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April 7, 2010
The Good News on Youth
By Christopher Stefanick
Repetition is a great learning tool, but it can also inoculate us to the truth we’re hearing. “Yes, Jesus loves me”… yeah, I know, I know. I’ve heard that a million times before. Every Good Friday and Easter, though, jolts me out of that complacency.
God could have redeemed us in any way he chose, but he did so in a way that was terrifying, not only to show us how ugly sin and injustice are, not only to be in solidarity with us in our suffering, but also to show us just how far he’d go out of love for us.
Every so often I get a glimpse of God the Father’s love in the way I love my children. In those brief moments, despite all my imperfections, I can hear an echo from the heart that is the source of all fatherhood beating in my chest.
Last summer I got a glimpse of that love when I lost my 3-year-old son for 20 minutes. Those were the worst 20 minutes of my life. We were packing up to return from a weekend of camping when he saw another family walking off into the woods. Thinking it was us, he slipped away into the forest within moments. When he realized he was lost he sat down quietly among the trees, too paralyzed in fear to respond to our voices.
My entire family joined in the frantic search, screaming his name, as did several camp employees. His mom and three older siblings were all in tears as despair started setting in 15 minutes into the search. By that point I was convinced he was gone—kidnapped or drowned. The adrenaline was so thick in my blood it felt like poison in my veins. I started to search the many ponds at the camp, expecting at any moment to see him floating there.
Knee deep in the water a silent prayer welled up from the depths of me. It wasn’t thought out, it simply burst forth from who I am as a dad, and it was the scariest prayer I’ve ever prayed: “Lord, you’ve given me so much, so many blessings, take them all back. Just give me back my son.” In that moment I saw just how willing I would actually be to forfeit my very life for one of my children, without hesitation. This doesn’t make me heroic. It makes me a father.
The love I saw within myself at that moment was an instinct etched into the souls of all fathers from the foundation of the world, a design that finds its blueprint in the heart of the Maker. This is a far cry from the “warm and fuzzy” love we often think of when we hear the words, “God loves you.” It is a terrifying love: a love that will stop at nothing to get His wayward children back when we had wandered into the dark forest; a love that is proven in the forgiveness of sin, the shedding of blood, and the giving of Himself to us as food.
This is the love we celebrate on Good Friday and throughout the Easter season.
Speaker and author Christopher Stefanick is director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Denver Archdiocese. Visit chris-stefanick.com.