If I were to be honest with myself, I would sum up the majority of my life in one verb: running. I grew up in a home with two parents who loved me, provided for me, and taught me Biblical truth. Church was a priority for my family. Even if we were out of town, we would find a local church to attend. But like every family, we struggled and had our issues. Although it would be hard financially, emotionally, and spiritually at times, the Lord always provided for us. All of this was a blessing from the Lord, and it is something to consistently be thankful for.
While the Lord blessed me with such a great upbringing, I never realized my true need for a personal relationship with the Lord. I was running on my own. From my perspective, I felt it was going pretty well, too. Since my parents were Christians, I thought it automatically made me one. Because of this perspective, I was a really good kid. I didn’t get into trouble, I did what I was told to do, and I followed the rules. It was not until the latter half of middle school did I realize I could not run on my own. My parents could teach me, love me, and be great examples of Christ in my life, but they could not have a personal relationship with the Lord for me. So on February 1st of 2010, I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. My mom walked me through the Gospel, and I believed that Jesus came and died for my sins, and He desires to have a relationship with me.
Throughout junior high and high school, I maintained my status as a “good kid.” From the outside, I had it all together. I attended a Christian high school, ran with the right crowds, knew all of the right answers, and was a consistent leader for faith in school and youth group. In the summer after my 9th grade year, I attended a church camp through CrossChurch in NorthWest Arkansas. On the third night, the speaker encouraged those with a calling to ministry to surrender. At that moment, I knew the Lord was calling me to serve Him in vocational ministry. However, I could not swallow my pride and I ran from the Lord. Exactly one year later, the Lord placed me in the same circumstances as the year before. Literally: the same camp, same place, same speaker, same night, same message, and I was most likely sitting in the same seat. I ran from my calling for a year, refusing to confront it. I was so prideful. But the summer after my sophomore year, the Lord was not going to let me run again. The Holy Spirit led me to tell someone what was going on, and I surrendered my life to God’s calling of vocational ministry. (Specifically a calling to preach). It led me to Ouachita Baptist University, where I can be equipped with the tools to do so. After graduation, I will pursue seminary, a doctorate degree, and hopefully preach His word in a church setting for the rest of my life.
For a long time, I wished that was the extent of my story. All of it true, just without the pain and sin involved in the process. Due to me having a “good kid” reputation growing up, I was highly performance based. I developed a fear of failure, which I still wrestle with today. In the 6th grade, I was introduced to pornography. Just like all sin, it started very mild. But by freshman year of high school, it became an addiction. My pornography addiction led me to treat the girls I wanted to pursue as accessories, rather than daughters of the King. I could not tell anyone I was struggling though, due to my fear of failure. No way. I had to maintain my status and have it all together. My silence in sin made me deceitful, and I became a great liar. Being silent about unforgiven sin breeds selfishness and hypocrisy, inviting the evil one to have a foothold in your life. I deceived my parents, my friends, my school, and practically anyone I came into contact with. Specifically my senior year, I was fake. I had no close friends, tried to get any affection I could from any girl, took advantage of social media, and struggled with depression. I eventually hit rock bottom- like we all seem to do. Running was no longer an option, because there was nowhere left to go. A friend called me out on my sin that second semester of senior year, and I realized my brokenness. I did not know where to go or what to do, but God intervened.
For the longest time, I refused to confront the pain of my past. It made sense to my prideful heart that I could still serve the Lord without letting anyone know I had unresolved pain. Reflecting on my story, I was always running to or away from something. Running away from our conflict, our pain, or our past will not produce fruit in our lives. Coming to terms with this was hard. The Lord used Kanakuk summer kamps, where I worked as a counselor throughout my college years, to reveal the grievous ways of my heart. The Lord showed me a better understanding of His grace and the depth of His love. I used to be a testimony of shame, regret, and guilt—someone who was consistently running. But once I stopped running and let go of my control, God intervened.
There are so many of us who are still choosing to run. The thing is, God designed us to run, so this confused me for the longest time. I liked running, and our bodies need it for sustainable growth. Sure, running can be hard and not so fun most of the time, but it is always worth it in the long run (lol, pun). Perhaps, we simply started running the wrong direction at some point. Let it be so that we change the direction we are running. We have the option to run towardthe Lord, so we can be withthe Lord. If we do this, our stories make sense and have purpose. I am no longer a testimony of shame, but a testimony of grace.