devozine

For Youth Workers Post

DISHONEST

Steven Lefebvre

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for October 13–19, 2014.

MAKING THE CONNECTIONS

       (Watch video)

MEET THE WRITER

devozine Steven LefebvreMy name is Steven Lefebvre. I work with the youth and young adults at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Before my life of working at a church, I was the lead vocalist in a hardcore band. These days, I spend my free time being an armchair film critic, reading comic books, and playing much quieter music (well, sort of). I’m also an amateur champion of darts and dodge ball. I’m a huge fan of going to baseball games in the summer and college basketball games in the winter. Feel free to check out my blog.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

PLUGGED IN

CHECKING IN

Invite the group to play the classic game Two Truths and a Lie—but with a twist. Divide the group into three teams. Have each team come up with three scenarios, two that are true and one that is totally made up. Ask a representative from each team to tell, in one sentence each, the team’s three scenarios. The other two teams will vote on which story they think is most likely to be truthful, which is most likely to be a lie, and the one that could go either way. Ask a representative from each of the other teams to list his or her team’s decisions in that order.

Send the representatives back to their teams. Ask the teams to add four sentences to their original three scenarios and to present them again. These can be descriptions of what happened, who was there, why it happened, or what happened before or after. The two truths must remain truthful, and the lie must be completely fabricated. In the same way, have each team vote on which scenario they think is true, false, and questionable; and have a representative list the team’s decisions on a white board or a large sheet of paper.

Send the representatives back for a third time. Ask the teams to write four additional sentences that add to their scenarios, and again invite the other teams to vote and to make a list.

Invite discussion:
       How difficult was it to keep adding onto the lie? In what ways did the story begin to take on a life of it’s own?
       Did hearing more details make the lie more or less believable?
       What new insights into deception did you gain from the game?

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: John 8:31–47

John 8:31–47 is essentially an argument between Jesus and his followers, and his followers just begin making things up. They argue with Jesus that they have never been slaves (verse 33), which is odd for a Jew to say because the Jewish religion is a response to God’s releasing the people from slavery in Egypt. Two of the most important Jewish holidays, Passover and Succoth, are celebrations of being released from bondage. So why would they argue that they have never been slaves? Perhaps, they are saying that they themselves have never been slaves. However, if they’re being honest, the Roman occupation of Jerusalem doesn’t exactly make them a free people.

So what’s going on here? What we have in the scripture is a classic case of denial. Denial is a coping mechanism we all experience from time to time. It is a lie we tell ourselves because the truth is too painful. Maybe we’re pretending that a breakup doesn’t hurt. Maybe the lie is that a family member’s addiction isn’t so bad. Sometimes the lie can look like anger, hiding the fact that we are feeling lonely, wounded, or vulnerable. Denial shows itself in a variety of ways; knowing that we are actually in denial is hard to tell, especially when our pain is at its most intense.

Sometimes, time heals our wounds and accepting the truth becomes easier. However, many of us need the little lies to keep loving ourselves. Sometimes, we can live with the lie and surround ourselves with people who are willing to pretend with us. Sometimes, we get so good at telling ourselves our own version of the truth that we will fight our friends and family to perpetuate it and to keep the lie going. Then denial begins to feel like a prison. Working to keep the lie going is so stressful that it seeps into areas of our life that seem unrelated. We become irritable, impatient, and frustrated. Then our day-to-day life becomes unmanageable.

Jesus says his way will set us free. The truth that Jesus is referring to in verse 32 is the opposite of denial. However, turning from denial toward the truth is painful. At the heart of Jesus’ teachings is the idea that when we embrace pain, we find life.

Jesus says, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31b–32, NRSV). The word for “continue” in Greek is menó, which basically means to “wait.” Jesus’ instructions are not only to learn his teachings, but also to stay in there and wrestle with them. Then and only then will we be set free from our burdens.

Discuss:
       When was a time when the truth hurt you?
       How did you come to accept the truth?
       What changed after you let go of your denial?
       Who are the people in your life who show you the truth?
       Do you surround yourself with people who tell you what you want to hear or what you need to hear?

SHARING IN PRAYER

Say a “Prayer for Young Persons” from the Book of Common Prayer:

“God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

TAKING IT FURTHER

Youth group is a fantastic place where teenagers can process and come to deep truths about their circumstances. Invite the youth to work together to come up with a one-page set of guidelines that emphasize concerns such as these: confidentiality, no advice giving, no judging, no correcting, using “I” statements. Explain that these guidelines will be a covenant that lets everyone in the group know that this is a safe place and that any attempts to make people feel uncomfortable, uncertain, or unwelcome will not be tolerated.

—from devozine In the Habit (September/October 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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