Since this is the first issue of what I hope to be many, I must introduce a little about myself. I grew up in Lincoln City, Oregon, but I was born in Salem. At the age of three I was removed from the custody of my mom and placed into a temporary foster home. I was only there for one night and then I was back with my mom, I think. But for the next eight or ten years, this would be a common event in my life; bouncing back and forth between the custody of my mom and the custody of my foster parents, who were mostly my grandparents. I think it was around the age of eleven or twelve when my grandparents officially became my legal guardians and thus began a life of opportunity.
I say “a life of opportunity” because it was my grandpa who enabled my older brother and I to be who we are. With my mom there was no such opportunity. She was addicted to meth and allowing many drug-affiliated friends into her home while we were there. It was a bad environment. The man who eventually became my “step-dad” was a marijuana dealer who had verbally threatened my mother’s life on several occasions. He would yell these things at her regardless of our presence. He looked upon us with annoyance and disdain. My siblings and I felt worthless.
But he was quickly out of my life. When my grandpa finally adopted me, my drug-dealing stepdad was no longer allowed to see me. It wasn’t anything put forth by a restriction order or anything the government said; it was by law of my grandpa. If you ever meet my grandpa, he’s a pleasant man. He’s got a burly, God-like voice that demands your attention. And yet, he’s got a perpetual charisma that is deeply contagious. Since his generation and mine are separated by several decades, his raising me might have been different than how kids today are normally raised. He was pretty strict about rules within the household; no wearing hats, you took off your shoes at the door, and you didn’t punch your brother. And at a young age, I do believe I misinterpreted his rules and raising style. I took offense instead of reverence.
I had thought he was singling me out whenever he would lecture my brother and I about our “rough-housing.” And since I didn’t ask him to see if he was singling me out, I simply assumed it and continued on. This built a great dislike for him. Since he was at home, I didn’t want to be there. I would spend whatever time I could at school or hanging out with friends, but then those became troublesome as well. When I was at my friends’ houses, I would notice their fathers – something I’ve never had. And when I’d see them at school, I would remember their fathers and the horrible feeling of worthlessness would return. It was right around the age of 14 when I started to think about what life might be like if I were not alive anymore. I think if I had gone to a doctor about this, I might have been deemed “clinically depressed.” Regardless of labels, I knew I wanted to kill myself.
There came a week when I determined to do just that. I told myself, “This weekend; it’s going to happen, no matter what.” But then I grew quite afraid of it. I thought about what happens when I die in this world and the many uncertainties that came to mind made me tremble. I was afraid of staying in this world, but I was more afraid of leaving it. And then came God.
It was during the week I decided to absolutely kill myself when I was invited to a concert. It was a close friend whom I knew went to church who asked me to go. And when I joined them to help out with an Easter set up (I only went for the candy, trust me), their pastor even asked me if I wanted to come. With how much I didn’t want to be at home and how much I didn’t like hanging out at my friends’ places, I decided to go.
Retreats away from the familiar are wonderful. You’re so wrapped up in wonder and excitement of the new things you’re seeing and experiencing that you forget the pain you feel in your comfort zones. And that’s exactly where God met me. This concert, I would soon find out, was a Christian concert. Acquire the Fire – as it was called – was a massive gathering of thousands of Christians and almost all of which were youth ministries or just a bunch of kids my age. I don’t think it was any one sermon or testimony that made me curious about God, but I left that weekend wanting to know more. And within the next couple of months, I was baptized and given a Bible to read.
Although the pain of being at home or at school was alleviated with this new-found practice, another boring and equally destructive practice was produced: religion. My life wasn’t about what others thought of me or about how worthless I felt; but rather about going to church every Sunday and reading a chapter of the Bible a day. The good parts were learning a lot about something I didn’t know and finding a place where I no longer felt insignificant. But the bad part was that I wasn’t yet experiencing a relationship with Christ. Then came college.
If you’ve ever spent longer than a month or so in Lincoln City and around the people of Lincoln City, you might notice how secluded it might seem. All the while I was there, I felt cut off from the rest of the world, from different cultures other than the American, and even from other Christians my age. Certainly there were Christians my age in Lincoln City, but I sadly did not spend much time with them. When I came to college, I had pretty much no choice in the matter; they were all around. I started learning how to be a Christian amongst other Christians and also amongst those who have aggressively different beliefs. A few of these Christian friends felt the need to bring me to church events and churchy things. Jon Derby is the main one.
He may not know it or believe it, but he was the main reason why I even came to U of O in the first place. Back in the spring of my senior year in high school I was contemplating not even going to college. I saw that it was way too expensive and too much of a challenge for me. But he reasoned me into it and the next thing I knew I was accepted to the University, provided with a financial aid package that covers everything (though not entirely free – I know, a bummer), and was loading up my things to move into the dorms. There was another family within my hometown church who helped with some financial funding whom I am deeply grateful for. Apparently this family and Derby saw something that I didn’t: an opportunity from God.
Once I was totally settled into the dorms, Derb brought me out to a churchy thing called Cross Training. Through Cross Training, I was engulfed into a communal exploration of God; not just an individual one. I realized the porn watching I did throughout high school was immoral and had to be cut. I realized the many thoughts and feelings I had towards my grandfather were not Godly and had to be altered. I realized that I also could not force my beliefs upon another and humility became attractive. The winter break after my first college term was an eye-opening break. I had gone back to the same house I lived in, the same job I had, and the same kind of ritualistic life I lived when I was in high school. But something broke through.
It seems kind of funny now, but what broke me then was an episode of “Fresh Prince of Bel Aire.” I forget what the episode was titled, but I remember it being the one where Uncle Phil had a heart attack and the whole family was there to visit him, except for Carlton. If you haven’t seen an episode of “Fresh Prince,” just trust me with what I’m saying. I’ve seen so many episodes so many times I could almost quote it better than the Bible. Anyhow, Will Smith (who plays… himself, sort of) was the one to go find Carlton since he was the only one missing at the hospital. He found him back at their house and Will asked Carlton why he wasn’t there. He said he didn’t want to see his father like that; Phil had always been big and strong in his life and to see him so weak and frail would be too much. Will’s reply was what cut me deep; “At least you have a father to look to at all. Where’s my father? I don’t know!” At those words, I lost it. The pain of not knowing who my dad is, the guilt of watching so much porn, the guilt of holding such horrible grudges was all too much to bear and I spent the next two hours weeping. It was then that I experienced God.
The next couple of years were much harder to work through, but easier on the heart. I had a lot to change and though I disagreed with God in a lot of it, I knew it would only make my walk with Him stronger and would, in the end, provide healing. I threw away old desires that were only destructive to my walk and embraced new passions that weren’t really new. I now love writing and want to commit the rest of my life to it, but it’s not a new passion. From my early childhood I remember being enthralled in the world of literature, even if I wasn’t conscious of the love. Brian Jacques’ Redwall series was one I became addicted to and I am quite certain I read every last book. Then when I came to college the sudden speculating thought of “Could I create something like this on my own?” entered my mind. And soon enough it grew to become a way of serving God.
Which brings me to today. I’ve been thinking about writing something for Calvary for quite some time and after asking several people, I realized this could be something more than just me writing. This is intended to be something that draws people closer to Christ, both collectively and individually. I intend to write out my thoughts about life, love, theology, doctrines, and God and I invite all who read this into that journey. I hope my words may encourage, uplift, inspire, or at least point you to the One who does all that better than I. I hope to blog as often as I can, but with my senior year starting up, I can’t quite guarantee anything. Write a comment if you like or if you aren’t comfortable with that, shoot me an email, it should be on the profile. And “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” 1 Corinthians 10:31. God bless