This past weekend I attended the Dare 2 Share conference in Chicago for the seventh year in a row. This was, however, the first time I attended not as a student, but a young youth leader. Of course, I got just as much out of it as I always have, but for some reason this year was also significantly different. You see, I realized with shame that I had been wasting a lot of time.
Let me back up. My favorite part of the weekend was undoubtedly the drama that was performed on Friday night. It portrayed a young girl trapped within the dark room of her mind, with all of her doubts, fears, and struggles. This young girl heard whispers from two distinct voices. The first voice is the voice of demons trying to drag her down into despair. They tell her that she is crazy, she isn't worth anything, everything that is wrong with her life is her fault, all in an attempt to try to drag her so low that she will commit suicide. The second voice is the voice of Jesus Christ. This voice seems to be haunting her like a ghost at first. It continually whispers "I am coming for you. You are mine." But eventually both the audience and the girl realize that this voice is not a ghost or a halllucination, but Jesus Christ himself. He tells the girl that she is loved, and the voice begins to grow less frightening, but its intensity does not waver.
Finally, the demons have driven her to a point where she is at her lowest. She is right on the verge of taking her own precious life. But she remembers...there is another way. She says the name of Jesus. The demons hiss and recoil. She falls to her knees and begins to beg God to save her, to rescue her, to forgive her for all of the horrible things she has done. The demons are pushed further and further away, and finally with a resounding call to her Savior, the lights and music that have been building throughout the scene reach their crescendo and blaze into glory.
Everything goes quiet. The door from which the voice has been calling to the girl opens, and out walks Jesus Christ. He runs to the girl, holds her, takes her arm and sees the scars of her self-harm. "I have scars too," He says. And then He embraces her.
It was so much more vivid and intense than a simple write-up can do justice to, but it moved me in such a way that left me breathless and in awe of God's grace and in wonder of His majesty. Afterward, Greg Stier, the head of Dare 2 Share, asked the youth leaders of each group at the conference to pray over their students. I bowed my head and listened to the multitude of youth pastors praying for their beloved youth.
It was a moment I will never forget. I was reminded again of how much God loves us, and how much he cares for every single teenager, every single child, every single person in the entire world. And then I remembered that I was supposed to be caring for people too.
The prayers broke off as Greg closed with his own prayer, asking those who had not received Jesus Christ to do so in the silence of their hearts, and then I looked around to see the hundreds of students around the building--some crying, some still praying, some hugging each other or their youth pastor. I heard a noise that was somewhere between a shout and a sob, but tinged with such joy that I knew with certainty what it had meant. Someone had found out that their friend had just accepted Christ. I smiled at all of the amazing work I was seeing God do around me, and at the thought of all the work God would continue to do in the lives of the students and teachers in the room.
And then I thought deeper than that, looked into my own heart and saw what I had been missing. So often in the past I have said that I would be all in for God, and that enthusiasm wavered. It wasn't that I didn't still love God, or that I wasn't a true follower of Jesus Christ. I know that I am, and that I will be with Christ in heaven. But I was being distracted. I was wasting time.
I don't want to waste any more time.
I thought of all of the numerous opportunities I have every week to talk to people about Jesus, or even to just try to have deeper conversations with them than just a superficial surface level relationship would require. I thought of all of the times when I saw reading the Bible as a chore or a task rather than a privilege. And I was ashamed.
That's what matters, in the end. Doing whatever you can do to love God and love others. To serve God and serve others. To make deep relationships, to nurture those relationships, to be a part of people's lives in a positive way.
One of the things that has been crucial in my understanding of the necessity of being in the Word of God is this simple fact: Reading the Bible is being nourished spiritually. We are taking part of the Bread of Life. Do we skip our physical meals? Do we put them off? Do we tell ourselves that we can eat later? Of course not! We eat when we're hungry.
I'm always hungry, spiritually, and yet I find excuses to starve myself for a bit longer. How morbid is that?
Life is about love. I'm going to make time for the things that are important. If I see someone that I know God wants me to talk to, I will. When I go to the grocery store, I won't always put in headphones and try to ignore everyone. I'll go out of my way to be kind and courteous to everyone I come in contact with. Find a way to make people's days.
I'm going to make it a priority to be reading the Word, not the required "once per day", but whenever I'm "hungry". I need to learn to identify that need in myself and specifically memorize and seek after verses that will help with specific areas.
I'm going to take the time to pray for the people I meet, the people I interact with on a regular basis. I'm going to pray for the little things, the things that I might not think matter that much...but it's like, why not? It's not like God is saying "whoa, that's too much prayer, I'm getting a little bogged down here." I should be praying constantly throughout a day. I need to be in communication with God. That's the only way I'm going to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
So, I'd like to say: Thank you, Dare 2 Share, for yet another weekend of conviction. I needed that. Here's to you and your ministry. I pray that God would continue to bless you all as you continue to bless so many others.