Complacency and addiction. If my life had to be summarized in two words, those would have been it. You see, throughout my childhood I grew up knowing a vague church-based view of God. God is all-loving and forgives us for anything-as long as we ask for it. This naïve view of God was the basis for my reasoning on how I lived my life. I was told of freedom through Christ, but I felt like I was in chains.
Throughout grade school and middle school God wasn’t important. Despite going to a Christian school, I was never taught to live for Christ, read the bible, or meet and talk about my life and faith with others. Instead, those years were filled with a desire to be accepted based on my athletic accomplishments and later, a desire for acceptance through the opposite sex. This led to a life that was based on unhealthy habits such as sexual impurity through pornography, and relationships with girls, as well as seeking my identity in athletic accomplishments.
The worst part of my story is that these things catapulted me into having success (or so I thought). The summer of my sophomore year in high school I met a girl and we started dating. This relationship turned into an unhealthy one based on sexual impurity. Alongside this, I had great athletic accomplishments. I was called up to varsity for football as a sophomore and also excelled at basketball, track and field, and power lifting. The further into high school I went, the “better it got” and the more friends I had (or so I thought). At the end of my senior year I had been the football team’s captain, MVP, 2-time all-conference selection, and on the All-Area Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Football Team, as well as a two-time track captain, finishing top 5 in conference in the shot put, and making it to state two years in a row for power lifting. My relationship with my girlfriend had slipped even more into the physical side to the point where every time we hung out we’d be fooling around. My world came to a crashing halt one day during the final week of my high school career; my girlfriend suddenly broke up with me, and I badly sprained my ankle later that day at practice- one day before the sectional track meet where I was one of the favorites to advance.
Needless to say, I was no match with a bad ankle and missed making state; something I had worked extremely hard for and looked forward to. This string of events led me into a summer of depression and free fall, searching for fulfillment. Unfortunately this free fall included me looking to women to fulfill myself, leading to more impurities and further depression. I went through my first year at UW-Stevens Point feeling a different feeling each day; sadness, recovery, then more sadness, recovery, and etc. I knew there had to be something more. I lacked “freedom” and still felt like I had chains holding me down.
Then sophomore year came. Knowing there had to be more than what I was living for, I finally agreed to meet with two of my close friends; one who was going to Purdue and the other UW-Lacrosse. What I saw was two guys who were talking about deep issues and who were caring for each other in ways I had never seen guys my age care for each other. For the first time I saw two guys sincerely pray to the Lord in public.
The ironic part of this whole situation is that it all came after another hard event in my life; after a full season of college football at UWSP, as well as a full offseason of intense training, I badly hurt my knee and was forced to give up football for good. What seemed to be a killer blow in my life was really an event that helped free me. For the first time in my life I realized that there was more to my life than pleasing others and proving my self-worth through being successful at athletics. This led me to search for more, which led me to Christ.
After meeting with my two friends, I went through my sophomore year struggling to figure out how to follow Christ with my life. By the time I went home for the summer, I committed my life to Christ for the first time and immediately got into the Bible and started from the book of Matthew and read through the New Testament multiple times. The words I read impacted me and changed me in ways I cannot fully describe. It freed me. I no longer felt the weight of this life. By the time I came back to Stevens Point for my junior year, I was a totally different man; Christ had called me and had taken my heart over. In the next two years the Lord would use me in ways I never thought possible.
This whole experience has been so humbling and awesome at the same time. It wasn’t easy though; throughout the process the Lord has tested me and I have had to give up some things that were hard to give up. This includes friendships, hobbies and habits in my life that I had been dependent on, and quite frankly, my old self. If there are two words that describe my life now, they would by joyous and free. I am free to live in Christ and follow my wild heart to wherever He takes it and joyous because of the immense joy I have found in Jesus these past two years of my life. I consider following Christ my life, my joy, my pleasure, and my duty. I am called to follow him wherever he takes me and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about God, it’s that his plan will be more amazing, awesome, and adventurous than anything I could possibly imagine. That’s the journey I’m taking and there could be no better way!
Wanting Freedom but Being in Chains