You’ve just spent a weekend at a conference. You’ve sang silly songs, listened to talks, eaten sweet tarts for breakfast, and gotten less sleep than you ever thought you could function on. Dragging your duffel bag into your bedroom, your mom follows you, asking “do you have any dirty laundry? Did you have fun?” you look at her, your bed, and your laptop. They all want your attention, but mumbling to your mom, you crash into bed and sleep for 14 hours.
When you wake up, you look at your floor, strewn with t-shirts, phone numbers of friends, and your journal. You remember the moments that challenged you, the resolutions you made to make changes in your life: to delete the songs on your computer, to change who you hang out with, and to basically be the Mother Theresa of the tenth grade.
After an encounter with God at a camp or conference, it can be a challenge to transition back to the “real world.” It’s tough with a great youth group, supportive friends, and Core Members and parents who totally get it; it’s even harder when you feel that your friends and family don’t understand what you just experienced. While no transition back home is seamless, consider the following while you’re washing your new t-shirts and uploading your photos.
Take care of yourself.
After Christ healed Jairus’s daughter, his instructions to her weren’t, “now go tell everyone in your homeroom that I’m awesome.” The Gospel of Luke tells us that Christ “took her by the hand and called to her, ‘Child, arise!’ Her breath returned and she immediately arose. He then directed that she should be given something to eat” (Luke 8:55-56). Christ heals a girl and the first thing he says is to eat something! The Lord knows our human limits — He became man as well. Often, when we’re away we lose sleep, don’t drink enough water, and let’s not even mention the absence of fruits and veggies. After saying “hey” to the rents and offering a prayer of thanksgiving, follow the lead of Christ: eat something, drink some water, and get some sleep.
Tell your parents what your week was like.
Maybe your parents love being Catholic and are excited for you. Maybe they don’t get it, or didn’t even want you to go. Don’t mistake their lack of understanding for disinterest. Be patient with them, tell them about what you and your friends did and answer their questions. Tell them about how your relationship with God has changed. God uses you to be present to the world, and your family is no exception to that.
Be patient with your friends.
You’ll have to be patient with both those who experienced the event and those who didn’t. Commit to helping each other build good habits like personal prayer, participating in the Sacraments, and making good choices. If you have friends that stayed home, be understanding. Don’t make inside jokes or comments, but invite them to participate in the future.
If you wish you didn’t have to go home after an experience of encountering Christ, you’re not the first. After Peter, James and John witnessed the transfiguration of Christ, they asked if they could construct tents (Mark 9:5) and remain on the mountain. Experiences of dynamic worship or service in community with our peers are a gift that allow us to experience a taste of heaven – and give us the grace to persevere when we grow discouraged after leaving the mountain.