NYWC. Imagine that you have been handed a huge bowl of your favorite ice cream. You know that moment where you simply stare in contented delight at the goodness in front of you? That is the feeling I have about Youth Specialties, National Youth Workers Conference [NYWC] every time it comes to mind. If you are even considering attending NYWC-just GO! You do not plan anything. You could go to everything that is planned. But you do not have to go to a single thing. Pick and choose what will benefit you the most. For me one of the most formative experiences was a spiritual direction meeting. Several spiritual directors volunteer to spend time with any youth worker who signs up, and those appointments are filled up quickly! At times as a youth worker there are few moments that you are given the opportunity to sit and be ministered to. For me the spiritual direction meeting provided exactly that.
I walked into a quiet room with a couple chairs, and candle on a table. The room was quiet. A spiritual director whose name I don’t remember looked at me prepared to listen. We lit a candle to represent the Holy Spirit being a part of our conversation. And then I talked. I processed the pain of rejection in ministry, the hurt of leaving, and the confusion of leaders who unintentionally hurt me. And this gentle spiritual director listened to me. I remember being frustrated with her at first. She was not telling me if I was right or wrong. She merely reflected back to me what I was processing. I wanted her to give me a verdict. Tell me my “grade” for that ministry experience. Instead she listened and asked questions. While I was mildly irritated, I remember feeling rest for the first time in a long while. I had a person sitting in front of me who listened to me. She did not judge my story, tell me how I should feel, or give me her opinion. I felt heard by someone whose name I do not even remember. At the end of my session the few words she said to me included “Have grace for yourself. God has grace for you.” Something inside of me broke in that moment. I realized that before I could even extend grace, I needed to receive it. So simple. So small, and yet I have not forgotten it since. It was a turning point for me. Receive grace from God in seasons that are hard, and then extend that to those around me.
I thank God for that minister of grace who listened to me, and reminded me that God could listen to me too. The grace I received from the spiritual director guided me towards God and His presence in my life. I was reminded of why I minister to young people, why I serve even when I’m not thanked, and why being Jesus to others is the most important aspect of my job. Thanks to YS/NYWC I had space to process, to seek God, and be encouraged to continue forging ahead.
Used with permission from Rebecca Harbin