Repeatedly punching my steering wheel and reminding God of how expertly He had crafted my middle finger had kind of become my thing. My west-Texan-pastors-kid bubble had officially popped. My former modicum of faith had been crushed under the weight of my cynicism, self pity, and reclusiveness, and I seriously wanted to die. Needless to say, my first (and as it turned out, my only) semester of college had not gone as planned.
With the majority of my time being spent sulking in my dorm room, illegally watching indie movies, and silently screaming for attention, I felt like any purpose I may have ever felt in life had entirely wilted away. I moved back home, donned a pastel visor, and scooped about a million pounds of ice cream for eight months, saving money in the hopes of one day finding an escape from my intellectual and spiritual despair.
Out of the divinely inspired blue, an old youth pastor called me up, excitedly informing me of his need for a worship leader for his current youth group's upcoming missions trip to New Orleans. I semi-begrudgingly accepted his proposal. Any excuse to not scoop ice cream was good enough for me, even if it meant faking Christianity for a week or so.
Somewhere in the sultry swampiness of a June evening in the French Quarter, God started tugging on my heart in a way I could relate to. I saw people who needed just what I needed. Relief. Peace. Hope. Humanity longs for a way to escape the confines of their mind and to trust in something bigger than themselves and bigger than the American dream.
I came home and told my parents that I realized I could live a better life, and I decided to give God one more chance. Youth With a Mission (YWAM) New Orleans was hosting a missionary training school called the Urban Discipleship Training School (UDTS), which I had heard about while on my mission trip in New Orleans. After a few weeks of hesitating, I sent in my application and held my breath.
During the UDTS, I came to realize that Christianity wasn’t about fitting a mold. I didn’t have to look, sound, act, or talk like whatever I thought the perfect Christian looked, sounded, acted, and talked like. I learned that what God desires above all else is honest relationship with His most valued creation. Us. Me. You. Living in community, serving the broken, pushing myself to prefer others in all of my actions, and learning how to be myself in the midst of loving God...these are all things I never considered before doing the UDTS.
I never turned back. Seven years later, I’m still seeking God wholeheartedly as a missionary and staff member with the UDTS. Some days are better than others, of course, but every day I am reminded of who I was, and who I am now. The difference isn’t found in any book or song or movie or good idea; it’s found in believing that God hears me.
If He hears me, He hears you too.