What would my 20 year-old self think of me now?

Last week, I sat in an arena with 20,000 college students, asking this question. The Passion Conference—simultaneously hosted at three arenas in Atlanta and Houston (with a combined attendance of 40,000 students)—felt like a time machine. It was as big and amazing as 15 years before, when I sat in a similar arena with a similar group of students, praising God and dreaming of a radical life for Christ.

Back then, I believed anything was possible. Anything. Nothing was too great for God. I had countless friends giving sacrificially, sharing faith without fear, and traveling overseas as missionaries. That’s what we thought it meant to be Christian, and that’s what I committed to, for the rest of my life.

Attending the Passion Conference again so many years later felt like going to a wedding and remembering my vows. It reminded me of my promises and my dreams. It was also a heck of a gut check; I’m not the same person I was back then, and ever since I came home last week, I wondered why.

As I grew up, I went through a holy winnowing of my motives. Not all of my dreams as a young college student were really about God. Some of the “glory” I dreamed of was my own. The excitement, adrenaline, and all-in commitment to Christ—a lot of it was contingent upon my own success. I envisioned standing on the Passion stage one day, and those crowds would be mesmerized by me.

God stripped away a lot of that selfish ambition, but not all of the changes since I first went to Passion have been for the better. If I could sit down with my younger self—or the students attending Passion today—I’d tell them about some of the ...

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