I was listening to John Lewis being interviewed (On Being, Krista Tippett, NPR) about his civil rights work on this MLK weekend – impressed by this 74 year old who is still able to speak of hope…even when discussing congress! I can only imagine what he envisioned as success when he was a 25 year old working with Martin Luther King, marching in Selma. And how much faith and hope he has had to muster for the past 50 years. There have been many successes since 1965 but the work is far from complete, and I am curious if it progressed the way Lewis thought it would.
These past couple of weeks have challenged my vision of success at UrbanPromise. A couple of the young women that I have been mentoring since the spring of 2012 have made choices that have damaged their health and put their lives at risk. Not what I thought would be the outcome of hearing a mother/nurse practitioner/loving voice speak into their lives for 3 years now! Perhaps the honeymoon is wearing off. Perhaps this is a continuation of my ‘on-boarding’, as one colleague said in response to my mourning. Perhaps, perhaps…
It’s funny. I’ve consistently – and rather glibly, I now realize – said that “I can’t fix them, I can only walk alongside them and empower them with knowledge.” But there is clearly a part of me that believes by speaking and modeling what I consider a successful lifestyle, I expect these young women to let go of their trauma-filled childhoods and make good choices. The rational part of my mind laughs at that sentence – all research points away from such a straightforward solution. But my heart yearns for them to see themselves the way I see them – as beautiful, whole and beloved children of God with just. so. much. potential. To simply wash their hands of their damaging pasts and walk forward, confident in their potential.
J. Herbert Nelson, a Credo colleague and friend of mine, speaks of how “We are not called to be successful. We are called to be significant.” I have been chewing on this one hard for the past few weeks. I do believe I am being significant in these young women’s lives. But I don’t know – I can’t know – I can’t expect that significance will lead to successful living. At least not in the way I imagine it all playing out.
And maybe that’s a good thing. Because thankfully, I am just an instrument of God’s plan for them, and experience has taught me that God thinks way bigger than I do. Already both of these young women have shown a level of resilience that I didn’t see coming: a re-alignment with values and priorities, sprinkled with statements of self-appreciation. Will it hold this time? That’s not for me to decide. But I will be there to walk alongside and to witness.