After that conference I believed, without a doubt, that God was real and that he would forgive me whenever I came to Him. I resonated with the parable of the Prodigal Son. In the midst of his sins the lost son came to his senses and decided to return to his father.
It’s hard to overstate how good this experience was, but mixed in with all the good was a thread of bad. Weeds were planted alongside the wheat. For much of my young adulthood I had a “performance mentality” when it came to my relationship with God. In other words, as long as I performed well (didn’t sin) I was in God’s good graces, but when I sinned I lost my relationship with God and had to go to Confession to get it back.
My faith life became merely sin management. It reduced the adventure of holiness to simply not sinning. It also twisted my relationship with God to being all about me. I had to follow the rules to stay in God’s good graces. I had to go back to God for his forgiveness after I sinned. I made myself the primary actor in this relationship, not God.
This performance mentality turned me into the older son in the parable of the Prodigal Son, you know, the son that felt entitled, angry, and bitter. I was rigid and scrupulous, fearful that one mistake would cut me off from God and send me to Hell. I saw God as a judge who probably only really cared about me when I followed all the rules. Then once I had successfully managed my sins (or at least the ones I thought were most serious) I felt like I had earned my relationship with God. I felt self-righteous and comfortable. But I was also bored. Deep down I longed for a more powerful relationship with God.
This mentality almost led me away from God and the Church. I experienced a season of real depression and spiritual desolation, and I didn’t know how to process it. I had managed my sins, so why was this happening to me? I did everything God asked of me. I was the obedient son. So why was I going through this suffering? So I doubled down on my performance mentality and began bargaining with God: “God, I will do this much more prayer and fasting if you take this depression and desolation away from me.” I treated my relationship with God like a vending machine where I paid in with piety and following all the rules and He paid out with grace.
God eventually broke through though. He showed me how good He is. He gave me new freedom.
God showed me that my relationship with Him isn’t about me following the rules or managing my sin, but first and foremost it is about God chasing after me. In the parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus said that the shepherd chases after his lost sheep “until he finds it.” God is relentlessly pursuing me. God desperately desires to have a relationship with me. God wants to heal me of my sin and transform me into something divine. And I don’t have to convince Him. I don’t have to meet Him halfway. I don’t have to perform. I just have to let Him catch me, heal me, free me, and transform me.
There were a few key things that God used to break me out of that performance mentality, one of them was the Kerygma Encounter retreat.
The word “kerygma” is Greek for “the good news.” That’s the focus of this retreat, to bring those attending into an encounter with the central good news of our Catholic faith: The Father made me for intimate union with Himself; the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus reveals the lengths God will go to relentlessly pursue me until He finds me; and the Holy Spirit heals me and transforms me into the likeness of Christ Himself.
Through the Kerygma Encounter retreats, both as a participant and as a presenter, God planted that Good News deep in my heart. So I am really excited to bring this retreat to the parish again!
On November 13th, Monica Pope and I are leading a Kerygma Encounter retreat here at MHT. The retreat will run from 8:30am-3:30pm in the Activity Center.
This retreat is great for anyone who may be interested in a full weekend retreat but has had a difficult time getting that to work with their schedule. It’s also a great event for people to invite their non-Catholic or non-practicing Catholic friends and family too.
There's no cost, only a freewill offering at lunch. Please register on the parish website or by calling the parish office so we know how much food to get (we will have coffee and light refreshments in the morning and then something for lunch).
Come and let the Lord heal you, free you, and transform you.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.