…And that’s not even an exaggeration.
When I was in 6th grade, our church hired a new Youth Minister (our first one, as far as I can remember). She was pretty much the coolest person in the world, and with a little coercion from my mother, I ended up attending my very first retreat that year.
Although I went without putting up much of a fuss, I had little expectations for the weekend. It was in a bigger town and I only knew 2 other people going. There were probably 300 junior high and high school people there, plus the smattering of adult volunteers.
For an introvert, that can be a little overwhelming.
The talks were pretty long, but the small groups were kind of fun and the music wasn’t too bad (they even had a drummer!), so I enjoyed the first half of the retreat on its surface level.
But then Saturday night came, and it forced me to change my perspective.
They had a Eucharistic procession: they put the host in a monstrance and walked Him all over the gymnasium. The lights were down and the candles were lit, the music was meaningful and the silence was deeper than anything I’d ever felt before.
And the girl next to me was crying.
And as Jesus came by us, something clicked inside my mind. You see, I could tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the Church and the Catholic faith. Saints, sacraments, commandments, prayers… my Catholic elementary school years had educated me exceedingly well, and I could recite all the lists you ever wanted from a 6th grader.
What I didn’t realize until that moment on retreat was this: Jesus is real. Not just, Jesus was real and walked around 2000 years ago and here are 15 bible stories about him… Jesus is still real. And alive. And here. And maybe He wanted something from me besides all the facts about God.
It took me until 6th grade to realize that God was an actual “thing” – an actual Person – more than just book knowledge and reciting prayers. God became real for me that night.
One retreat can change everything. It changed the course of my whole life.
I attended our youth group with a curiosity, a hunger. I still got lost in middle school and parts of high school and made some pretty embarrassing mistakes. That retreat didn’t instantly make me into a theologian or an evangelist… but it did do something: it made God real.
And I am who I am today, in part, because of a little weekend retreat I attended in 6th grade.
Don’t underestimate the power of one event.
God can work through the little things, if we give Him the chance.