Chris Herren, is a previous high school and college basketball star, who was drafted from college to play in the NBA for Denver and then, his hometown, Boston, and most importantly, he is a recovering hardcore drug addict. Chris recently told his story to a high school gymnasium packed wall-to-wall with parents of children of all ages, some grandparents, and some students ranging from middle school through high school. Because of the graphic detail of Chris's story, children younger than middle school were encouraged to stay at home. You can find Chris's talks on You Tube,
Chris's story began during high school where he occasionally drank alcohol with his friends and smoked marijuana often in his basement or friend's basements. The following years for Chris were filled with fighting an addiction battle so strong it nearly took his wife, his children, his career, and ultimately, his life. When Chris was 32 years old, his wife was pregnant with their third child and Chris was found unconscious in a car totaled from impact and a needle stuck in his arm. This was one of many overdoses Chris experienced.
From the depths of his darkness, dealing with years of multiple drug addictions, Chris has emerged with a calling to share his story with whomever and whenever he can, believing he can make the difference in one child's life each time he tells his own story--it is worth every minute he spends telling his story across the country at churches, high school, colleges and wherever teenagers will congregate.
Chris is a good story teller. The story he weaves through the years of addiction and broken dreams is powerful. His ability to tell his story honestly and without reservation is to be commended, consequently, he is able to reach the heart and soul of one troubled teenager after another.
While Chris's story is a powerful testimony, the final 5-10 minutes of his presentation were equally gripping. During this time, Chris focuses on the kids and their parents as he recognizes Friday and Saturday night approach at the end of each week and he asks the kids, "What is it about yourself you believe to not be worthy enough?" He elaborates along this line of thinking by further asking, "What is it about yourself you believe must be chemically changed in order to be accepted by the people you are going to spend Friday and Saturday night with? Or must be chemically changed in order to be liked by the people you are spending your time with? Or chemically changed in order to participate in that evening's activity?
Chis, then discusses other behaviors teenagers may be exhibiting as they try to be accepted into the friend group, deal with academic and athletic pressures, and possible family-related pressures. He repeats this haunting question, "What is it about yourself you believe is not good enough?" That touches the core of parents and teenagers alike attending his presentation. Parents may be surprised to learn their children's answers to this question. Parents may be surprised to learn their own answer to this question as they consider their own work and home situations.
To the parents, Chris asks the questions, "Do you know who your child is going to be spending Friday and Saturday evening with? Do you know what they will be doing together while they are out? Do you stay awake for your child to come home and tell you about his/her evening? Do you know your teenager's friends, really know their friends? Do you really believe you are keeping the teenagers safe by allowing them to drink in your basement?
Psychologists have documented repeatedly the importance of having an adult mentor relationship present in a teenager's life to help teenagers navigate through their teenage years. This adult may be a parent, a coach, a Sundays school teacher or youth group leader, a teacher from school, or a club leader just to name a few possibilities. This relationship is important for the teenager to experience in order to be able to ask questions about their experiences and expectations and discuss their perceptions of these experiences a safe, non-judgemental, mutually respectful relationship.
The role of the adult in this mentor relationship is to provide guidance and clarification for the teenager as he/she explores their teenage world. The mentor provides a framework for the discussion to allow the teenager to work through the problem or situation "thinking out loud" in order to discover their answers for themselves. Have you experienced the personal reward of being able to identify a question or problem with someone you value, talk about it openly and authentically, exploring various potential outcomes, and ultimately, accepting an outcome that resonates with you and that you are comfortable to pursue?
As adults, we are meant to be in community with each other. Jesus claims, "when two or more are gathered together in my name, I will also be there." God provides opportunities for us to share our faith together rough Bible studies, book studies, small groups, and other means of fellowship. These opportunities are available to us, however, we must actively engage ourselves as participants in these opportunities.
When we sit alone waiting for opportunity to knock, we are left sitting alone and waiting....and waiting.... Instead, we must seek opportunities to be in community with others. It is through these fellowship opportunities, we build our sense of community and are able to support one another and share our joys, concerns, request specific prayers, and ultimately grow as individuals. Through these communities we are able to develop relationships that allow us to ask questions openly and authentically about our life and faith experiences, so we are able to grow.
As human beings, we balance multiple responsibilities daily. This requires each of us to prioritize our activities and responsibilities in order to live effectively. Chris's decision to present his story to my community offered a unique opportunity for parents and teenagers to hear his story and learn something about themselves because of having heard his story. The decision parents and teenagers made to attend his presentation, making it a personal priority provided an opportunity for individual and consequently, community growth.
I charge you this week to do a three things. One, to make time for a teenager or someone in your life and have that tough conversation, asking the question, "What is it about yourself that you believe is not good enough?" And then really listening to their response and actively participating in this conversation in an open, authentic, and mutually respectful manner.
Two, actively seek out an opportunity for fellowship with other people for the purpose of sharing your common interest. Some possibilities may be to call a friend and meet for coffee or dinner, join a book club, a Bible study, attend a retreat, enroll in a new exercise class (try yoga or may be water aerobics!), attend an Adult Education class series....
Three, while you are participating in that tough conversation described above and that new fellowship opportunity, intentionally make yourself vulnerable. Share in that tough conversation, "What it is about yourself that you believe is not good enough?" Explore this question honestly. Then during that new fellowship activity, share something you consider to be personal about yourself and your faith. Intentionally, become engaged and provide an opportunity for people to be in relationship with you and you with them. Relationship is defined as, "An emotional or other connection, association, or involvement." Further, a connection requires two-way input and output between people.
Gratefully,there are individuals like Chris who recognize the power of their personal struggle and share their experience openly and honestly so we may learn something about ourselves through listening to their story. This week, intentionally accept this charge to share a chapter of your story.