My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. Ezekiel 33:31-32 (NIV)
This past Wednesday night I was given the opportunity of speaking to a large gathering of Middle Schoolers. Many years ago, I regularly found myself in front of this particular demographic. I stress many years ago, because I can’t remember the last time I was in a room that was such a boiling cauldron of adolescent hormones and perpetual kinetic energy. Yikes!
To be honest, I had a blast. It was a great group of young people, they were a gracious audience, and I was jazzed at the opportunity to share with them. As I’ve contemplated the experience the past day or two I’ve come to a couple of realizations.
First, while a room full of middle schoolers can be an intimidating audience, they are also an incredibly transparent audience. If you are boring them you will know it because their uncontrollable kinetic energy will lead them to start twittering, fidgeting, and whispering to neighbors. This is very unlike a room full of adults. Adults have very little kinetic energy. They are, for the most part, very tired, and they have learned over time how to pretend to listen to you while their minds are organizing their work schedule and task lists for the week.
Second, middle schoolers are at a stage of life in which they are asking big questions and making big life choices. This means that the opportunity for big life impact and influence is huge. If you can succeed at getting through to a middle schooler you might just help change a life for the better. Once again, I find this to be very unlike an audience of adults, who are pretty set in their ways and cynical. Adults are big on saying they want to make a positive change in their lives (e.g. We have a closet full of Nike athletic wear saying “Just Do It”) , but rarely do they we actually change our thoughts and behaviors (e.g. We haven’t exercised since the Clinton administration…the first term, to be specific).
The more things change, the more they stay the same. In today’s chapter we find Ezekiel struggling with the same issues 2500 years ago. His fellow Jewish exiles in Babylon loved gathering to hear his messages, but there was a big disconnect between their ears and their hearts.
Today, I’m thankful for young people and all of their boundless energy and untapped potential. I’m thankful for adults whose hearts and lives remain spiritually pliable. And, I’m praying for those of us who have frayed and severed connections between eye/ear and heart; Praying that a little spiritual reconstruction might take place and restore the potential for positive heart and life change.