The television was on but I wasn’t really watching it. My little brother sat playing with ninja turtles in the corner. My parents kept asking me if I was feeling okay. I put headphones on without music. I sat on the couch trying to make sense of my “crumbling” 17 year-old life.
It was a Saturday night and I was completely alone. I had cash in my pocket and gas in my truck but I had no friends … anymore. The phone was not ringing. The silence was a deafening reminder to how “sad” my social life had become in a very short amount of time. This had never happened to me in my previous three years of high school. My senior year was supposed to be epic! Instead it was growing increasingly lonely and there was only one person to blame: Jesus.
At one point I think I actually even said, “Jesus, you ruined my senior year.”
During the six months prior, I’d had powerful encounters with Jesus on two different retreats. It became clear I had to make some major changes in my life if I really wanted to become who God designed me to be – so change I did. I broke up with my girlfriend. I quit drinking and going to parties. I cleaned up my language and changed my attitude.
I shared Christ with my friends – a move which quickly revealed how few friends I really had. I got more involved in my Church, changed the music I listened to and the movies I watched. I learned to pray. I began going to Adoration. The Holy Spirit turned my world upside down and many of those within it decided they wanted nothing to do with me or my newfound “best friend” named Jesus.
So there I was, alone on a Saturday night, trying to be a “good person.” No one had told me what would happen if I got serious about following God. No one had told me that there would be really lonely nights sometimes. No one told me that the devil would come after me harder than ever, trying to distract me from my newfound relationship with Christ.
Here’s the part of the story where you’d expect that magical happy ending, right? Where the phone rang and teens from my Youth Group invited me out or where my parents came in and we had a great discussion about life and death and God and eternity, right?
Nope. No fairy tale ending … for a while. I was lonely, but little did I know, God was allowing it for a reason. I needed that time to grow in character and in virtue. He separated me from some bad influences and tempting relationships in order to strengthen me. He had invited me out of the sinful surroundings, sure, but God wanted to transform the sinful desire(s) out of my heart.
After awhile I developed new friendships – true friendships – the kind that stand with you, walk with you and challenge you to become a better person. I realized that God hadn’t called me to be a “good person” or a “better version of Mark” but a new person (Gal. 2:20), one who could fulfill the design He had for me (Eph. 2:10).
In time I realized how important it was for me to feel that loneliness for that season during my senior year, to learn how to lean on Christ and not just on my friends. I’d been betrayed, gossiped about, mocked and abandoned – just like Jesus – but not nearly to the same degree. No one in my life, except Christ, could really understand me or the person He was re-creating me to be.
How about you?
Have you heard God calling you to make some changes? Maybe you spent a week at Camp, attended a Youth Conference or went on a Mission Trip this summer and had an encounter with God. What now? As you begin a new school year, the devil is coming after you and will try everything in his power to distract you from God or from true change. He will demoralize you. He will convince you “it was just a phase.” He will whisper lie after lie until you believe it. I began to believe the lies but then I remembered that I wasn’t really alone.
Even if everyone else is against you, you still have Christ. He is available to you every second of every day. He is speaking to you in His Word. He is present to you in the Church. He is available to you at every Mass. He promised, “I am with you always…until the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). You are never alone.
I can’t imagine my life without Christ – I wouldn’t even want to. In Jesus I’ve experienced more freedom and joy than I can even begin to express. You can experience that same joy and that same freedom, too.
The question is how far are you willing to go for Him?
Your life – including your social life – is your answer.