Every once in a while I have this moment where I am so blown away by the possibility that everything I believe and everything I at least say I believe is real. Really real.
During XLT here in Arizona at the LifeTeen Catholic Youth Ministry Training Conference, God would’t let me go without having to face him eye to eye and challenge him on how really real he is. Mark Hart was giving such powerful witness to the giants we have to face in youth ministry, in our daily lives, and the ways we just kind of cower down beneath them when we don’t trust that God is quite real enough. He challenged us to trust like David trusted when he stood in the shadow of Goliath, facing his taunts as if they were the tantrums of a spoiled child.
So there I am, standing right at the bottom of the winding stairs leading into our worship space, all fancied up in my liturgical garb, getting ready to process with the priest bringing in the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration. Incense in hand and the right path for procession in mind, Mark’s words in my ears and the giants facing me back home in my heart: one of the teens who I’ve been praying deeply for all week, as her own struggles are a burden of my own; my dear friend who’s carrying a cross that’s starting to get too heavy for her to carry on her own; my own serious nervousness about heading to Mexico for two months next week. I find myself bringing these weights, these crosses, these burdens as a youth minister, as a friend, as a seminarian, all into this night.
And then I realize I’m staring at God face to face, eye to eye.
The monstrance was right there. And if that’s really God there in front of me; if he really really has so humbled himself and made himself so clear to us that he has made himself as vulnerable as a piece of bread blessed and broken and now adored by us; then who am I not to be in wonder?
Who am I to stare God in the face and not bring these things to him? How can I act, in that brief whisper of a moment before walking with our Lord into a room of seven hundred other youth ministers, as if he doesn’t care to stand there with me in all the garbage of sin and treasure of grace, daily life and the extraordinary moments of life? Who am I to ignore a God who placed himself right smack in front of me?
It was shocking, even if it only lasted a moment. It certainly affected the next hour of Adoration and praise and worship. But I’ll never forget that pause, that moment I froze, that encounter with the Holy, made so simple, so visible, so vulnerable.
So what did I say to God?
Nothing. I couldn’t say anything. Actually, by the time we seminarians and the priest made it up to the altar, I was practically laughing to myself. Somehow, in the midst of all the struggles I was facing in praying for those I love and care for, in all the garbage of their fears and my worries for them, all I could do was laugh. I wasn’t laughing at their problems, expecting them to just forget about what was troubling them. It was just this feeling of realizing that God knows what it all means. And I do not.
So all I could do was laugh a little. And just stare at him. And thank him. And praise him. And question him. And challenge him a little bit. And be angry that my friends were hurting.
But mostly laugh a little. And just stare at him. Because he knows what we’re going through. And he enters right into it.