When I climbed inside my Camry on Monday afternoon, I wasn’t in the greatest mood. I was cold, which is really nothing new, but I was also sick with a sore throat aching more by the minute.
True confessions: I was a mess and had no business heading to St. Louis to present at LCMS U’s Taboo, a conference with hundreds of college students.
I wanted to crawl into bed, cough a lot and wake up three days later.
But the Lord knows what is good for us better than we know ourselves, and from Monday to Wednesday, I watched the Church at work.
I watched 475 students listen attentively to speakers discussing taboo topics: sexuality, contraception, evil, same-sex attraction, singleness, identity.
I watched two young women who had never met become instant friends when they realized they were both Lutheran and single and like the color pink.
I watched them all sing with faith and gusto:
Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusations, I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I’ve traveled, All your might has come unraveled,
And against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!
I watched them gather around their pastors, asking hard questions and getting faithful answers, laughing so hard they tipped backwards in their chairs and leaning in when sharing difficult stories.
I watched them care for one another with compassion and grace.
I watched them stand in line, hundreds at a time, during the service of Confession and Absolution, so that they might kneel and have a pastor place his hands on their heads, pronouncing forgiveness to each of them individually, so that they might know that Jesus is for them.
And I watched the ones for whom showing emotion is uncool smile some of the biggest smiles as they walked back to their pews.
I watched them take selfies with new friends and find each other on Facebook so that they can encourage one another in the faith.
I watched them be countercultural, standing for marriage and life and children and family.
And I watched them treat those who disagreed with respect and with care.
I watched campus pastors kneel by their students when the weight of the topics was heavy on their shoulders, speaking words of comfort and peace, even as they knew when to step back so that the students could work through questions on their own.
I watched young adults admit that they have pet sins, that they struggle, that there are burdens they bear that they never expected.
And I watched pastors preach Jesus to them, that they might know those sins are forgiven.
I watched young Lutheran men watch young Lutheran women and young Lutheran women realize young Lutheran men aren’t so bad after all.
And I watched them laugh, because being thinking and speaking and articulate young Lutherans is just downright, ding dang fun.
And when I think on that, I had no business NOT being there–sore throat, sniffles and all–because our Lord really does know what’s good for us, better than we do ourselves, and being with 475 Lutheran young adults was very good indeed.
PS: Read about the first LCMS U conference Unwrapped here.