Last week I had the opportunity to help out at a church camp with young people. It was a wonderful opportunity to develop relationships, and teach teens about the Lord.
It was also a powerful reminder that we all need grace
One of the boys at the camp was constantly getting into trouble from the very first day. He LOVED attention, and would constantly misbehave to make people laugh. As the days went on he definitely tested my patience! But I realized his true problem was a leaking love tank.
Dr Ed. Welch refers to our need for encouragement and affirmation as “a love tank”. This is supposed to be be filled by our relationship with God, but many individuals fill it with people.
Of course the problem is our love tanks leak, or we lose the feeling of being loved or affirmed. This means it must be continually refilled.
This young man for one reason or another (maybe his home life) had a love tank that was nearly on empty….and he was desperately trying to fill it with the attention of others.
I was actually drawn to him because in my younger years I was a lot like him, a class clown so to speak who everyone liked to laugh at. Whenever people laughed at my joke or silly thing I did it filled my love tank, and I did it more often. Of course my antics had to become sillier and sillier in order to gain the attention over time.
The answer wasn’t to fill his cup with loving attention.
By this I mean being completely present with him, and pouring all of the love that I have into his heart. This meant we spent a lot of time by ourselves, but I made sure he always knew that I loved him
- Thursday morning he got in trouble during chapel so I asked him to sit along the wall
- And then against the wall outside of the building (he kept getting people’s attention inside)
- And the underneath a tree!
- During that time he went from pleading with me, to being, angry, and feeling sorry for himself. Through it all I just sat with him, patiently filling his love tank
The truly interesting thing is after that morning he was good for the rest of the week. In fact we had no problems with him at all!
Because his love tank was full.
As someone who struggled with self-esteem let me assure you the children who misbehave do need correction. But they also need someone who will sit on the other side of the tree, and tell them they love them.