By Libbo Crosswhite
Fully Known. Fully Loved.
I will never forget the first time I met Jesus. The summer of 2005, I went to Young Life camp in Jasper Cove, Georgia, and was finally introduced to the Person of Christ—the one that wanted a relationship with me rather than the Jesus that was like Abraham Lincoln, a well-known historical figure, but someone that I would never actually know. I can confidently say that the camp that was sold to me as “the best week of my life” changed the entire course of my life here on earth and in eternity.
I graduated with VERY few plans and/or clues about the real world, but one thing was for sure: I wanted to be a Young Life leader and share. The mission of Young Life is simple: introducing teens to Jesus and helping them grow in their faith. Next to being a wife and a mom, being a Young Life leader is truly my most treasured gift here on earth. In my second year as a young life leader, I found myself back at Sharptop Cove with my first group of “kids,” as we affectionately call them in the Young Life world. Strangely enough, I was 6 months pregnant with my first biological kid at the time. Side note: Camp life while pregnant is HEAVEN ON EARTH. I got out of all of the strenuous activities and got into multiple portions of each meal. The camp message that week has so sweetly shaped my motherhood, my mission as a Young Life leader, and my calling as a high school counselor. The message was centered on the gospel truth of our desire to being both known and loved. Tim Keller eloquently puts it this way:
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything.
A lot of people think it’s strange and well, maybe it is, but I spend a large portion of my time with teenagers and I can tell you that I have learned more from them than they have ever learned from me. My Young Life kids have shown me that regardless of our age or maturity, we are all after the same thing—an absolute feeling of being loved. It’s a universal desire that transcends the typical classification of “good kids” and “bad kids” because regardless of who we try to pretend to be, we all have this innate fear that if people really knew us, they wouldn’t love us. Jesus displays just the opposite and as humans and as parents, I think we are called do the same. So many times in scripture we see Jesus knowing people first, showing them grace second and lastly, leading them to a life free of the chains of sin—it’s the perfect recipe for loving well.
And as much as I want my biological kids to be successful, productive human beings, I would do them a huge disservice if I pushed them without first truly knowing their strengths and weaknesses and guiding them to see that that, regardless of success and failures, I will love them the same. Just as Jesus loves me. I understand that it can be easy for me to say that as a toddler mom and not yet fully understanding the pressures of being a mom of teenagers. Believe me, I both see and recognize the pressures that our teens (and parents) are under to achieve and excel at every level. I have already experienced the sweet taste of humility in terms of keeping my own “goals” for my two at home in check. When I asked Mary Thomas about playing softball this season her response was a very confident, “No, I want to be able to take a nap or watch TV after school and I need to make sure I have time for that.” Guess I need to stop picturing her in the winner’s circle every time I watch the Olympics? And my Russ man—sweet thing. If we don’t get kicked out of daycare for our incessant biting habit, it will be a direct work of the Lord. And truth be told, I’m failing them if I don’t connect their earthly shortcomings to their need for a Savior and the power of the gospel to redeem.
In each of the gospels, we hear the story of Barabbas. He was a guilty sinner set free and Jesus quite literally took his place on the cross. One of my Young Life kids beautifully illustrates the power of Barabbas’ story for her college scholarship essay. The writing prompt was “Pick a person in history to talk to for an hour. Who is it and what would you talk about.” Mary Seitz wrote this for a portion of her response:
I had read the Bible’s account of what happened, but I wanted his story. I wanted to understand why the people chose him, a natural criminal, to live over Jesus, a healing and loving man. I elucidated my purpose for this interaction and he nodded his head as though he had known my intentions all along. Reluctantly, he began to recount the events that led him to his position on the platform next to Jesus at the time of the Passover. He insisted that he never intended for his life to play out the way that it did. He simply made a few poor decisions that led him down a dark path…the events that followed, however, are ones that he never saw coming. He was pardoned, set free. His words began to soften, however, as he explained that similar to all actions, a price demanded to be paid, so in his place stood Jesus, an innocent and perfect man who took on his guilt and bore it on the cross. As he spoke, the story sounded all too familiar. I recognized it as the story. His life was the gospel put into action. I looked at him and tears welled in my eyes as I shamefully realized that I, too, am Barabbas. The only evidence of our encounter being the broken shackles left draped over his chair, I finally grasped who Barabbas was. Barabbas was me, a sinner set free.
I would love to know the rest of Barabbas’ story. I would like to think he realized his sinfulness before God, recognized the great gift he was given in Christ Jesus’ death and that he turned away from a life of sin. It’s on list of questions to ask when I get to heaven, but what a great message it provides us. What if our primary goal in raising children is less about perfection and achievement and far more about their confidence in being both fully known and fully loved here on earth and in Heaven? Having my Young Life kids has taught me about the magnificence of loving well in both the triumphs and trials and in all things, loving as Jesus does.
Libbo Haskins Crosswhite and her husband, Clay, live in Brandon and attend Pinelake. They have one daughter, Mary Thomas, who is 4 years old and a son, Russell, who is 2 ½ years old. She is the high school guidance counselor at Madison-Ridgeland Academy and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.