Arlene was the youth leader at the church I grew up in. She took on that role during one of my disappearing acts. I always left and came back. I remember the way she would talk about the stories in the bible, and I wanted to know the bible the way she did. Her wisdom was insane. She always handled rough situations with such grace, but I never knew the impact of that in my life until now that I'm looking back.
There was once a visitor who interrupted her message during youth night. He was using foul language and asking questions about God in degrading ways. You wouldn't believe how upset he made me, but I started firing back. I argued his view of the bible and God..... until Arlene gently called my name and waved her hand at me signaling me to stop. This actually happened a few times.. I never knew why she held back when she was able to answer and discuss things with wisdom and authority. Probably better than most adults I know. But I think I get it now. To argue would be like yelling at a wall hoping it will open up... not just for us, but for them as well. We don't get where they're coming from, and they don't get where we are coming from.
Arlene had such a patience and compassion for people... she was able to see potentially harmful situations. I never understood how anyone was capable of that... but I remember it. I see it now and am able to apply it to my life a lot better. Arlene is the main influence on that, and I never thought about it. She knew people were hurting and angry, and she also knew that we are capable of fueling that and making it worse. She knew things that I'm barely learning years later.
If you don't have people in your life to challenge you in these ways, I suggest you do so. All the conversations about life and faith that I've had with Arlene are probably the ones I've learned from the most. Don't be afraid to let yourself be challenged or to do the challenging. You'd be surprised how much these kind of actions play an influence in your life. Sometimes, I don't know how much they do until I come across situations. Makes me believe even more that God knows what He's doing.