I liked to think that I grew up in a good Christian home where both my parents urged me to become a “good Christian boy.” At the age of seven I accepted Christ’s sacrifice for my sins and became “saved.” Being a child that young, I didn’t grasp what that exactly meant. As I reflect upon my youth, I realize that I our family had dysfunctions, as most do. At the age of ten both of my parents started working nights outside of the home, which left me craving attention. That spurred a drive to achieve more than was expected in an attempt to gain that attention. As a child I had the opportunity to go to the Kennedy Space Center, and even as a young child took the time to read their slogan, “Failure is not an option.” I took that mentality from that point on and set unrealistic standards of what I had to live up too. The pressure to do well in everything that I did caused me to put up a front for the world to see.
During middle school, I was invited to a youth group that seemed to have a positive influence on the kids who went there. I realize that I was there for the wrong reasons. Like most guys I was driven by what girls thought of me, and I originally came to youth group in the pursuit of a girl. As I continued to go to youth group, one of the youth leaders started to care about me. He was intentional with spending time with me, monitoring how I was doing, and genuinely showing compassion towards me. Eventually I didn’t even care about the girl because I was so interested in the content and the community in my youth group. This inspired me to start serving at the local bible camp doing whatever I could do to help. When I went back to school in the fall I would still really struggle because on the inside I hadn’t embraced what it meant to be a Christian. I lived in a manner that wasn’t genuine and didn’t see any fruit in my life because I wasn’t taking it seriously.
I struggled with things like pride, replacing God with sports, and addiction. I cared more about what people thought of me than what God thought of me. I became entrapped by clinging to sexual addiction and found myself degrading women and robbing them of the respect that they deserve as creations of an almighty God. The athletic ability that God gifted me with allowed me to excel in every sport that I was involved in. I was an athletic, intelligent kid and my community recognized me for it. I attempted to give the glory to God, but majority of the time I failed. A verse that I would always use to remind myself was 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I needed to realize that I am part of something bigger, and all of the good things are because of God, and the credit should go to Him.
During my summer before my freshman year of college, I contracted mononucleosis (which is a viral infection of the Epstein-Barr Virus) from one of my campers while sharing a soda. I had the rare case where my spleen swelled and then burst. After five days in ICU, and my chances of playing college basketball diminished, I came to the point where I had to rely one other people rather than myself. Sadly, this still didn’t get my attention. A few weeks later my parents became aware of my sexual sin with my girlfriend and the boundaries that we had crossed. A lot of words were said, but the only ones that resound in my mind were: “You’re a fraud, and you have lied to everyone that you care about.” It took having all of my pride being ripped out of me to get my attention on Christ. I came into college broken, looking for something, searching for a direction. As I sat in the lobby of residence hall, God’s first act took place in the form of my CA inviting me to bible study and CRU. The male friendships between the guys on my floor and various leaders in both IV and CRU have continued to encourage me. Without the influence of God through strategic individuals in my life, I don’t think that I would have realized that I would never be satisfied with anything but living and working in the ministry of Christ.
After having everything I knew changed through this radical process I finally had the opportunity to grow because I wasn’t holding myself back by lying to the people closest to me. I started being transparent with people who were keeping me accountable, and I started to realize the wealth of knowledge that surrounded me in the form of elders in the church and at college. By being open I learned that I am no longer alone in facing the struggles of addiction, in the pursuit of feeling loved, but that there are so many people who care about me. I am so far from perfect, and I am realizing even today that it isn’t about me, but about His work. I can be successful by God’s grace. The community that God has placed in my life at college has challenged me to be more than a person claiming to be a Christian and never “settling” because He has a plan. I now realize that nothing I experience is without purpose.