Life Teen Community/Life Teen for Teens Relentless Father by Joel Stepanek I can fake my way through worship music with the best. I know all the words and I sing them loudly, but my heart isn’t where it should be. Do I really believe it? It happened this past year during a powerful evening of worship before Jesus in the Eucharist. The music ministry was repeating the bridge of a song, “You’re never going to let me down,” and I found myself quiet. Do I really believe this? I don’t doubt the existence of God or the reality that Jesus Christ is our savior. I believe in the powerful grace present in the Church and the action of the Holy Spirit in our world – even when it is a dark place. My struggle is to trust this God, who we call Father, with everything. I sing the words, “You’re never going to let me down,” but in my heart I wonder if that is true. Repeatedly Let Down We’ve all been let down. Someone we loved and trusted broke our heart or, maybe at the very least, wasn’t there when we needed them to be there. When we think of God, especially as Father, it is hard not to think that He’s capable of doing the same. After all, by calling God our “Father,” we need to use our earthly fathers as our reference point to Him. For many of us, there is a big empty place we have to look at when we hear that word. We think of a man that was emotionally absent or maybe entirely absent. We recall moments, big moments, when he wasn’t there. Our mind races to times we wanted our father to rush in and save us, only to realize he stopped caring long ago. That certainly isn’t everyone’s experience. I know a lot of good dads – but it is the reality some of us walk into when we start to say that word “father.” Are we sure he is never going to let us down? Needlessly Neglected It isn’t hard to find bad things in our world. I am continually shocked at how numb I am becoming to news of the latest shooting at a school, mall, or public space. That doesn’t even speak to how callous I am (and we are) to the level of violence that takes place that we never hear about in our inner cities, overseas, and hidden in plain sight as humans are bought and sold in our hometowns. Can our Father really have any say in this darkness? In some ways we might start to see God as that absent Father, allowing us to face the darkness of our present age on our own. We may recall our relationship with God when we were kids, seeing Him as all-powerful, all-good, and all-loving, just like we used to see our dads. But as we grow up, we realized that our dads were human and flawed, and it isn’t hard to impose that same idea onto God. We think, “Of course God is going to let us down, right? If he really cared, maybe the world wouldn’t be so bad.” There are many people that would rush to affirm that statement and then tell us why belief in God is foolish, archaic, and even destructive. Their atheistic mentality would ring loudly in our ears and, perhaps, even seem attractive. Beyond our hurt, beyond our questioning, beyond our fear, there is still a God that is all-powerful, all-good, and all loving. He has not changed – God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Jesus Christ is reveals Him to us as our Father – and we are called to be a part of His family. Relentlessly Pursued As a movement, Life Teen has been reflecting on who God is as Father and what really claiming that, believing that, and living that truth might mean for us personally and for our world. So many people seek to fill the void that our earthly fathers left, and God stands ready to be our Father. We seek someone to guide and protect us through dark times, and God as our Father is ready to do just that. We want someone to seek us out when we are lost, broken, afraid, and alone, and God the Father is not simply waiting, but is actively pursuing all of us. What is required is not a change in a God who is unchanging, but a change in our perspective. This is why we’ve chosen the theme Relentless Father for this coming year. We are going to dive into who God is, not simply as Father, but as a Relentless Father – a Father that never gives up, never lets us down, never grows weary of finding us, saving us, protecting us, and healing us. This relentless love is displayed perfectly in Him giving us His own Son that He might be sacrificed on the cross – even though we didn’t deserve that kind of love (Romans 5:8). It is evident in the Father’s refusal to abandon us, even when we feel the most alone. This love, pursuit, and protection is a mystery – it flies in the face of our lived experience but we need to remember our lived experience is human experience. God is beyond our human limitations and failings. I sat on a plane after that conference where I questioned whether I believed God would never let me down. I looked at the sunset as the moon rose over the horizon. The colors blended together in a brilliant masterpiece of art. In that moment, I felt peace and heard a voice in my heart, the voice of the Father, speak quietly to me, “I am not going to hurt you. I am not going to let you down.” Join us in prayer this year, as we break open this critical theme. We believe that we can begin a shift in our attitude toward God, fatherhood, service, and faith this year by coming to know Him as the one who will never let us down. After all, if our God is a Relentless Father, constantly pursuing us, when we know His heart, we can’t help but become relentless in pursuit of souls for Him, as well.