I have been reflecting upon the great people the Lord brought across my path early in life. One of the most influential, to whom I return again and again in my mind, was Paul Masek. He was an extraordinary mentor; if you read The God Who is Love, then you already know how he offered me encouragement and direction at critical junctures.
I was reminded of Paul again at Mass this past
Sunday, when the music leader performed a version of Psalm 23, "The Lord
is my Shepherd." When I was starting high school things were pretty
rough. I had
seriously committed my life to Jesus about a year before and was heading
into high school with a reputation of being seriously over-religious.
(Translation: I read the Bible and was very excited to share what
was doing in my life.) In 1987, even in a Catholic school, that put you on the outside of a lot of social groups.
had been introduced to Paul, a young, Catholic youth minister, about a
month before freshman year; and we became fast friends. When I shared my struggles at
school with him he reminded me of the final line in Psalm 23, "Surely
goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will
dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (23:6), and then he broke it
open for me: "The psalm says that goodness 'follows'
us all the days of our lives - but have to turn around to see it.
Often times, in the moment, we cannot recognize the good that God is
bringing about. It's only after time passes and we look back, that
we're able to see it."
And he was right. God was deepening my
Him by letting me experience resistance. He helped me to
understand, from the start, that committing yourself to following Jesus -
what so many people imagine as "playing it safe" - is the most radical,
revolutionary thing a human being can do. Looking back I
wouldn't trade those early days for anything. God walked with me and
held me incredibly close throughout. And in the end,
high school turned out to be a good experience - both spiritually and
socially; but those are stories for another time. "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose" (Rom.8:28). That is true for every one of us, even those who leave this world as martyrs.
Paul Masek is a guy worth getting to know. I highly recommend checking out his blog, book, and the amazing retreat team he heads up, R.E.A.P. (of which yours truly was blessed to be an original member a couple of decades back!).