Up until about two years ago, I have been the typical disconnected Christian man. As I reflect on how I wasted so much time ignoring God’s calling, I must start from the beginning.
I grew up in a typical “Christian” family who attended church on Sundays, but never talked about God the rest of the week. We were that way until my freshman year of high school. My parents split up and church was nowhere in the picture. As my parents’ lives were focused on drinking, partying, and starting new families, I was left to fend for myself.
My junior year of high school, I left my dad’s house and decided to do things on my own. During this time, I was invited to a youth group meeting at Oak Ridge Baptist Church. It was here that I first really heard about the love of Jesus and his plan of salvation. That summer I accepted Christ and began my Christian walk. For the next 5 years, I relied on God for almost everything. I prayed for beds to sleep in, food to eat, and rides to get to jobs. I stayed with six different families, and although I may have missed a meal here and there, I never went hungry. I was also obedient to God when he called. I helped at youth camps and went on mission trips each summer. I helped set chairs up at church and got involved wherever else I could.
Although I had this great walk with Jesus, I was still hurting on the inside and found it difficult to trust others. I kept my distance from others to avoid being hurt even more.
I eventually met the girl who would become my wife. Once I was married and had a steady income, I vowed that I would never let myself be dependent on anyone again. Little did I know, this was a wall I put up for God as well.
In 2005, I joined the Air Force where God sent us all over the world (seven moves in almost 13 years). The great part about that for me was that I never had to form strong, long-term relationships with anyone. I could keep my distance, and when things started to get too deep, it would be time to move again.
As He usually does, God had other plans for my life.
Through a forced career change in the Air Force, we found ourselves here in Maryland. Little did I know that would change things for me. The first couple of years were the same old story--I attended church while my wife was plugged into serving. I found every excuse to not get involved.
It took many prayers from my wife and others before I decided to connect. After at least three times of being asked to go to Fight Club (a men’s group at our church), I gave it a shot. I started attending the Wednesday night Bible study. It was not immediate, but after a few weeks I began to connect with other Christian men who had the same struggles that I did. As I began to open up more, the connections grew stronger and the wall I had put up 15 years before began to break down.
The biggest heart change for me occurred during my first Fight Club iteration. During the iteration, we were assigned a squad, paired with an accountability partner, and asked to complete physical, spiritual, and relational challenges. I started studying God’s Word, praying on a daily basis, and sharing with my accountability partner. The challenges are very personal, and God used several men to push me past my comfort zone and encouraged me to not settle for mediocre. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” I’ve heard that verse so many times and I had never really given it much credit. But, as I listened to and gave advice to my accountability partner, just as he had done for me, this verse began to take on more meaning as we pushed each other.
During the last two years, I have found my faith growing exponentially. God has been equipping and using me in more ways that I could have imagined. I am no longer just attending church, I am a fully engaged Christian man, husband, father, and friend. God has taken me from the man who didn’t even want to go to a Bible study, to using me as a part of the Fight Club leadership team--I am now that guy who will ask you to come to Bible study or to give the Fight Club a try.
As I've opened up to God, he's opened up to me, and the more I've given, the more he's given back to me. God took the bricks from the walls I put up, and used them to build bridges to new relationships beyond anything I ever thought possible.