After a long pause, here’s me breaking the silence.
In the year and a half since I last wrote, I completed my senior year of college at Liberty University, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies, and have been working a full-time job with the university.
But other things have happened too. I ended a deep friendship and it ached for many months. I lost communication with old friends who moved away after graduating. I lost communication with deep friends from camp who had to get jobs and livelihoods. I spent nearly four months after graduation desperately searching for a job before finally getting one. And my job’s abnormal hours and mentally-strenuous nature have isolated me. On top of all that, in the last two months I hit a point of depression that was absolutely unbearable.
One would think, You know that suffering happens, and things on Earth are temporary. You know that God is good, and that He is always with you. What’s wrong? You literally have a degree that says you know this.
And they’d be right. But here’s the point of humanness: I have a diploma in my closet that certifies that I have this knowledge – I could even teach it, and I have – but faith is an interplay, and trust is something that I’ve always struggled with. Knowledge is not the same as trust.
My first year at camp, in the summer of 2015, I dealt with a similar struggle. I came to camp, weary from knowledge and desperately looking for the God I learned about my whole life, to trust Him. I spent my whole life in a Christian household, going to church, being in the youth group, teaching Sunday School, going on mission trips, then going to a Christian university, and ultimately pursuing a degree in the Bible. Two years into that degree, I was breaking.
In the first two weeks of staff training, another counselor told me that God told him a few words for me: that my knowledge would become useless, and that this summer I would be forced to trust God. I was happy, excited even, for the possibility of real trust being on the table. What I did not expect was for my entire future to change, in a painful and utterly difficult way.
My grades weren’t good. I failed two classes that previous spring semester. It was the hardest semester of my life – spiritually, emotionally, relationally – and I suffered academically as a result. My parents decided, with the counsel of a family friend and life coach, that I needed a semester off of school. This was absolutely loving, and the right call, but having the conversation that you aren’t going back to your new “home” when you thought you were was devastating.
I remember being in the car texting my best friend Joe, whom I met during my first semester of my freshman year, whom I roomed with my sophomore year, and with whom I was going to room for my junior year, that I wasn’t coming. I had to text because I wasn’t confident in my ability to speak without crying. Liberty was my new home, where I had reinvented myself, where I forged friendships deeper than I ever thought possible. It was my everything. And I felt like I had lost everything.
I had nothing left but the sweltering heat, some friends I made at camp, and a present ministry opportunity. I didn’t lead my group very well that week. My co-counselor had to step up for most of the work. I hadn’t cried in more than three years, but over the next few weeks I cried more than I thought possible. The rug was pulled out from under me, and I was falling. In camp worship times, I was on the ground begging God to show me Himself.
I begged God for trust, because my future was now blank and terrifying. And He gave it to me. He warmed my heart, and gave me confidence that this was His plan for me. I took all of my fears and gave them to Him, and He carried them just like He said He would.
God opened the door for me to do the year internship that the camp offered, and I excitedly and eagerly accepted. It was more than just one semester, but it was ministry. And it was in a place with an organization I now loved beyond words. God secured me in my time of need.
That year at camp was hard. I reinvented myself when I came to Liberty my freshman year, but I was refined through flames during this internship. Nearly every day was a struggle with God, and I had to confront the lies and other things I spent years running from dealing with. I grew immensely, but only recognized it when I looked backward at the man I was when I walked through the camp gates for the first time. My lifeline came in the form of Wes, a man my age but wise beyond his years, who spent time with me and dealt patiently with me as I sorted through deep-seated issues and battled the enemy spiritually and emotionally. God provided a true friend who saw the me that God made, not the me that struggled to make sense of life day to day.
Hard is such a lame word compared to what it was. While I got to do life-changing ministry and absolutely incredible activities, and I led kids to Christ, there were days of painting fences and clearing trees and real interpersonal struggles among staff. I loved the camp, and I loved its ministry, but my time there had some amazing highs and some really low lows. God got me through that year. He pulled me through that year. And that year where God refined me by the flames of the Texas sun is a constant reminder of His ultimate goodness through trial. I keep a brass piece on my keychain with the geographic coordinates of the front gate of camp as a physical daily reminder.
So, back to present day.
I know that God provides. I know that God is faithful. I know that God is trustworthy. He’s proven it before. He proved it for more than a year at camp. But I’m back in a familiar position, feeling alone despite being surrounded by people who care about me, and overwhelmed despite my only major responsibilities being working a job that has me literally tethered to a desk answering phones and a prayer ministry led by a professor on campus.
But my response is different now. I am clinging to God as hard as I can. Because although I have a hard time trusting, I can expect that God is making something good out of this. And maybe that something good is me. Maybe after this past year and a half of highs and lows, and these recent deep lows, God is making a good me – a me that goes back to Him when life gets hard.
God has shown me the bonds of family in the last month, with my siblings and parents going so far above and beyond the call of duty to help me in my time of need. God has shown me the bonds of friendship in the last month, with my friends sincerely and selflessly being available for prayer and discussion. And God has shown me the bonds of salvation, the depths of the reach of the Holy Spirit, and the truth that He is always accessible.
The difference between knowledge and trust is sometimes hard to see. Trust isn’t just knowledge, it’s belief.
Trust: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
Trust is a hard thing. But trust is what happens when belief is fortified and made firm by repeated shows of reliability, repeated reminders of truth, and by repeated demonstrations of ability and strength. God has repeatedly shown Himself trustworthy to me. So I’ll trust Him the best I can, and ask Him to help me to do even better. I believe that He will ultimately shape me into a me I can only imagine right now.