Last week, I spent the week at the CYM portion of the ND Vision conference at Notre Dame. It was a conference that put me in spritual turmoil where I felt like God was a baker and I was the pile of dough that he was kneeding. I was told that "grace meets us where we are but she doesn't leave you there." That certainly was true for me this week.
So, what did I take from ND Vision?? For me, the atmosphere for the whole week was set by Terry Nelson-Johnson, who just cracked the shell surrounding me and broke down any barriers that I may have had and made me totally vulnerable. God used him to break me down and used the speakers throughout the rest of the week so that come Friday morning, although I have a long spiritual road ahead of me, I was at least able ready to face the world again without shedding tears everytime someone said, "Jesus loves you."
I have to give credit to Msgr. Michael Heintz for the two lines that my whole week seemed to revolve around. The first one was, "you can't give what you don't have" and the second was that being a Christian is more than just doctrine or morality---although they are both very important. But being a Christian is about transformation.
There was no "ah-ha" moment for me at this conference. The whole conference was spent in a lot of prayer trying to figure things out in my spirtual life. It wasn't until a several days after everything was over and I am back at home that I can formulate a concrete response for what I took from the conference. The truth of the matter is, I'm still working through a lot of what I took away from there and will probably be working on it for years to come. But, if you were to ask me for that concrete response of what I learned it would be this. In order for me to be a disciple of Jesus, I have to love. I cannot minister to youth and expect them to want to transform their lives unless they see someone who themselves has been transformed and loves God. They have to see someone who knows they, themselves, are loved by God and passes that love onto them. I can know my faith forwards and backwards and I can know a ton of ice-breakers or games and show up to lock-ins and pizza parties but unless I show them the love that God has for them then it's all going to be for nothing.
This may seem like a simple premis but because of the spiritual battles I was facing all week I was having a heck of a hard time letting it sink it. It's been a long week of allowing ideas in my head make their way to my heart and allowing the scales to fall from my eyes. I can't wait to see what next year holds for me . . .
Hand coloured photographs of 19th-century Japan
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