I wrote a short note last week about the most powerful moment I've experienced in my time in ministry, and these are the best words I can find to describe some of the most heavenly few moments I have ever lived in.
The Life Teen Leadership Conference is a beautiful week-long conference for juniors and seniors in high school who are leaders in their church community. They are trained to be stronger spiritual leaders, challenged to look at the decisions they are making in their lives, and they are able to make friends with other young Catholics from all over the country. On the second day of the conference we broke into afternoon men's and women's sessions. These teens were led to look at their lives and their masculinity and femininity in new ways. Teens very often come out of these sessions newly convicted about the truth of who they are.
During the men's session, the young men were challenged in a deep and powerful way to do many things, including step up in their lives and defend their faith as well as honor and uplift women. This translated in immense ways into the night of worship.
That night during the main session as we were leading the teens in How He Loves, my good friend and host for the week Steve walked out and asked the young men to sit and the girls to keep standing. The girls were to continue to sing How He Loves and Steve challenged the young men to think of their mothers as the young women sang - to pray for their mothers and to love them in listening to the song. It was a beautiful and powerful moment to see these boys with their heads in their hands, their hearts and prayers directed toward their mother or mother figure in their life. The song of the few hundred young women was pure and stunning.
I am still trying to find words for what happened after that.
Steve asked the young women to sit down and the young men to rise. The next thing he said went something like this, "I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get through this…but these young women have all been hurt by men in some way, many very deeply…" He went on to speak of the pain of every woman in the room…brokenness due to rejection or abuse or pain from a father or a boyfriend or a friend. As a woman I could tangibly feel those memories and feelings flood right back to these girls, brimming over in immediate tears and tangible sorrow.
And Steve told the men that this was their time to sing over these women. It was time to sing over them and in that song, allow Christ to heal their pain and their brokenness, to lift them up to Christ and allow Him to touch them and mend their souls.
And the young men sang.
"When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me…"
The conviction was unfathomable.
It was as though Christ spoke into the heart of every single young man and told him that this was his chance to heal these girls; this was his moment to right all the wrongs and pour out a profound prayer of love and of sorrow for what has been done to their fragile hearts. And I looked out and eyes were closed and arms were outstretched and the glory of heaven shook that theater for a whole few minutes. And I wanted every girl I have ever come in contact with …every woman in this entire world… to be in that room. You could hear the healing happening. You could feel Christ touching the hurt and making beautiful things and holding all these young women with the singing of these young men.
And I couldn't help but sob and let Christ hold me and heal me with their song, too. I sobbed for every girl who has ever shared her pain with me…I sobbed for the girls who are used and abused and for the women lonely and unloved... for the women whose self-image has been formed by pain from men and for all the young women just feet away from me in the room who told me of their scars after our women's session. And as the men continued to sing my crying turned into a cry of gratitude…gratitude for the fact that Christ can sing over me and these other women through our brothers, through young men who want more than what the world offers them, through young men who want to rise and take courage and stand up for something they believe in. And I really could not help but pray that God would let me stay in that moment, in that hope and in that peace, forever.