“So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance?!”
In 1994, the movie Dumb and Dumber had every high schooler in America quoting that line and dreaming of riding a moped to Aspen, Colorado. At the time, my friend Tim was about to enter his senior year of high school in Raleigh, NC. For the past three years of high school, Tim had been mentored and discipled by a youth leader named Eric. Eric was in his early twenties and about to begin medical school. Before the summer was over, Eric invited Tim and his buddy Jason on the adventure of a lifetime.
“Guys, I’ve got four free days, and they’re all yours. I’ll provide the wheels; you tell me where you wanna go.”
Tim and Jason responded without hesitation. “Let’s pull a Dumb and Dumber and go to Aspen!”
Eric made the guys clear it with their parents, but later Tim confessed that he’d just ask his mom if he “could go to the mountains with Eric.” He didn’t tell her he meant the Rocky Mountains.
That night, they left around 2:00 AM and began a four-day road trip to Colorado. The three amigos only stopped for gas. They made it from North Carolina to Colorado in under twenty-four hours. Upon arriving in the Rockies, the guys realized they had three more days to go wherever they wanted, so they just kept on driving, taking turns behind the wheel in eight-hour shifts. They climbed a mountain in Utah and then headed for Vegas. Tim and Jason weren’t yet eighteen, but Eric snuck them into the casino, just long enough to drop in a quarter before being kicked out. From there, they drove straight to L.A. and the Pacific Ocean. Next stop, Tijuana. In Mexico, they got pulled over by the Federales. By happenstance, the officer was friends with a football player at NC State University and since they were from Raleigh, they got off scot-free. With twenty-four hours left, they jumped on I-40 and took it all the way back east. They stopped in Tupelo to get a pic with an Elvis impersonator and finally made it back to North Carolina. Instead of stopping in Raleigh, they passed through their hometown and added 4 more hours to the drive, just to put their feet in the Atlantic Ocean and make it official that they’d driven coast to coast.
6,000 MILES. 26 STATES. 4 DAYS. 3 FRIENDS. 2 COUNTRIES. 1 FORD EXPLORER.
Tim graduated high school and college and then spent the next two decades in youth ministry. I once asked Tim when he started following Christ. That’s when he told me the story of their road trip.
Before then, Tim had heard of Jesus, but had never surrendered his life over to him. Over the course of those 96 hours, Eric, Tim, and Jason had a lot of time to talk. Tim told me, “Over those four days, Eric not only talked with us about Jesus, but he showed us Jesus. That trip sealed the deal for me. After that, I was all in with Christ. Cold turkey. My life has never been the same. And not once since that trip, over the past twenty years, has Eric ever forgotten my birthday.”
Ten years ago, Tim pulled into a Steak ‘N Shake and saw that same Ford Explorer. He raced into the restaurant and there was Eric’s dad, Steve. Tim walked up to him, pointed to the parking lot, and said, “nice wheels.”
Steve replied, “You probably don’t know this, but because y’all put 6,000 miles on it in only four days, without an oil change, that engine had to be totally rebuilt. Eric had to work a bunch of extra jobs while in medical school to earn the money to replace it.”
Tim was stunned. “I had no clue. Eric sure does love me.”
As pain often opens the heart of an adult, fun and laughter pry the lids off the hearts of kids.CHARLEY PATTEN
2,000 years ago there was another crazy road trip.
3,000 MILES. 13 FRIENDS. 3 YEARS. 1 RABBI.
The Teacher had a few years before he was heading off to his Father’s house, so he invited twelve guys, around the same ages as Jason and Tim, to take a three-year road trip with him. The plan was to go about 3,000 miles on foot.
The Rabbi asked them to drop everything, to abandon their jobs, leave their families, and to follow him. And they did. Isn’t that what most teenagers would’ve done when given the choice between responsibility and adventure? Over the course of those next three years, they talked quite a bit. But even more than with his words, the Teacher showed them what real love looked like.
That trip sealed the deal for eleven of them. After those three years, they were all-in with the Teacher. So much so, that ten of them died a martyr’s death. They were so convinced that Jesus was the Messiah they gave up their very lives, cold turkey.
But during those three years, the twelve experienced some incredible adventures together. They climbed a 9,000 ft. mountain, just west of Damascus. Even though not all of them were eighteen yet, they went into the temple and watched Jesus kick some people out who were playing slot machines and selling doves in the house of God. Then they made it all the way to the west coast and stuck their feet in the Mediterranean Sea. Soon after that, they headed south and got in a little spat with some Roman soldiers. One of the twelve, a fisherman named Peter, misfired with his sword and cut off a guy named Malchus’ ear. Thankfully the Teacher reattached it, so they got off scot-free.
After the crucifixion and resurrection, the disciples headed 70 miles north of Jerusalem, back toward their hometown of Galilee. Instead of stopping, they headed on to Lake Tiberius to get in one more night of fishing. That night nothing was biting, but as the sun began to rise, they saw a man standing on the shore, building a bonfire. The man hollered and suggested they toss their nets to the right side of the boat. As the nets began to overflow with fish, they realized who the man was. Peter jumped out of the boat and swam the length of a football field. He couldn’t wait to meet the Teacher on the shore once more.
Their Rabbi then invited them, “Come, and have breakfast with me.” He then took the bread and broke it and gave it to them. In the flicker of the fire and early morning twilight, they saw the holes in his hands as he divvied out the broken bread. And at that moment, they realized they had no clue what their Rabbi had endured for them. Peter looked into the Teacher’s eyes and said, “Jesus, you sure do love me.”
“I WONDER WHAT HE’S GOING TO SHOW US TODAY?”
If we want the kids in our homes and ministries to experience the fullness of Christ, then we’re going to have to become more like Eric, and Jesus himself. Let’s learn to live lives that are blown by the winds of God’s very breath.
Communicating the gospel to teenagers isn’t effective when treated like a formula. It is much less like reciting a script and way more like dancing with the Spirit.
As you connect with the adolescents in our lives, tap into their instinct for adventure. Be extravagant. Use the element of surprise. But most importantly, listen to the Spirit. He’s the giver of all strikes of brilliance!
“Sovereign God, My hands are often clinched around the plans I have for me. I open them in surrender to your will. My feet are often fixed in the direction of least resistance. I loosen them to go where you will lead. My mind is often stubborn, gripped by doubt and fear. Give me faith and courage to trust your perfect plan. My ears are often filled with the noise of the day. Let me get used to the soothing sound of Your voice. Father, be my king. Jesus, be my companion. Spirit, be my guide.” Amen.
Alongside Jesus: Devotions for teens
Have you ever considered that Jesus could actually be walking alongside you? Like right now, in this very moment—even though you can’t see him. If you knew that for sure, how would it change your day? Your life? Because you can’t see or hear Jesus with your physical eyes and ears, walking with him takes a different kind of seeing and hearing.