Joel Harvey is a young man with a disease known as AT. Those letters are short for Ataxia-telangiectasia. It is a rare disease that causes disability, and eventually, it breaks down the immune system until an illness cannot be fought off by the body. Most people who have the disease die in their teens and a handful make it into the twenties.
Joel is the son of Tony Harvey. Tony served as an elder in one of the Churches I pastored years ago. He and his wife hosted an annual walk for AT. They tried to raise funds through numerous events in a one-day celebration. The family also supported other victims of AT and their fundraising projects as the scientists searched for a cure.
One day I was talking with Tony, and he was in a very serious mood. He told me that he did all of these things because he wanted to tell his son, “I did everything I could.”
I have not forgotten that one moment in time. A loving father desperate to find a cure for his son, but he knew so much was beyond his control. He could not magically make a cure; he could not remove the pain, and he could not stop this awful disease from taking over his son. The only thing he could do was to love his son and raise as much money as possible for research. He could tell the world about this disease most people have never heard of and try to generate their support. He was doing all he could do to help his son.
I was thinking of this story last night as I was helping with the youth group. Three of my boys attend youth group each week and I was watching them and thinking. I cannot control my children. I cannot force them to follow Jesus. I cannot keep them from walking away from God when that decision is all theirs to make. I do want to be able to look them in the eye one day and tell them, “I did everything I could do.”
Sure, some of the youth groups I have put together have been terrible. Sure, I have taught Sunday School lessons that bored them. Sure, I have preached sermons on topics that they have heard a thousand times. Sure, it led me to make some decisions they did not like at the moment. In spite of that, I hope they know that I did everything in every possible way I could to help them to follow Jesus.
Sometimes this feels like an incredibly lonely journey my wife and I are on each day. We pour out our heart and soul trying to make a difference in just a few lives, even if that is only my children.
I guess my question is, “What will you tell your children one day?” What will you say when they ask about your faith and what you did when they were young. What will you say?
Sure, they may reject the faith I am teaching them. They may not follow Christ like I want them to. But it will only be despite a lifetime of trying everything at my disposal to reach them.