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To Whom Does Your Soul Belong?
By Rev. Dave Roberts.+

One of the tougher things people seem to go through in life is that of trying to find out who they are. This lack of an identity starts showing up usually by high school as kids tend to flock around those of a similar feather. That might be OK in the aviary world and it is normal for humans to want to do the same because, for us, it is a need to be included and accepted. Sometimes sanguinary belonging is not enough.

Sadly, at times it looks like a larger variety of musical chairs in which kids are wandering around their school looking to see if there are any slots where they can suddenly seat themselves and feel like one of the gang. What is more unfortunate these days is that there seems to be a sharp increase in high school bullying and mean girls. And I do mean mean! I don’t remember a time when there were so many teen suicides being reported as there are now. I don’t even believe that “it was always there, just not reported,” but that there really are more of them happening now because we are reaping the harvest of the grandchildren of those Dr. Spock baby-boomers who lacked good discipline and boundaries. Their generation’s kids were spoiled, drugged and raised in a time since the pill, and now their kids are yet more distant from the moral moorings that make for a decent society.

I didn’t expect to still be pastoring at 67. I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing at this age but I knew I didn’t (and still don’t) plan to retire; I would probably just have imagined having a different kind of ministry. Well, OK, I have a variety of ministries going on in the course of a month but one of them is certainly pastoring and many of those whom I pastor either locally or long distance are a very different breed of people.

At the risk of sounding like a retiree who sits on his porch barking at kids and dogs as they trespass on the lawn, I have to say that these last couple of generations have a lot more people involved in things that may include violence, cruelty and social aberrations than I could have imagined even ten years ago.

But one thing has not changed: People are looking to belong, especially those in their teens and early twenties.

When I was in high school, kids would group according to common interests. There were the jocks who always travelled in packs, the Jewish princesses (more than half our high school class was Jewish) who were always getting the highest grades in the college course, the blue collar guys, the secretarial pool of girls from the business course, and then those who were less competitive who often hung out in smaller groups of two or four because they had a few things in common: They were eccentric, brainy, a bit nerdy and were always the last ones to get picked for any team in gym class. We gravitated according to our interests or abilities and then there were always the loners who glided in and out of high school classes and hallways and never said much.

As our generation got older, most of us married, had kids and by the time we were in our forties, we had found our identities in the ways our parents had: Women found their value in their family and children and men in their work and hobbies. And the lines could blur somewhat too because some women are gifted in their hobbies and some men live to see their kids have it better than they did. It sounds archaic now, writing this, but that’s a lot of how it was. When I went to our 40th high school reunion, I saw all these “kids” who looked like my parents. And I was one of them. Next year we’ll have our 50th reunion and I wonder if we’ll all look like my grandparents!

The kids these days, however, are finding themselves in a real bind because they are almost fighting to appear to identify and belong somewhere. This has given rise to actual “gangs,” not groups, and kids often force themselves to take on a persona that is not theirs because, for one thing, they don’t know who they are. But they’ve got to be something. This is the musical chair syndrome I mentioned above. They need to connect with a certain group and embark on a search according to how they dress and talk. A really sweet girl, who may be a genuine person and just looking for a level of camaraderie, will be marked for terrible abuse by a group of mean girls who just enjoy the sadism of it all. In some cases, as we’ve seen in the past year, it’s led to suicide. So sad.

For the past twenty years it’s been the rise of the wanna-be’s. By 1990, many teens in the Salt Lake suburbs were trying to look like gang-bangers and would dress that way. Others, later on, went the route of straight-edgers. I’d always see the cowboy wanna-be’s when I’d go to do a rodeo chaplaincy. The rise of the Goths and fringe people emerged and many morphed from that into the emos. Now it’s “in” to say you’re gay and many are going that direction who probably are not and wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t some shockingly “cool” thing to say to your straight-laced Mormon parents. The polarization that I see with all of these groups is widespread with the younger generation still headed deeper into lifestyles that they really may not have wanted to pursue.

Of course, we’ll always have the jocks who want to see how many conquests, real or imagined, they can boast of to their buddies but there are probably more sexually aggressive girls on the prowl now than ever and I can even name churches where that is not the exception, it is the norm. What really grieves me is the reminder that God has no grandchildren. We are born again, then adopted into the Family of God through the Blood Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. These evangelical church kids, and others, aren’t any different than the kids in the Mormon ward chapels or elsewhere where they just don’t have an appreciation for the foundations of their individual faiths. Rebellion can happen in any religion and, if the LDS or evangelical or Catholic or Jehovah’s Witness kid is inactive or nonobservant, it doesn’t really matter where they’re housed on a Sunday morning. All are equally lost. An encounter with God is an individual thing, not a group event.

That’s why I’m still suspicious about evangelistic crusades’ boasts of numbers and cautious about the results of preplanned Confirmation classes in which 14-year olds are told they’re going to receive the Holy Spirit when the bishop comes to that parish to lay his hands on them.

OK, enough with the gloom, doom and doubts. Let me get right to the point: While we try to find out who we are by trying to dress like the Goths, drink like dad, prance with the gays or strut our bad stuff with our gang colors, it doesn’t mean that you were ever destined to belong to any particular group. When you become a Christian, you belong to God – and, listen! HE will give you your identity! It is found in Him.

Jesus said that a person can gain the whole world and still lose his soul. Matthew 16:26. It doesn’t matter what you acquire to be cool or conquering, your soul is worth more and if you don’t know who you are, you don’t know where your soul belongs. Until you come to Jesus Christ and let Him save your soul, your soul belongs to the Devil, not you! It never did. While it’s in your body, it is you but the ownership is the issue. It’s merely on your premises but Who or who really owns it? Jesus also said that he (or she) who loses his life for His sake will find it. Matthew 10:39. When you find your life in Jesus, you find your identity. Without Him, we do it backwards: We are trying to find our lives by finding our identity first.

I was never an athlete, much to my Dad’s disappointment. He was an allstar, in The New Haven Register Sports Section every week for some accomplishment during his years at the same high school I went to. He was president of his class for three years in a row, 1923-1926, first Boy Mayor for a Day of New Haven, an outstanding football and track runner and a whole bunch of other accomplishments. As much as my older brother Harold wanted to play sports, he suffered with asthma from the time he was an infant and couldn’t.

And I never had the ability, agility or interest to go the sports route. I could swim and did, daily, and still do when I can but when it came to competition, I dropped out. Heck, I don’t even play Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble or Chess to win; I just enjoy playing for the fun of it and the fellowship that can be a part of it. So, I’m pretty dull and would never have been a jock. If I were in high school today, I don’t know what group I’d go with: I wouldn’t want the pain of the piercing that the Goths do, couldn’t identify with the gays, value a girl’s honor too much to be a swinger, and would step back from getting a tattoo when I think of how I’d look with it at 60! No, the jury would still be out if I were trying to identify with any group like kids feel the need to do today.

But then Jesus found me! I can’t say that I found Him because it was clear that I was the one who was lost, not He. The Bible says that He comes to seek and to save those who are lost, that Salvation is something He bestows. And He said, “You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you.” John 15:16. It’s His deal and His doing and somewhere in all of that, I found out who I was – a Christian, and my identity is in Him because in Him and through Him I have found my being. It doesn’t get any better than that.

If you’re reading this right now, chances are you’ve also been found by Him and are resting in that Place and Peace with God. Most of the people who receive this newsletter know Jesus personally. But I know some of you receiving it do not. Why don’t you consider finding yourself in Him? Even if you’re past middle age, you might be amazed to see that Jesus Christ will show you who He really intended you to be all along and in it He’d save that soul He gave you.

It’s His call but it’s your choice. He won’t violate your personal will; that is the part of the soul you are. You can use it to choose Him or reject Him. But it would be eternal insanity to do so. In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.


Copyright 2010 by Dave Roberts.+

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