Editor’s Note: It’s time for a guest post! This one is from Ben Lesnefsky, a youth minister from Pennsylvania. Since he’s already married with three kids, he clearly fits the “wise old man” category and he has some great advice for you as you head back to school.
I remember the feeling . . . going back to school after an awesome summer where I grew closer to God than ever before.
After I had a big conversion experience in the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I was really anxious to go back to school, back to 'normal' life. I didn't want to lose that 'Jesus high.' I didn't have friends that understood how I was feeling, or friends that would support me.
But I didn't care. I wasn't going to change back to my old self because I could not turn my back on what I knew was real – that God was deeply in love with me and that I had to love him back.
So here is my advice to you . . . be radical! Don't go back to your old ways. It's a sad trend that we go on these awesome retreats, have this amazing experience of God's power, fall deeply in love with Him, but then leave it all behind when we toss our flip flops to the back of the closet.
What if after St. Paul had his conversion experience with God, he went back to his old ways of killing Christians? That would be weird (and tragic). Then why do we think that we can return to our old ways? You don't have to sell yourself short. Be different.
I'm not saying it's going to be easy. Actually, I'm pretty sure it's going to be tough but as Christians we're called to pick up our crosses and carry them.
'I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me' (Galatians 2:19-20).
That year after my conversion when I went back to school, I set my eyes on Christ and didn't look back. People definitely noticed. They were asking why I wasn't going to the parties, and why I wasn't goofing off so much in class and making fun of my classmates. I told them the truth, I told them about God's amazing love. Some thought it was cool that I was trying to live out what I felt was true and some thought I was dumb.
A lot of my friends tried hard to drag me back down. I knew I couldn't give in. I had to do something big. Half way through my junior year I switched schools. I left all of my friends who I was with since 2nd grade. It was hard but it would have been harder to turn my back on God and give in to the peer pressure of my friends.
I'm not asking you to go switch schools, but I am telling you is this: If you want to stay close to God this year, be different . . . be radical . . . and be not afraid.
Get more involved in your parish; get more involved in your youth group. Hang out with only people from your youth group who have the same values as you. Make sure you are praying daily. Have a set prayer time. Do not miss Mass! Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind. And do everything for the greater glory of God.
We are praying for you and your new school year. God Bless you.