I was really looking forward to this DNOW. The Hills Church DNOW in San Antonio was certainly one of my favorites last year, and I couldn’t wait any longer to come back this year. When I try to explain why it was one of my favorites, I’ll mention that the students had similar music tastes to mine, from the Beatles to August Burns Red. I’ll mention that I never went by my name, but instead they called me Marco (as in Marco Belinelli, a basketball player who played for the Spurs – apparently we look alike), and that we spent so much time laughing and playing card games. I have so many great memories from last year’s DNOW, but all of those things together wasn’t what made it my favorite. It was, essentially, our hearts.
I think it happens very rarely, but it happens – when you meet someone or some group of people, and you understand them as they understand you. You’ve probably heard of “thinking on the same wavelength,” when you and another person often come to the same conclusions and thoughts at the same time. And while I was definitely “thinking on the same wavelength” with the guys from the Hills Church, it was more like we had the same pulse. We felt things the same, we struggled the same, our passions were the same. We were able to sidestep the small talk and jump into our lives. The Holy Spirit had an ultimate hand in letting me pour into the students almost seamlessly. This year was just as seamless.
The majority of the students go to a private Christian school, with Bible classes and Jesus references around every corner. I go to college at the second largest seminary in America, with Bible classes and Jesus references around every corner. I know the struggle against “head knowledge without heart knowledge,” and the feeling that Christianity is common and knowing the story of Jesus so well that I forget it. I could see the same thing in the eyes of the students at the Hills Church.
I’m in no way discrediting Christians schools. They’re an amazing blessing and I (literally) wouldn’t be where I am now without them. But I realized a while ago that learning without living is nothing. Learning without love, both for God and for others, is nothing. And while the schools can do their best to teach the students the Bible, they can’t force them to love like Christ. But what I am able to do is relate with them. I can tell them that I know that struggle, I feel that “common Christianity,” but I didn’t stay there. God didn’t let me. I can explain the difference between our “heroes of history” and Jesus Christ is that right now, before the throne of the living God, Jesus Christ ever lives and pleads for me. I can show them how exciting and fresh the Bible is when you see God’s salvation hand over it all. I can just be me, as Christ has changed me, and pray that they see the change.And after I intentionally live out my faith, it’s always awesome to see that God’s work was not in vain. During my one-on-ones, I had a great tear-filled conversation with a middle schooler who couldn’t get over the fact that God is so big (bigger than the entire universe! as he would say) and yet he actually came to earth as Jesus and died for him (like, really died for him). He said he had heard all those things at school, but it had been a long time since he knew it in the deepest part of his soul. And that’s where I saw life. I know that feeling of remembering the gospel. I have to remind myself everyday (even multiple times a day), and it’s so great that I wonder how I ever could forget it. But I do forget it. So I always need the reminder.
I encourage you to remember the gospel, feel it and realize it in the deepest recess of your soul. Don’t just learn it, but dwell on it, depend on it. I pray that it lights a fire in your heart, and I pray it continues to grow. It’s not easy, but it’s rewarding. I know.