Youth Ministry Yearly Theme
“Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days.” -Psalm 23:6
I have been blessed in this life with an incredible earthly father, in my addition to my heavenly Father. Since the time I was born, my father has instilled in me a love for sports, for learning, and for our Lord. I remember in the early 2000s, my dad began training to one day run an Iron Man Triathlon, which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26 mile run (a full marathon). In 2001, he successfully finished his first HALF Iron Man and was continuing to push himself and train so he could one day complete a full Iron Man. I still remember the morning a little over a year later when my mother got the phone call that my father had been in an accident. He was riding his bicycle when he hit a slick part of the road which caused him to fall off his bicycle and fracture his femur. After having a pin, a plate, and four screws inserted into his leg, my dad was sent back to square one. The man who had just completed a Half Iron Man was having to learn how to walk again.
My dad learned to walk and swim and eventually run again without any issue. The bigger obstacle was getting back on that bicycle and deciding to restart the long journey of training again for that Iron Man Triathlon. It was a long, gruesome journey, but my father never gave up. He trained every day for years and was relentless in the pursuit of his goal. In the summer of 2008, my father finished his first Iron Man Triathlon. As he came around the corner, my sister and I spotted him from where we were standing just yards from the finish line. My father came running up to us and took us both by the hand as we jogged along side him across that finish line. He let go of my hand for only a brief moment to make the Sign of the Cross as he finished the race.
My father continues to inspire me daily by his love and devotion for our Lord and for our family, and he also has modeled for me the love of our heavenly Father in a real and tangible way. In the midst of trying times and setbacks, where he could have given up all hope and been angry with God, he remained devoted to God and clung to the cross. He is always there to greet me with a big, goofy grin every time he picks me up at the airport, and he never hesitates to pick up the phone and talk for an hour even when I’m interrupting him at work. While my father is by no means perfect, everything good about him and in him comes from and is a reflection of our Father in heaven.
God the Father is relentlessly pursuing our hearts each and every day, as my father was relentless in pursuing his goal. That is the entire goal of God’s existence – to seek, to know, and to love each one of us individually and relentlessly. And yet God grants us the freedom to choose how we respond. God the Father loves us without asking anything in return. We all experience setbacks in this life, like my father did, but our Father does not want us to give up hope. In a world that seems dark and heavy, God promises to be the light in our darkness. He is not absent in the midst of the pain and suffering of our world and of our own lives, but He is seeking us out and will stop at nothing to bring us home.
I was recently having a conversation with a friend who told me, “Maggie, I believe in God, that He created everything, that He is all-powerful and all-knowing, but I’m not sure that I believe it is really possible to have a personal relationship with God, because every other personal relationship I have ever had has always let me down.” His words hit me like a ton of bricks. If you relate to those words, or if that has been your experience of love or of fatherhood, I am sorry, and please know that the Lord wishes to redeem the lies of this world and the brokenness in our hearts. Sometimes, we have to learn how to trust God again or how to pray again, like my father had to learn to walk again. No matter what your experience has been, I pray that this year you will begin to open your heart to the God who is relentlessly pursuing it, each and every day, whether we realize it or not, because we have a Father in heaven who is never going to let us down.
Maybe looking at this year, you are dreading a stressful load of classes, worrying about whether you will make the team, or struggling with issues and conflict within your family. Looking ahead, this year might seem even longer and harder than an Iron Man Triathlon, and you might not feel prepared to face this world and all its difficulties. This year may feel like a never-ending race, but this life is all about the journey. Never forget, you are running the race alongside a Father who is holding your hand and will never let go, and he is ready to cross the finish line with you and rejoice in your accomplishments.
This year, inspired by the theme of Life Teen, we will focus our youth ministry on this same theme: the Relentless Father. Using this theme, we’ll dive deeply into the question: what does it mean to be pursued by God the Father? And what does it look like to pursue a relationship with Him in return? You can click here to read Joel Stepanek’s reflection on the theme, if you’d like, and learn more about where this year will take us.
Prepare your hearts, my friends, as we take this year to dive into the goodness and mercy of the Father and see what love He has for us.
-Reflection written by Maggie Overbeck, Director of Youth Ministry
“Beyond our hurt, beyond our questioning, beyond our fear, there is still a God that is all-powerful, all-good, and all loving. He has not changed – God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Jesus Christ is reveals Him to us as our Father – and we are called to be a part of His family.” -Joel Stepanek