My story starts with me not knowing who or even what God was.
I didn’t grow up in the church. I went to Catholic school because I was “too bad” for public school. I was there from age 8-15. Catholic senior high school followed, but just for one year. I was baptized Catholic in 8th grade, not because I wanted to but because I knew that being among all these Catholics, I needed to be. I thought it would magically make me different. It did not. I just kind of tried what I thought was supposed to be living a good life but I didn’t know God so I didn’t know what to believe. I made some bad decisions, and from age 17-24 I was living life thinking that if I avoided the “BIG sins” (and we all know what those are) that I would be fine. I finally started getting my life together, going from partying all the time, to getting more serious about myself and the direction I was headed. During that time span, I actually tried going back to church several times. Something kept pulling me back there. But whenever I went back, I just didn’t feel the love at all. It looked like it was a big fashion show, a way for people to flaunt all that they had and put us all on a hierarchy. It didn’t seem to be about God or truly about the people. I decided then that church wasn’t for me.
In 2010, there were two guys I worked with at Comcast who went to Discovery. They bribed me to go to church, actually. In the midst of my foul language and inappropriate behavior during a break one day, I realized that they weren’t participating. I assumed they were “religious” and asked them about it. They were always so friendly and, in that moment, confirmed that they were Christians but said they didn’t force their beliefs on anyone. This was so strange to me, and not at all the experience that I had with church or any other religious people I’d encountered up to that time. They knew I played sports and invited me to church through the young adults kickball league. They invited me to church as a deal for me helping their kickball team. I accepted. (We crushed that kickball game, by the way, in case you were wondering!)
So I go to church and SURE ENOUGH, that first sermon I heard was about the Prodigal Son. I felt like the whole message was directed at me. God’s presence was undeniably there. And, believe me, I wanted to ignore it SO BAD! But something was keeping me there. I knew it was where I was supposed to be, but the thought of changing my life or lifestyle to accommodate it was overwhelming, but I did it. A big piece was changing my dating profile to open myself up to a girl that would keep me close to what I had experienced at this church, not lead me down a path I was sure I shouldn’t be going down any longer.
Met my wife, had a kid, and I felt like my faith was tested a lot in that season. My son was born three months early, and a week later, after bouncing back and forth between hospitals with few answers, the doctors were running out of options. “Your kid is the sickest one in this hospital, and he might not make it through the night” he said to me. That really took a toll on me. God this was the plan! Have a kid, raise a family! This is NOT how it’s supposed to be. I was so angry. We were on a rollercoaster for the next three years, and in my anger I turned away from God for a while. With everything going on with my son, I just felt like God wasn’t there and didn’t care. It also took a toll on my marriage. God DEFINITELY wasn’t at the center of our marriage any longer. I felt like I was right back at the starting point, even earlier than that. Like, BEFORE I found God.
Somehow, even in our distance from God, when we bought a house, we realized after signing the papers that it was a block from Discovery. One block. And we hadn’t been to church in years at that point. It was nuts. So nuts that I was like, well we may as well go with it. We started attending again. After two years back at Discovery, that’s when my eyesight started giving me issues. I was so glad to be back at church because I was like, this is where my healing will come from! God will restore my sight, or at least put me on that path. But the path that he DID put me on was one that let me grow in the understanding that God didn’t give you what you want, but what you need. Even as I write this, recognizing and accepting that feels just as tough now as it did when I started losing my ability to see. It was so hard to believe that where I was headed would be better than where I had been.
But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you ~Psalm 56:3
I always say that I lost my sight but gained my vision. Where I’m at now IS better than where I was. God brought me to so many incredible and (no pun intended) eye-opening places. I just can’t tell you how this happened, it just did. It’s tough to explain but I’m experiencing it now. God is clearly using me in a certain way. With my background, what I’m doing, and how I’m supposed to be doing it, always goes back to God. I never understood what church was about. And I was in a place where I felt overwhelmed by a lot of “Christianalization” of stuff. Is that even a word? I think you’ll understand what I mean. It was hard for me to deal with people who put limitations and judgements on me, and I did find some of those people in church. But I am an example of God using someone who’s clearly not perfect, to bring His kingdom. I try to do what God would have me do, and I come up short all the time, but I own it. And I think the fact that I’m still here and moving forward, really speaks to people. That level of honesty would’ve brought me into church a lot sooner than I got there. I just didn’t see a lot of that at the beginning.
I’ve ended up in dark places. I know that so many others have as well. But God speaks to you in those moments. How I carry myself, how I succeed in front of my family, and how I fail in front of my family, shows my humanity and connects me to others. We’re all human. We all have that human side that wants to be right, and exalt our feelings above others. We won’t all agree, but we do all need each other.
Faith comes from hearing. That is, hearing the good news about Christ. ~Romans 10:17
Hearing is so important to me. Without my sight, somtimes I feeli like all I have is my ears! But what I do know is this: You have two ears and only one mouth. We should seek to listen TWICE AS MUCH as we speak. My journey from not knowing God to knowing Him has been so dynamic. All the emotions you could ever experience. And it’s for a greater purpose than I will ever know. Many people don’t know the journey they’re on, but for me, I know that the path I’m on is for me and me alone. God built me this way, strong and independent, and even though I’m blind, I want to share God’s handiwork with everyone, however that happens. Some days I’m excited. Some days I’m terrified. But, ultimately, I’m His to be used.