Lutheran Young Adult Corps provides full time service opportunities for LCMS young adults in urban settings. Participants grow in community and share their faith in Jesus through acts of service. Starting in 2017, Lutheran Young Adult Corps began placing young people into full time service for 10 weeks in the summer or 10 months through a school year. They use the gifts God has given them to add important capacity to urban congregations, campus ministries and Recognized Service Organizations.
Some of our participants have been excellent writers. They have taken to the keyboard to share a bit about how the Holy Spirit has worked in and through them during their service. We hope this will serve to share a bit about our program, but also to encourage other young people to reach out where they are with the Gospel!
Young and Reckless
“Am I volunteering this summer for the right reasons? I can tell myself that I’m volunteering because I want to help people or that I want to follow God’s calling in my life, but the honest truth is that I’m volunteering because I feel stuck, and I need something different. I need more fulfillment.”
That’s an excerpt from a journal entry I made on Thursday, May 31, 2018—the day before I moved to St. Louis for my 10-week summer volunteer placement with the Lutheran Young Adult Corps. I wish that wasn’t the opening narrative of my story here, but it is. It’s supposed to be a story about serving my neighbors in Christ—it’s supposed to be rooted in love and sacrifice for others, but instead, it’s rooted in selfish ambitions and this grand notion that if I do something “big enough” or “good enough,” I’ll feel satisfied and fulfilled.
I don’t think it’s out of the ordinary to feel that way, though. In fact, I’m confident we’ve all been there—we just cover up our emptiness with a cross-shaped necklace, walk into church with a smile plastered on our face, and sing, “Amazing Grace” with the rest of the church choir. After all, when we live in a world that valuates us based on what we’ve earned or accomplished, the very notion that our fulfillment could be found in something (or someone) beyond ourselves and that we don’t have to do anything to earn that value is completely foreign to our sinful nature. And so we’re left feeling stuck, like we need something different, and that we need more fulfillment.
I can tell you that college has not helped this mess of a mental and spiritual predicament one bit. Remember that part where I said the world valuates us based on what we’ve earned or accomplished? Well, the problem with twenty-somethings in college is that our greatest accomplishment is somehow managing to sustain life on nothing but mac and cheese for four years. (Actually, we’re all in an undercover FDA case study, but don’t tell Kraft.) For every life accomplishment that’s not on our resume, we fall farther and farther from the bar that says we’ve “measured up.” And that’s exactly what it feels like—falling. Face down. On. The. Ground. And somehow, the ground I ended up on this summer was in St. Louis.
In all seriousness, though, I do love Jesus, and I do want to serve Him. It’s just really hard navigating what that looks like while also suffering from the side effects of being twenty-one, such as I don’t know what I’m doing with my life and I’m not accomplishing anything meaningful. Fortunately, though, being twenty-one is curable, and so is feeling stuck and in need of fulfillment.
If I measure my fulfillment by what I’ve actually accomplished this summer, I’d still be feeling pretty empty. I don’t mean to downplay the work I’m doing—I’ve just had to realize that sometimes, God works in small ways. When I go to Target because the office I’m working at needs more hand soap, that’s God working. When I empty the dishwasher at home, that’s God working. When I take the time to have a conversation and build relationships with people, that’s God working. God is so big, and we are so small, and He’s going to work how He wants to work, even when the world says we’re not measuring up because we aren’t “accomplishing” anything. As it turns out, we don’t have to accomplish anything because our biggest accomplishment—life and salvation in Christ Jesus—has already been won for us, and there’s nothing more we can do to earn or change that.
This is why the human understanding of “fulfillment” is just a rabbit hole of misguided emotions, philosophies, and selfish ambitions. We can’t create our own fulfillment—only God can. And I think God measures fulfillment in terms of relationships. In the end, it’s our relationship with Christ, who, through our Baptism and Holy Communion, brings us closer to Him and all other believers in Christ Jesus, which is the greatest fulfillment we could ever receive.
Ultimately, our value is in God’s reckless love for us, which was poured out when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave to save us from our sins. That love is our greatest value and reward, and because of it, we can recklessly love others.