“Youth Group” – Semler

I was wrong.

There are few collections of words that make me want to recoil like these three. I’ve spent my entire life creating a system of living and believing so that I don’t have to ever say that phrase. But it’s time. I was wrong.

And this is not a one-off kind of wrongness. I’ve spent the last 3 years making list after list of the wrongs. Why admit it now? Well, I have already admitted it to myself. If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that once I know something in my Knower, it doesn’t matter what others think or even what it feels like to say it out loud. Because when I finally know, I Know.

I have been out of full-time youth ministry for years. Most of the teenagers that I served are in their 30’s…some at the upper end of that decade. They have lives and families. They have joined churches (or not) for themselves. They have had real pain and struggle and many have lived to tell about it. But some have not. Because life is real and foundation rocking and gut punching. I spent my adulthood making “peace” with a very set pre-programmed path to hope. That is no longer the case for me. And on some days, I feel so very guilty. I regret the conversations, the advice and most of all the ways that I tried and failed to make it work together for good. That’s a package that I can’t open today.

Why is this in the week of quiet? Well, when you get quiet, things like this come right to the surface. And you have time to really decide for yourself what to do with all the feelings. I got sad. Really sad. And I started reaching out to a few trusted former students. One of the most gracious gifts of love in skin sent me a Marco Polo this year that I’ll never delete. I’ve watched it countless times. It’s a virtual reminder that I tried and loved from a place of longing. So as I sat with what was, I kept coming back to what I can do today? And then I was introduced to this song. Humans that are using art to tell their broken stories are my heroes. So I joined them.

I tried for years, but I can’t sell a path. What most of my former youth need today is a historically accurate and practical conversation about love and welcome. They need to be reminded that an assigned label (for any reason) is not diagnostic and it’s not healing. It’s anything but helpful. So let’s start here. Clean slate and a fresh tank of honesty. Let’s be ok to swing big, even when it hurts. Because is there is anything more freeing than just admitting when we miss? And I have.

So, former students, this is my confession to you:

I was wrong about sin.

I was wrong about sex.

I was wrong about prayer.

I was wrong about marriage.

I was wrong about friendships.

I was wrong about intimacy.

I was wrong about secrecy.

I was wrong about sex: again

I was wrong about motherhood.

I was wrong about the church.

And in the midst of the wrongs, I have not found the “rights.” But, I am finding myself. For the first time in my life. And that feels really, REALLY right. So, if you stuck with me this far, just know that I only have one thing I need you to know:


Learn your own voice and tune into the melody. And listen. Listen for the delicate crescendos and the rests. Listen for the rests. And honor yourself in the process.


P.S. Lock-ins…I mean…just listen. I tried so many things in the name of “reaching” students. And I’m sorry for so many of them. Especially lock-ins.

So sorry.

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