On a recent Tuesday, as I was waiting in the Hope Place lobby for my daughter to finish her dance class, I glanced at some light switches next to the main entrance. Though they worked well, the switches were dingy, with dirt trapped in the small letters etched into each switch.
In some other contexts, people might be worried about cleaning those switches, making sure they look perfect for all who pass through the building. I smiled, though, when I noticed this small detail, because, in the context of Hope Place, these dirty-but-usable light switches represent a much larger truth.
I have had the distinct privilege of working with Hope Place from very early on. My family and I attended the initial kick-off meeting, excited about this new chapter in the history of this building.
I say new chapter because my history with the Hope Place building extends far beyond Hope Place. I attend Grace Community Baptist Church, which was formed when Lynn Acres Baptist Church and Yorktown Baptist Church, where I attended, merged in 2005. The building that is now Hope Place formerly housed Lynn Acres, so I have gotten to see what’s happened at the building since something as incredible as Hope Place could barely be imagined.
My wife and kids were the first ones to volunteer, helping out with child care during C.O.F.F.E.E. on Friday mornings. In the fall of 2018, though, my wife, Sarah, connected with Lindsay Shores regarding the need for male mentors for elementary-aged boys.
The fact that I connected with Lindsay for this opportunity was full of past connections, similar to my past connections with the building. Lindsay had attended Lynn Acres when it merged with Yorktown. As a result, not only did the Shores and I suddenly attend the same church, they eventually became my youth leaders, as well. Now, after more than a dozen years, I was working with her to become a male mentor for a group that would include her son, Isaiah. When I began as a mentor, Isaiah was just a few years younger than I was when his parents were my youth leaders.
My first few weeks (okay, months) of mentoring certainly had their challenges. The abstract idea of mentoring young boys and actually living that out are often worlds apart. Though I certainly worked to bring about change in my guys’ lives, I began to realize that the most significant changes in their lives probably wouldn’t happen until I let change happen in my own life.
When I started as a mentor, I was trying to tightly control everything that happened. I was always looking for more: better behavior, more efficient use of time, faster results, somehow thinking that I could will my way to seeing life-change in these young men’s lives.
The longer I mentored, though, the more I realized that control is exactly what I did not need. Not that the time I had with my guys should be out of control, but that I needed to focus more on the good that was already there before I could focus on what could be.
Slowly, I began to accept that the craziness and unpredictability that I often experienced as a mentor were not necessarily bad things. Ultimately, they were just things, and I could choose to use those things for building up the Kingdom or for tearing it down.
The outcome would ultimately be determined by my willingness to surrender control of the future of the mentoring class and of these young mens’ lives to God’s sovereignty. To surrender to the God who lovingly stitched together and knew, completely, each of the boys He had entrusted to my care. To surrender to the God who made me and knew all my shortcomings and stubbornness and sin. To surrender to the God who knew the outcome of this class before the world was formed.
Slowly but surely, I relented. Not perfectly, by any means, and not without God revealing more sin in my own heart that I needed to deal with, but still, I was making forward progress. As I did, the most incredible thing began to happen. God opened my eyes, for the first time, to the true beauty of all that was happening at Hope Place. Not just with the guys I mentored, but in all the activities that keep Hope Place humming on a daily basis.
I was realizing, more and more, that the broken people around me at Hope Place were so precious in God’s sight. Not only that, but I was very much myself one of these broken people, precious to and loved by God. Not that I didn’t realize these truths before, but that they took on a much more immediate reality when I gave up control of how I thought things should operate. Instead of chaos, I now saw a buzzing hive of activity that only God could orchestrate.
I would compare what happens at Hope Place to a snowflake. Like a snowflake, the beauty at Hope Place is easy to behold, but only when you look through the right lens (a microscope lens, in the case of a snowflake). Also like a snowflake, though, the beauty at Hope Place is impossible for anyone but God to create.
I thought about all these things as I studied the grubby light switches while waiting for my daughter on that recent Tuesday evening. I whispered, to no one in particular, “those light switches, and that broken door handle, and that stained carpet, they mean so much, you know. After all, though they may be dirty and broken, they are not a lost cause. They are still so important and necessary, and with just a little love, they can be fully restored.”
As it is for the light switches and door handles at Hope Place, so it is for the people at Hope Place, a group of people that I am proud to be counted among.
Written by: Jonathan Fields – Hope Place volunteer