God fights for me. He shouldn’t have to, yet he does, time and time again.

Growing up, I was seen as the Catholic in my community. I went to Catholic school my entire life, altar served for ten years at my parish, attended youth group as often as possible, attended multiple retreats, and learned tons of theology. I viewed all of these activities as tools to strengthen my spiritual life, like spiritual exercises to obtain a stronger faith.

When I came to college, my world was different. I moved to a different city and knew only one person. My school became my parish and the campus ministry was different than what I was used to at home. Things were very off.

Then, the Lord invited me into something new, something even more unfamiliar, something unexpected. Through a co-worker, I was invited to attend an info-meeting for a youth-development organization. I had been invited to volunteer at this organization before, but I had always declined considering that I didn’t really like kids.

Nonetheless, I attended the info-meeting featuring the organization’s founder who flew in from Georgia. Twelve of us gathered in a small study room on campus. I figured he was going to share how we could get involved and what opportunities were available, but instead, he shared his story of how Jesus changed his life (he was a previous gang member, but I never would have guessed it just by looking at him and hearing him speak of God’s love for him).

Uniquely, he took the time to know us by name and story. In just the brief moments he had met us, he shared the gifts that he saw within us. It was incredible. I originally planned to leave the info-meeting early to attend a day retreat at a local church, but the Lord clearly wanted me to stay and I heartily agreed.

The founder headed back to Georgia, but I remained, encouraged as ever. Soon enough, I became a team member for this organization, Boy With a Ball. All the team members dedicate themselves to learning to hear and obey God’s voice, living in moment-to-moment intimacy with Him, embracing a life of faith and pain (as in, continuously following and trusting in God even in difficult situations), finding and fulfilling God’s purpose for their lives, and finally living by the power of the Holy Spirit. We would gather weekly to discuss how these five things were impacting our lives.

As we developed relationships with one another, it gave room for the team to speak on what they saw in me and vice versa. One night, out of love, my teammates said they constantly saw me placing God in a box as if He could only touch certain areas of my life. I couldn’t comprehend what they meant and I grew angry. I thought about permanently leaving Boy With a Ball because it was unlike what I originally perceived it to be. I figured we would pray to find the next steps for the organization, not hold each other accountable to this extreme.

But then comes grace. The purpose of the team can be summarized by Proverbs 27:17:

“Iron is sharpened by iron; one person sharpens another”.

My teammates stuck with me even as I pushed back. Many team members who were gathered that day have since left because, like me, they were convicted and felt uncomfortable. Yet, by the grace of God, I stayed and grew spiritually. For the longest time, I was subconsciously distorting my spiritual exercises. I used my Catholic education and church involvement as proof that I had a relationship with God. However, I was more focused on my commitments than my covenants.

I was focused on performance rather than passion.

God knew I would only look for Him in certain areas, so He decided to show up in a new way. It wasn’t in campus ministry or a retreat that I took this new step in my relationship with God, it was through a person sharing their story and a community who was ready to care for me.

This renewed relationship enhanced my spiritual exercises, especially my experience with the Sacraments. Prior to this encounter, I would participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation weekly because I was routinely committing the same sins. Doing this so often, however, made me view the sacrament as a to-do list rather than a tangible sign of God’s grace. When I enter a confessional now, I participate with more intention and a true perspective of restoration. More so, when I am tempted to sin, I now see how it truly affects my relationship with God, not just how I’m feeling that day. Similarly, when I step into a young adult group or retreat setting, I view it as a field of opportunity to see what God will do in my heart and in those around me. I’ve learned that He cannot be limited.

To this day, I still walk with my teammates to seek the Lord’s vision for myself and the organization. It gets difficult at times, but the adventure and thrill are so worth it. I’ve learned (and am constantly learning) to allow the Holy Spirit to move when and how He would want to move. Fear of the Lord must come into play. As the Lord said to Isaiah and now to me:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NABRE).

We have a creative God. In what unique ways could He be reaching out to you in this season of your life? What does an intentional relationship with Him look like?