The Notre Dame walkout. That is all of the attention I will give to that. It is time that as a nation we take the spotlight off of the entitled and shine it on people that we would like to see more of this generation, and any other generation for that matter, emulating. Today, I am choosing to use the light I have to spotlight such a one.
Project Transition is going very well. My children are all thriving and loving the new life we are settling into here, but the road has been rough for them at times.
I don’t need to tell you about the beast that is the middle school years. As a teacher, I often referred to this as the swampy armpit of adolescence. It is awkward and everything keeps changing (including their body), it can be difficult to know who their friends are from one day to the next. Hormones go insane awarding most everyone a brief ride on the rollercoaster experience that is bipolar disorder. There is a desperation to be cool that usually falls in the northern pole of utter annoyance or in the southern pole of icy cold…rarely, very rarely, do middle schoolers bask in the equatorial beauty that is consistent, smoking hot coolness. All of the excitement of this season of our lives happened when my son was in this portion of his life’s journey.
Meet Alex Bisignani. He is the youth intern at Church of the Highlands in our area. He texted to check on Joe within days of our arrival to this new town. My son’s introduction to his new youth group was walking up to a huge building teeming with the life and excitement brought by the workers and teens that filled it. Upbeat, music was pumping energy into games, activities, and clusters of happy kids. It is an overwhelming scene when you are one of the youngest in the group and do not so much as recognize a single face. Alex met us at the door. He helped Joe face the discomfort that is necessary to move past the awkward and uncomfortable and get to the good stuff. That night was a victory in that Joe stayed the whole night.
Every time we walked into the doors of the church it was like Alex had a radar for Joe. He immediately came over with positive energy and high fives asking Joe about how his week had been and inviting him to next events ensuring him he would be there to hang out with him. You would have thought Joe was the coolest kid in the building.
Unfortunately, Joe did not always return Alex’s enthusiasm. He did just enough to be polite, but gave Alex absolutely no reason to extend such kindnesses again and again. There was a point when culminating circumstances in my son’s life turned my outgoing, confident child into a complete homebody. I appreciated that he wanted to spend all of his time with his dad and me, but my heart ached for him because this was out of character for this child and for this age in life. In the middle of this brewing storm in Joe’s life, Alex showed up again after church and Joe was in the south pole of icy cold. He barely uttered audible words and did the shoulder shrugging, head dangle so common amongst middle schoolers. My heart hurt for what my kiddo was walking through, but I was mortified.
I held my tongue while we were in front of people, but I had already planned my speech for when we got in the car. I do not care what you are walking through, you can be polite! As soon as the doors to the car closed he hung his head and tears ran down his face. I was shocked by the tears, and Holy Spirit used that moment of shock to grab my attention. We sat for a minute, and I finally asked why he had been so rude to a guy that had been so incredibly kind to him.
“I don’t know Mom. I know he is so nice to me, and I want to be nice back. I just don’t know.”
The next Sunday we were walking through the church and mid sentence I see Joe’s eyes get big and he starts falling back. Then he spins around and starts walking the other way. I stop, shocked again. When I look the other direction, I see Alex Bisignani with a giant smile headed our way. As Joe’s pace picks up in the opposite direction, Alex’s pursuit of him picked up pace. Alex called out, “I see you Joe, and I’ll chase you down if I have to.” Joe slowed. Alex caught him by the shoulders, and when he turned him around my heart leaped. The kid he turned around was not the kid in the middle of a brewing storm, it was my old Joe. Alex turned around a beaming, laughing boy.
That was the turning point. Everything changed from there.
Joe is now serves in Highlands Kids. He is involved in small groups, City Groups, a Bible Study group that meets at his school and is completely organized by kids from Church of the Highlands that go to his school. He has opened up and shared slithers of his experience with his breakout groups, and I cannot even share with you how my heart almost burst with pure joy and gratitude when he stood in front of his City Group and lead them all in prayer.
Alex Bisignani is a millennial that does not operate on the entitlement his generation has been labeled with. He does not live his life focusing on what he can get out of others or quit at every offense. No one enjoys the icy, too cool for school attitude of a preteen. Time and again I have seen adults wounded by those icy barbs walk away. A guy like Alex gets nothing out of continuously walking face forward into the firing squad…unless…unless he is not working and operating on his own agenda. Unless he is about the business of someone much higher. Unless he has seen, embraced, and is totally sold out to showing the pursuit of Jesus Christ to a generation.
I saw Elohim’s loving pursuit of me and of Joe in Alex. How many times have I walked away? How many times have I begged out? How many times have I shot icy barbs at the One that lovingly pursued me in spite of myself?
Alex still reaches out to Joe, but Joe looks forward to seeing his red hair and giant welcoming smile coming across the church now. And every time I see Alex, I pray a silent thank you to a Father that has so many times pursued me. A Father that pursued this red headed Godsend in such a way, that it impacted him to pursue on behalf of a loving, Almighty King. A Royal Pursuit.
And I will leave you with the challenge Alex’s actions have left with me: Are you pursuing on behalf of The King? When others see you, do they see the Father’s unrelenting pursuit of them? If not, it’s time we become a little more like Alex.