When I was a teenager, my dad and I sat in the woods for hours hunting. Those long hours of silence and whispered conversations reaped less foodfor our family than they did memorable times with my father. He often talked about beauty and the sense of amazement he felt being in the forest. Our conversations led me to accept that there was a greater reality than I could name at work in our world.
That same sense of wonder and amazement resonates in “The Poetic Echo,” by Jeremy Steele.Jeremy narrates his continuous encounter with God through poetry and science. He puts to words the reality of the thoroughness of God in God’s creation that is helpful both for youth worker and youth.
Jeremy suggests that the church’s practice of youth ministry include training youth “to live in the awareness that we cannot escape the presence of God.” Leaning into a theological conviction born from practical theological reflection, he articulates a doctrine of general revelation that emphasizes the graciousness of God’s self-disclosure to all in and through creation and the humanities. He contrasts this with the articulation of mountaintop events or programs in the church that are depended on for the self-disclosure of the divine.
We need to teach youth that God can be found both in the eventfulness of life and in the ordinary. I come from a tradition that has had on ongoing dialogue regarding the event versus process in the growth of faith. The conclusion I have come to is that it is not an either/or but aboth/and reality. There is a whole process of preparation that opens people up to an experience of the divine in the movement toward an eventlike camp. There is also the reality that the thoroughness of God in God’s creation is a reality that awaits us each and every day.
Let’s find a way to embrace events in the lives of youth and in the lives of our faith communities in such a way that we prepare for new encounters with God as we daily encounter God. Let us emphasize ordinary faith practices in our preparation. Let’s expect God to show up during the event. Then let’s move out from the event, continuing to emphasize ordinary faith practices that sustain our relation to God.
Let’s also practice the sacredness of all of life with youth. From our daily conversations with them to our stories of encountering God, let’s share stories of how God continually reveals himself to us. Let’s become awareof the divide between the secular and sacred that still exists in the North American context and work to counter that assumption with youth.
In the end, I agree with Jeremy that God is everywhere. May the Spirit awaken us to this reality.