What story are you telling your protege?
The culture you grew up in taught you a story: this narrative provided a backdrop for your life, even if you didn t recognize it. For example, I grew up the ‚Äòburbs where achievement was King. My overarching, suburban storyline said that we live in a meritocracy and that personal success was our chief aim in life; therefore, I learned to work hard in order to be recognized. In my context, recognition seemed significant: the people of value were those with accolades and trophies.
Of course, that isn t the overarching storyline of every single culture, and it s important to identify the story that s being told whenever we serve in a specific neighborhood. Since South Dallas is a different place than Plano, I ve tried to listen and learn the story that s told here.
One big, cultural narrative in South Dallas is the Getting Out story. Our proteges are taught that the people of value get out of the ‚Äòhood. A lot of pressure is put on academics and athletics: having a way to get to college is considered a ticket out and the path to New Life. Some adults who stay in South Dallas feel like they were the ones left behind. They believe they are the ones who failed to be redeemed: they didn t make it as a college grad, recording artist, or professional athlete, so they didn t get out. They feel like they have less inherent value than those who did get out.
Sometimes, as mentors, we can even echo the Getting Out story to our proteges. We push college emphatically, recognizing that a degree may give somebody more flexibility and more options for their future. It may, in short, get them out of the ‚Äòhood.
My understanding of scripture and my observations in life lead me to believe that God, in His good sovereignty, has different futures ahead for different people. Some of our proteges will leave South Dallas: they may go to college or become an overseas missionary or relocate to another city. Others will stay in Fair Park to work here, worship God here, and follow God s will on their lives here. Both of these paths in life can be good and glorifying to the Lord.
Getting out of the ‚Äòhood isn t what gives a child from South Dallas value. College degrees or athletic successes don t function as Redeemers. The ‚Äòhood isn t what kids need salvation from, so leaving it won t make them more valuable or more moral people.
God s story tells us that what we really need salvation from is ourselves: our own sin and brokenness. Jesus came to seek and save sinners, and He is the Redeemer in God s big, cosmic story. He is the one who pulls us out of the pit, gives us value, and draws us to New Life. He says that we are people of value because we were created in His image.
Jesus invites us into a completely different and bigger story than the culture we live in tells us. As ambassadors for Christ, our calling is to share this story. We tell the story of eternal hope and of real redemption.
As mentors, lets be mindful of the story we are telling our proteges.
Rather than piggybacking on the culture s Getting Out storyline, piling even more pressure on kid s backs, and crushing them under the weight of the importance of leaving, let s tell them a better story. Let s tell them that Jesus entered into our world and lived a life that we cannot live. He came to redeem sinners, and He is the one who gives us a new story and new life. He has invited us to join in the biggest, best story ever told‚Äîand His people are all considered people of value by His grace and mercy!
-Megan Pieper, Relationship Coordinator