There’s a lot that’s gone through my mind today.
I woke up this morning with a yesterday that was not without my own faults and failures. After reluctantly submitting to my obnoxious alarm clock, I hopped in the shower, made my self presentable, and threw on a shirt. I made peanut butter toast, and took to long scrolling through my phone. And then I realized that today was October 2nd.
A week ago my phone went off to remind me that it was coming, but somehow it almost slipped my mind.
Today was October 2nd.
No, I’m not just messing up a Mean Girls reference.
This day is special to me, and each year it seems special in a bit of a different way.
You may or may not know why.
But I’d love to tell you.
This day, eight years ago, things were very different for me. And maybe you remember what life was like for you back then. I remember that those were the days when Bieber fever was still in full swing, and apparently people felt the need to compare my haircut to him wherever I went. But to my credit, my hair was a little less perfect, and a little more mellow; kinda sheepdog-chic, if you will.
and I was trying really hard to fit in.
but I never quite got there.
I was always the lonely, misunderstood type of guy. It didn’t take much for people to notice how insecure I was. I used to pass it off as simply being “awkward.” But it affected me in ways that made life really difficult. One of my so-called friends back then made a comment about me walking like a girl once, and I remember clearly walking down the hall months after that and all of a sudden remembering his words. I all of a sudden became keenly aware of every hip movement and everywhere I was placing my feet. Which all of a sudden made it very hard to walk, and I nearly tripped over my own feet. My insecurity ran much deeper than that, however.
You see, I didn’t know who I was.
Growing up with a difficult home life, and a nightmare of a school life, I had gotten used to feeling out of place. And when I say “used to,” I don’t mean like I somehow became okay with it. Rather, I came to expect that I would always be rejected. I was terrified of meeting new people because in my mind, I knew it wouldn’t be long before they too threw me under the bus. This made it very very very difficult to feel loved.
From a very young age, I remember lying awake at night, tears and snot all over my pillow, crying because I couldn’t understand why, no matter what school I went to, no matter where I went, nobody ever seemed to like me. I was never enough. I wondered if anyone would really care if I was suddenly gone.
And when I was fourteen, these emotions were in full swing.
Between not really knowing how to handle a confusing sexuality and how to find good attention, I shot myself in the foot when it came to my reputation at school. But the people I did spend time with, even though they treated me very poorly, introduced me to vices that became my coping mechanisms. They came in a bottle or a little bag.
But I couldn’t escape the pain.
Deep down, no matter how much others were unkind to me,
nobody hated me more than I hated myself.
And eventually I found another vice to help me through — a blade.
The blade wasn’t for emotional release through physical pain.
It was to break the skin, and cause the bleed, cause I knew I was to blame.
for the bottles, the little bags, and the browser windows,
and the countless other regrets that stained my conscience,
and made me loath every breath I would take.
Who could love me if even I couldn’t love myself?
I hated me.
But in the midst of this mess, I had the opportunity to mutter a request, after hearing about God’s forgiveness for the first time ever. Could this God that church people talked about be real enough to hear me? Would he listen?
I simply asked “help.”
But things didn’t get better.
Though I went to youth group a little more often,
Things got worse. A lot worse.
You see, though I started flipping through the Bible.
I graduated from thinking about blades to thinking about bridges.
One day, my insecurity became unbearable.
I hated living with myself.
I hated feeling unloved and unlovable.
I hated waking up every morning
I hated being me.
and I started considering what it would be like to end all of it.
Because it seemed like the only solution.
I had called God’s number, but it seemed I wasn’t getting any returns.
Heaven’s landline either didn’t exist or he was ignoring my cries for help,
like the rest of the world seemed to do.
in the summer of 2010,
I decided I would take my own life.
But obviously, I didn’t succeed.
But it wasn’t like an angel showed up and caused a rope to break or anything.
No, my intervention happened in the most unexciting and strange way:
Daycamp. Yeah, daycamp.
I had forgotten I was scheduled to be a CIT at a local arts camp for two weeks that summer, and I decided I would hold off on my downward spiral for the sake of the kids.
But, during those two weeks, I had time to think.
I all of a sudden remembered things I had heard in church I had never given thought to.
The Psalms, full of songs of heartache and comfort became a balm to the sores in my soul.
And it felt like something was about to change. It felt like something was tugging on me; Tugging my life in a certain direction, though I had never gone that way before.
I remember at the end of those two weeks, sitting in my room listening to a song about God’s rescue, and bawling my eyes out, staring up at the ceiling, realizing that God had just interrupted what would have been a suicide. I no longer wanted to die. I felt like I had a reason to get up again. To figure out what was going to happen next.
He had heard me.
I called, he answered, and he came to my rescue, and I wanted to be wherever he was.
It may seem like a little thing, but guys, this kind of peace was foreign to me. Just having a second to breathe felt like taking a breath for the very first time.
All of a sudden, it was like the light was starting to break through the overcast, but I couldn’t see where it was coming from. But each glimmer of light brought colour wherever it shined, and I sought those moments like my life depended on it.
Then, I saw the Source.
It was October 2nd 2010, and I was on a little youth retreat at a little retreat site called Campfire. I went into that weekend with quite a bit of emotional baggage, and I remember sitting miserably at a table on Saturday morning with sticky pancakes and orange juice (as many times as I have shared this story, I must share again that I am not a fan of this breakfast combo especially when you’ve stayed up too late the night before and have not yet showered.) But I digress, it was a classic what-the-heck-is-it-really-winter-already kind of fall day.
That evening, during the session I remember the guest speaker opened up with this cute little video going through all these Biblical figures and their faults to emphasize the point: “and you really think God can’t use you?” But somehow I missed the point entirely once I heard the words “Noah got drunk” come out of the speakers. I was so embarrassed, and wondered how many people saw me anxiously squirm in my chair.
All of a sudden all of my stupid decisions came flooding back to me, and all of my regret weighed heavy on my heart.
I actually have no idea what the speaker shared that night, but I do remember what happened after his message.
The worship team got up to do an acoustic set,
and one of the songs went like this.
He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions–eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful you are,
And how great your affections are for me.
And oh how he loves us so
We are his portion; he is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking
So heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way
That he loves us, Oh how he loves us.
Imagine me standing there, big fat winter jacket on because of the freezing cold October weekend, tears flowing down my face to no end.
These were tears like I had never cried before.
What was going on in my heart and mind?
Well, I don’t know if I had a vision, but I’ll tell you, it was pretty clear.
It was like I was standing on Golgotha, and there was Jesus, hanging on the cross, right in front of me. And he lifted his weary, bleeding, bruised head, and just looked at me.
like really looked.
like you know that kind of look that makes you immediately recognize someone? Like if you’re a crowd and you see someone who looks like someone you know, but you’re not really sure if it’s them, and then they look at you and you immediately know its them?
Like that kind of look.
And I immediately knew what that meant.
HE HAD BEEN BEHIND THIS ALL ALONG.
It was HE who had heard my prayer
It was HE who had come to my rescue and kept me from taking my own life.
It was HE who had been tugging me towards him all this time.
It was HE who gave me unexpected comfort in the craziest circumstances.
IT. WAS. JESUS.
And what overtook me was at first shock and fear.
this was Jesus. The very one whose name I had dragged through the dirt so many times, the very one whose existence I had denied, the very one I had sinned against every waking moment of the day. The very one I had decided to ditch when I was still young.
But that then begged the question,
Why was he on that Cross?
And as he looked longer, I began to see the grace in his eyes.
And at this point I was sobbing like a baby.
Cause I knew he wanted to be there.
I knew this wasn’t an accident.
He hung there so I didn’t have to.
He couldn’t have said it more clearly.
HE. LOVED. ME
And he had been there the whole time. He had seen my pain, he had seen my sin, he had seen my failure and my wickedness, and yet he kept chasing me down.
HE. WANTED. ME.
No matter if no one in the world cared two cents about me, no matter if I couldn’t ever begin to love myself, let alone stand myself,
HE. LOVED. ME.
And it was my sins that held him there. And he would gladly suffer more pain than I could ever know to cancel them for all eternity.
All my regrets paled when compared to the One who paid for them.
And his look was a smile.
Because he knew what this meant to me.
It was like being held for the first time. His warmth is unlike any other, and his grace made every moment secure.
I HAD NEVER FELT LOVE LIKE THAT BEFORE
I FELT TRULY LOVED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE
And all the labels and things I had been called throughout my life seemed to fall off of me like old stickers. All the things I had labeled myself as didn’t matter at all.
That moment was an invitation.
Under the weight of that affection, this was an invitation to trust him with everything, finally, and I mean, everything–my life, my future, my heart, my mind, my soul, my body, my fears, my hopes, my dreams, my sin, my insecurity, my anxiety, my world.
How could I not trust a God who loves so perfectly.
With tears all over my face, I uttered a silent “yes.”
I knew who I was for the first time.
I was Loved.
And I knew nothing would ever be the same.