awesome small group last night with my 6th grade guys. last week was a bit rough, so it was nice to have a night like this where it seemed we accomplished something (i know we accomplished something last week — we were building a relational foundation for the stuff to come in our three years together. but it’s still enjoyable to have a week where the conversation seems to be about more than farts, guitar hero, girls, and whatever else pops into their heads unannounced).
we meet at my house, in the little “guest house” in our backyard. when the guys were arriving, zach looked in the little kitchen and (seeing the teapot on the stove) asked, “can i make some tea?” “uh, sure, i guess so,” i responded, still trying to figure out if he was kidding or not. he went on to describe how he makes tea for himself every morning, and how he’s somewhat of a tea snob, and really only likes english teas. i decided to join him in a cup, thinking that might lessen the chances that the other guys would tease him. but, instead, it meant that everyone wanted tea.
when it came to choosing vessels to hold said tea, i went for a mug. but zach spotted jeannie’s old teacup collection (i used to buy them for her on international trips, but that ended long ago, and there are about 10 different frilly teacups with wildly variant designs, and they were all sitting on display on the shelf in that little kitchen), and said, “i prefer to use a teacup.” and, as i offered the other guys a MUG, or a teacup, they all wanted to choose a dainty little teacup. i had a green ginger tea, as did my 20-ish co-leader. the guys either had decaf mint, ginger peach, or green pomegranate tea.
we decided it needs to be a new tradition for us, that we have tea each week. one of the guys — bryson, the squirreliest of the group, one of the most wonderfully random middle schoolers i’ve ever met — even started saying “huzzah!” to everything.
we talked about whether a superhero is more really himself (or herself) when he’s in superhero mode, or in alter ego mode. interesting discussion about this, since the superhero mode often comes with a mask. but we all agreed that in a strange way, the alter ego is really more of a mask, and that the superhero is really being himself when he’s being a superhero (this is all stuff from ken rawson‘s book, becoming a young man of god).
we said that we all have this outside “dude” we wear everyday — our alter egos. but the real superhero inside is our real identity. then i mentioned that we’re going to talk about the characteristics of that superhero over the next few weeks.
tonite’s superhero identity stuff was that we are loved and forgiven. we talked about wondering whether a girl likes us or not, and how that can go back and forth depending on the day (or hour, or minute). and we talked about how it’s easy to assume that god works the same way with us — that god loves us one minutes, but when we screw up, god doesn’t. back and forth. then i gave a quick little overview (with the guys filling in some of the blanks) about the old testament sacrificial system, and then about jesus as the lamb. i was surprised, as most of these guys have grown up in the church, that the idea of jesus replacing the sacrificial system of the old testament was a brand new idea to them. “I’ve never thought of that before!” and “No one’s ever told me that before” (which doesn’t mean no one has, of course).
i’d told them we were going to light things on fire later, and they were especially focused and engaged because of this, by the way. so i handed out pieces of paper with crosses drawn on them, and talked about what forgiveness really means in our lives. then they each took a few minutes sitting somewhere on their own and wrote stuff on the cross that they thought god might have a hard time forgiving them for. we gathered on a stone walkway in the middle of the backyard, with their papers wadded up, and stood in a circle. we prayed and thanked god for forgiveness. then, one at a time, we bent over and lit our paper wads on fire, saying, “my superhero identity is that i’m loved and forgiven.” each lit their own, but we watched as they all burned together into a pile of ash.
then we had lemonade and double-stuf oreos.
yeah. 6th grade guys. love it!