Okay, so obviously I made it to Austin...Needless to say, for once mapquest was right and the trip was a little longer than I thought. However, so far it has proven well worth it. Even though I had the opportunity, I honestly couldn't sleep in this morning, I think deep down I was anticipating what would come today.
This year I am not alone at the convention, I brought Scott with me. He and his wife are my true youth sponsors, they will do anything you ask whenever needed and lift Megan and I up daily in prayer. I honestly do not know what I would do without their help, so I am glad he will have the opportunity to be fed this year as well.
I am not going to lie. I have been saying for a while that I would talk about how ministry is going, but I have been putting it off, because I wanted to put on a good front that everything was okay. Honestly for a long while I have felt like I have been dying inside, and the only thing that has kept me going in youth ministry is the encouragement that this convention brings every year,along with the occasional blessing that someone passes on to me at the least expected time. Last year was a life changing experience, but this year to me was going to be make or break. I was ready to give up. I have felt like I have been pushing and pushing without any results and have felt attacked by parents and apathy among the youth ministry students and leaders. So I really had been contemplating whether or not I was cut out for this...Or whether it was even worth it or of I was God's man or was just in God's way. There was a lot of "me" and a lot of sulking and complaining...I truly had developed a "poor me" mentality.
So with all that said, this convention has already been a wake up call. I chose to take Mark Yaconelli's critical concerns course called "Becoming the beloved-healing your identity in Christ." Obviously, the word healing stood out the most to me because I have felt broken for sometime now. I had the chance to take this last year and honestly felt like God wanted me to do the soul care option last year, but I was hesitant because that kind of stuff was just not for me, and I was coming to learn new stuff, not get away and "retreat" to grow spiritually. This year though, I couldn't get past the fact that I needed this aspect of the convention this year and I have not been disappointed. After today I already feel like God is working and showing me more of who He is, who I am through Him, and who He wants me to be.
This convention for me will be a "Sabbath." I am resting, and focusing on nothing but the Lord. I am shutting my phone off (except when I talk to my wife) and I am spending more time with him and learning who I am through me. The biggest thing that the Lord has shown me so far through this "retreat" is that it is not about me...But about Him. He doesn't need me for His work to get done. It is a blessing to me that He has chosen to use me, but He could do it without me. I think I have spent too much time making the ministry mine, and not enough making it His.
I am learning how to step aside and allow the Lord to love me. I get so caught up in what people think about me, that I miss what really matters. He has gifted me, He has made me unique and all He wants is for me to offer myself to Him to be used.
The strangest thing though, that has perhaps challenged me the most is the issue of "suffering." I have done a lot of whining to those who are close to me. I think even though I put on a pretty good mask of being all together I have not been a good example to those around me because I have been negative. Because of my hurt I was trying to hurt others and pretend that my life was so bad and that I was the victim. I was whining and wanted everyone to pat me on the back and say "it's not your fault, it's okay." What really challenged me though was the thought that suffering is a part of ministry. I do not want to put myself on a pedestal, and make myself look like I am God's chosen one, because I am not anyone special...Anyone who is in ministry suffers at some time. These recent times have just been mine and I wanted to be the victim. The interesting thought though is that maybe the Lord wants us to suffer...So He can suffer with us. This was a shocking thought for me...We're not to be the victims, but to rejoice in those times and realize that Jesus suffers with us. Look at the disciples, the closer they got to Jesus, the tougher times got. It is all about trust and surrendering it to Him. I think for too long, I have made this my ministry and not allowed it to be the Lord's. I am doing the best I can, but I need to make it His ministry. Times will be tough, but He has placed me there for a reason and in the midst of trials I need to trust Jesus and not Matt.
This convention has already been life changing to me and will be more and more everyday as I seek to draw closer to Jesus. I'll close with this...During one of the contemplative prayer times we drew a picture and colored it. My picture was of a landscape with a river running through it and a big oak on top of a hill. The river had red running through it to represent the wounds I have felt with broken relationships, harsh words, and more. The tree was barren, but with roots digging deep into the ground and some new life growing on it. There was one lone tombstone on the horizon and the sun was setting in the background. The tombstone was my "self" dying and the new growth represented the growth that has occurred and continues to occur as I try to find less of me and more of Him. I think I am at a crossroads, and am nearing a time of radical growth in my life. My only prayer is that there will be less of me and more of Him on a daily basis.
I am so glad I came...Even though at the beginning I felt like I was crawling, I now feel like I am walking with the Lord as he nurses me back to a spiritual "health" that I have missed. Times have been tough, and may remain that way for some time. BUT, the Lord is faithful, He suffers with me and I know I am not alone. Thanks YS for ministering to me and offering this convention!
More to come as the weekend goes on!
Seeking new life,