There’s this phrase that goes around that says, “20 seconds of insane courage can change your life,” and I believe it. Working as a missionary with NET Ministries Ireland, I and my team get to do retreats all over the Dublin area for both primary and secondary students! For about six weeks we were focusing on a particular parish in the southern suburbs of the city. Recently at our fourth retreat with students of the same school, one student’s 20 seconds of insane courage changed my life and the lives of his classmates.
NET’s retreat Encounter Days start off fun and energetic! They include games, funny introductions, small groups, and activities where students learn about faith in engaging ways. During retreats, NET missionaries invest and build a relationship with the students. As the day progresses, the discussions and activities dive deeper and become more serious. Each student is sorted into a small group, which meets several times throughout the retreat for the students to discuss what they are learning and experiencing. Near the end of the retreat, students take time to sit, pray, and silently reflect on the day and what they have experienced. Beautiful music plays in the background and we ask each student if he or she would like the NET missionary to pray with them. The students are completely free to say “yes” or “no thanks". For many students who say “yes”, this is the first time they have ever prayed before, either with someone else or on their own. Each retreat, I am continually more humbled and honored at the experience!
At this particular retreat with 6th class students (age 11-12), the local priest was also there offering the sacrament of Confession during the prayer time. In the Sacrament of Confession, we encounter Jesus’ love, mercy and forgiveness of all our sins. We get to come to God, say, “You know what Jesus, I’ve done some things that I’m not proud of, and I know that you made me for more than this. I want to start over and try again.” Now, usually when it is offered, we encourage the young people to go and receive the sacrament of Confession, though most times they are afraid to go first. For whatever reason at this retreat, when we reminded the students that Confession was available, one young boy had the courage to stand up and be the first.
I was so moved by the student’s 20 seconds of insane courage! He stood up in front of his entire class and walked to receive Confession. I cannot imagine the strength he needed to be so brave at only twelve years old! However, because of his courage, one by one, fourteen children and their teacher got up and got into line to receive the sacrament. Because of one young boy’s 20 seconds of insane courage, the lives of 12 other students and their teacher were changed. They too got to experience mercy found in Confession! My life was changed as well. I was moved to tears by this student’s bravery in the face of fear, and his ability to reach so many without even knowing it. Jesus was showing many young hearts his tenderness, love, and mercy that day. The boy’s 20 seconds of insane courage changed not only his life that day, but many others as well.
What if we all had 20 seconds of insane courage? How would our lives change? Would we finally do that dance class, or ask that girl out on a date, or learn how to do archery? Would we give Jesus a chance? Would we do a year of mission? Would we finally get rid of those things in our lives that keep us from being saints? Who could you be if you had 20 seconds of insane courage?