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Radiate

This summer I have been spending my time planning a youth conference that will take place in the middle of August. The conference is called “Radiate,” and it is going to be at the Kroc Center. The whole premise of the conference is relationships. Why we desire to be in them, how we see ourselves in them, and the final topic (and it’s a big one) sex. These topics are usually overlooked by the church with young people, but culture is certainly not overlooking it – and it has a lot to say about these things. My hope is that this conference can give teenagers a better understanding of God’s design for relationships and sex – and how beautiful that design is.

This is a super important event for me in particular, because these topics are things that I have struggled with. I would have given anything to have had something like this when I was 14-15. It is very easy for a young man or woman to be so wrapped up in shame that they are paralyzed and unable to speak up about problems they have – I know this feeling first-hand. I want young people to know that we do not see them as gross or disgusting for having issues or questions or concerns in these areas and that God doesn’t either. I want them to know that they matter, and they are so unbelievably valued in the eyes of our great defender, Jesus Christ. I feel very passionate about these specific issues, because they are not discussed really at all in the church, or at least they were not where I was raised. They should be, though, and I want these young people to know that ultimate reconciliation and restoration can only come from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They need to know that they are okay, and that they matter. The world can be very loud on these issues, and it is hard to hear God’s voice on these matters, matters of sexuality. I just feel so strongly that the 14-year-old girl who lost her virginity to some older guy needs to know that she is not broken because of this, that she has not lost any worth, but that she is wholly loved by Christ no matter her condition, and Christ does not for one second become appalled by our mistakes (can you imagine if he was?). He does not abandon us in our issues, but instead meets us in the midst of them. I want the 16-year-old guy who has not been able to shake his addiction to pornography to know that he does not need to be afraid of walking into the light. Because in that light, there is healing and restoration. He is not alone in this struggle; in fact, Christ is right there with him in it. This is the reason that I think Christianity is so powerful: because as Christians we believe that in all the chaos of the world God came down and lived among us. He lived among the people He knew were going to put him to death, and He loved us anyway – and He continues to do so. It is a harrowing feeling knowing that I put him there on that cross, yet He still calls me “Son.”

Teenage years can be difficult to navigate, especially without realizing that there is hope and that there is purpose in all of this. Something I passionately believe that we need to realize is that Jesus came to this Earth and he lived. And his life was full of hope and meaning and purpose. It is easy to get lost in the simplified belief that Christ came here just to die, that He was born to die, and that was his main goal. But I think if we see it that way, we are missing so much of what He was doing here on Earth: He was establishing his kingdom on earth and showing us what it means to love, what it means to forgive, what it means to live. We need to avoid the belief that nothing here matters, because this world has infinite value. I mean, Jesus seemed to think so, He seemed to think this world was worth saving so much so that He was willing to come to Earth to finish a war that continues to be fought, but is already won by the Great Creator of the Universe. As Christians, it is our duty to fight back the darkness of the world and to not be afraid when things get a little crazy. I want to run into the darkness of these issues with the light that Jesus Christ provides us, and I want to pray crazy prayers, prayers that call for complete restoration and complete healing of these young people who are currently believing the lies of the enemy. I want these young people–and for us–to never forget that we are important parts of this battle that rages on against evil in the world. But also for us to remember that as we fight, this war has already been won and Jesus is coming. And in that, there is eternal hope for the world. In that, there is light in the darkest of places.

the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it – John 1:5

May the peace and light of Christ be among you today.

  • Willy

Comments(2)

  1. Reply
    Kris Hannigan-Luther says

    Your vision for this conference sounds awesome, Willy! Thanks for your insightful words.

  2. Reply
    Laura Coffman to Emily says

    Willie–Your thoughts have been mine but I did not know how to give them words. When I was a teenager in 1940 these thoughts not only were not spoken of in church youth groups, but not even in families. I hope all goes well in your conference. Thank you for trying. Wishing we could talk. Laura Coffman, a life-long Presbyterian.

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