To me, they were “my girls.” When I would take them places, I'd introduce them as "my girls" as a group and then individually by name. If they got in trouble, I was there for them, working alongside their parents to rectify the problem and aiding them in charting a different course. I protected them fiercely as if they were my own little cubs.
Their impact on me eight years later is still as strong as the day we said our tearful goodbyes in February of 2001. However, I had no idea, how strong my impact on them was until the summer of 2001. I was visiting with their new small group leader and she shared with me how in passing, she had referred to the five of them as "her girls." This caused a ruckus amongst the five of them. The five of them were very quick to interrupt her and let her know that they were "Novia's girls," not her girls and she'd have to find something else to call them, because the only one that could claim them as "my girls" was me.
It was a great shot to the ego to hear that story, although I did feel bad for their new leader. It also hit me deep in my spirit that the fierce somewhat kooky protection, loyalty and love I had poured over those girls for almost three years had not been lost on them. Rather it had been soaked into their psyches, and even though I didn't always say what they wanted to hear, and I wasn't always the coolest leader, because I made them do stuff that other small groups didn’t have to do (like memorize scripture), they felt the same strong connection to me that I had for them.
I think that's the kind of life God has called us as believers to lead. We may not always see eye to eye with what He asks us to do. However, when the rubber hits the road, He asks us to do just as my girls did, call that which we know to be wrong a liar, and return to what we know to be true, return to whom we belong, Him.
When I returned to Austin in 2004, I ran into one of my girls. And as we reconnected, she shared with me in passing how the five of them had talked about how 'cool' it was that I had referred to them as "my girls." She confessed that they had felt set apart from the rest of the youth group because they were 'mine'. While one may look at that as an elitist stance, I look at it as a reflection of how Christ wants us to feel about Him, 'set apart' as His and His alone. In our hearts setting aside Christ [and Christ alone] as Lord.
Sure, you're in the world, you're a husband, a wife, a mother, a father, a daughter, a son, a cousin, an aunt, an uncle, a friend, a co-worker, a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, a secretary, a bus driver, a ditch digger...but all else aside, Christ says, don't forget, You are Mine.