his trip. The servant who received the five bags of gold began immediately to invest the money and soon doubled it. The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!‘ (See Matt 25:14-30)

An ode to the investors:  Parents, Grandparents, Families, Teachers, Coaches, Mentors, Youth Leaders… all those who invest in teenagers.  You are awesome.  I celebrate you and all the love you invested and all the pain you endured!  The teen years do awkward things to humans as they pass through them.  To all the people who invest in teenagers despite the danger factor of doing so:  Your investment was worth it!  You have made an impact that will bear fruit for many years to come.  To all those who invest in the people around them… you rock!  You are fulfilling the call we each have to build up the Body of Christ!  (Eph 4, Rom 12, 1 Cor 12)

An ode to my investors: Dad & Mum, my teachers & professors, my pastors, my mentors… all those who have and still do invest in me: Thank you!!  I hope I’m quoting you often and emulating you in hugely honoring ways!

How about you?  Who has God placed around you that He is asking you to invest in? Do you see the effect of your investment in the lives around you?  What would it look like if you took notice of your effect and celebrated your investment with God? Have you thanked the people who have invested in you?

Want to read through the Bible with me? Today’s readings are Psalm 44; Luke 23:26-56

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One response »

  1. Hey Justine! Thanks for writing this. The job description (Invest deeply in teenagers and families who will outgrow you and move on) really struck me. I’ve been mostly involved in college ministry, which is a little older, but the same. Invest in students, try to guide them through new and wondrous/scary experiences and prepare them for “real life” and then just … watch them go out, and start over with a new batch!

    But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the effects of that investment. The first group I started with when they were freshmen are graduating this year. And it’s so awesome to see how much they’ve grown and how great the time we’ve spent together has been. And as I continue to invest in the “next generation” I am encouraged by where I can see them going, even if they can’t see themselves getting there.

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