Life is a journey. We set out on a path that no one has ever walked before. How do we know if we're going in the right direction? How do we know that each step we take is getting us closer to our destination, rather than further away? The truth is that we couldn't possibly know on our own if we are going the right direction on a path that we've never walked before. You're going to need someone who knows the way.
In June of 2015, I was hired as the High School Youth Minister at St. Mary Catholic Parish in Littleton, CO. The first thing people need to know is that, never in any dreams of what my life would be did the role of a full-time youth minister come to my mind.
In fact, the day that I heard about the position, I was falling asleep in a meeting with Brian Limas and a priest at the church. The only thing I had to go off of that day was the momentary tug on my heart that said there was a reason I was only conscious for that part of the meeting when the position was mentioned.
After about a month and a half of not giving it much more thought, it returned to my mind and, since the job I was working at the time wasn't going so well, I decided to put in an application. During the interview, they asked me, "How seriously are you considering this position?" My response must have been a real winner: "This is honestly just a step in the discernment process for me. I'm not certain at this point." Real commitment!
After a second interview, I preemptively called the manager who was in charge of the hiring process to let her know that I was going to remove my name from the pool of applicants. The next day, Tuesday, I got a call from the pastor. He asked if I would reconsider my decision. We talked for a few minutes and agreed that I would let them know my final decision by Friday of that week.
The next day at work was miserable. Things already were not going well, but now I couldn't even focus with this decision hanging over my head. Immediately after my shift ended, I drove over to a nearby adoration chapel. My intention was to ask God for the answer. "What am I supposed to do?" As I walked up the ramp to the entrance,
I got this sense..."You already know the answer." What I thought was going to be a long, prayerful deliberation, ended up being about five minutes in silence ending with a simple, "Okay. Here we go." I called the parish office that afternoon to let them know that I had changed my decision.
The whole process was a bit of a whirlwind. Two weeks notice was not necessary at my old job, so I took one week off before jumping into my new role. My first day on the job was day one of the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference in Denver! That pretty much set the tone for what the first year of ministry had in store for me!
Over the next few months, I was frantically trying learn the ropes of the position and guide the whole program. Though it had its stresses and I felt like I was at a dead sprint for about 4 months, I was handling things alright. Or so I thought.
At the end of October, a week after putting on a retreat, I collapsed underneath the weight of it all. On a Sunday night after youth group had ended, I found myself sitting on the floor of my office in tears. I felt like I had no direction, like I was going 100mph...on a treadmill. I simply could go no longer. Making a quick plug for the merits of mental health days, I spent the next three days away from the office - away from the city. I seriously considered quitting that week.
I confided in a few close friends, and everyone told me that maybe it was time to try something else. All but one. In a conversation with one of my roommates at the time, he proposed that God was inviting me to grow in constancy, or perseverance. I didn't like the sound of it, but I knew in my heart that he was right.
God certainly had a plan working that entire time. About a month and a half later, I walked into a restaurant at the parish/school staff and faculty Christmas party. I didn't know it at the moment, though it didn't take me too long after, but I sat down at the table across from the woman who is now my wife. It's so amazing to reflect on the whole year: from not ever considering youth ministry, to initially turning down the position, to thinking about quitting; all of it part of the path that led me to my wife.
God is constantly working for our good. Often I think that it would be best for Him to just show me the end and skip all the in-between stuff, especially when it's hard. But in reality, if God had met me face-to-face and said, "Justin, you're going to work at St. Mary for a while, then you're going to run into a tough time, but you'll get through it. After that, you're going to meet a woman who you'll be married to in less than a year after you meet her" would I have believed it? Odds are, probably not.
The truth is that all I could do was make the best decision I could at each of those moments with the information that I knew. God showed me just enough for me to be able to take each step. He guides us along the path of our lives, since it is He who set it out for us. We don't know what experiences we will go through along the way - some will be enjoyable, some will be more difficult stretches - but walking with faith in the one who is leading is all we need. Life is a grand adventure that must be taken one step at a time. Don't get paralyzed by the thought of what you leave behind, nor by the fear of what may lie ahead; walk with God knowing that He is a trustworthy guide who has great things planned for you!