As my age moves past the mid-50s so I am no longer young, but not yet old, I start to get the sense of where God has directed my life so far and feel hope and eagerness for a future of service to church, family, and community. But what is the foundation of that hope? Where did my faith come from – how has it become so much of who I am?
I have found it interesting that as I get older, my sense of self doesn’t seem to change so much. I have distinct memories of going to church with my family, attending Sunday School, mid-week services, confirmation, and high-school youth studies that helped build the Christian understanding I have now. I am still so connected to that young man. The strongest growth was through youth group experiences where I developed my own understanding of God and built a mature relationship with Jesus that continues to sustain me.
The highlight of my youth group experiences was attending two National Youth Gatherings. Those were “mountain-top” experiences, with thousands of teens and youth leaders all worshipping together, cheering for God, listening to motivational speakers, and truly feeling the power of the Holy Spirit at work. It was also small experiences of sharing each day with a few people from my church and reflecting on what we heard and learning from each other.
Those experiences also included a road trip – sitting by people for hours on the bus and learning more about who they really were. I learned how to appreciate others God had put around me while understanding I was here on earth to also share of myself and help others grow. Each Gathering was an intense week dedicated to God that pushed me into new understandings of who my Triune God was.
Even though such a mountain-top experience is inevitably followed by going back into the “valley” of normal life, part of that excitement and growth never fully left me. The essence of that glow lives on and has become a foundation of the faith that I continue to have today.