I grew up in a box.
My entire life, I have grown up sheltered and protected. Comfortable. Safe.
I have spent the last nineteen years of my life growing up in Spring, Texas, surrounded by my loving family and friends. I was brought up and raised in the United Methodist Church. My family and I attended the same church since before I was born, so I have seen it all.
I went to preschool there, I was baptized there, received my third grade Bible there, and was confirmed there. My church was always a part of my life. Even during the summer, I frequented many a Vacation Bible School in that church. However, I was not always happy to be there.
For most of my childhood, I found church to be boring. I wanted no part in waking up early on the weekend to sing old hymns and listen to an old guy talk for what seemed like an hour and a half. I mean, I always believed in God and knew He loved me, but I did not like having to go to church to be reminded of it.
When I was in middle school, I hit rock-bottom in my faith journey. I disliked going to church more than ever, I had few friends in my youth group, and I hid in the back of the classroom during Sunday School and never once dared to open my mouth and speak. It was also during this time that my father was unemployed yet again, and my family was struggling just to get by.
I began to doubt God’s presence in my life. I doubted God’s presence in general. I was angry with God. I kept asking “why?”, “why would God put my family through this?”. I know God heard all of this, so He began to do something about it. Not long after, I began to see and feel God working in my life in a very powerful way.
Within a very short amount of time, my dad found steady work, and I was given an opportunity that would change the course of my life forever. One of the adults in my youth group convinced me to go on a middle school mission trip the summer after my eighth grade year. To say the least, I was extremely hesitant to go. But for some reason I felt a calling to attend, so I packed my bags and headed out.
A few months ago, I had the privilege of giving a message to my youth group about the importance of people’s presence in our lives. That mission trip is where I began to learn this lesson. Just a few weeks before we left, God placed someone very special in my life. My youth group had just gotten a new youth leader and I was hopeful for a fresh start.
Similarly to me, this was one of his first youth trips, so we were both equally nervous about this event. But over the course of several days, we got to know not only each other, but also the amazing people around us, and my faith journey took off like a rocket. My new youth leader and friends made me feel so welcomed and loved, which is something I had never felt in my church life before, and it was incredible.
From that moment on, I hardly ever missed a youth function. I suddenly loved going to church and getting to learn all that I could about our Lord Jesus Christ. Along the way, strengthening friendships and making new ones. During this time, He taught me so much about faith and life, and he became such a role model for me.
Eventually, I felt led to share my faith in various leadership roles, whether it be serving on the leadership team, or singing in the youth band, or giving messages about conquering fear or the power of presence. By the time I graduated high school, I was so in love with God, my church family, my friends, and the comfort that each brought to me.
But now, I am beginning a new chapter in my life. I am stepping out of that box that I am all too comfortable with.
I am now a freshman at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. I am transitioning to a life of independence, where I am solely responsible for myself, and that can be kind of scary. And it is, but I feel so much better because of all that I have learned through my faith journey. I know how to tell right from wrong, how to act, and how to be a man of God.
I also know that whenever those long, lonely nights come when I am so homesick that it hurts, I know that I am never alone. I always have God by my side, guiding me through this crazy thing called life. But it took a lot to get me here.
I know I would not be where I am today without God and His grace.
Matthew 19:26 “And Jesus said to them, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”