For a large period of my life, I’ve felt that my story was subpar. That it didn’t measure up to the extravagant, earth-shattering, stories I’ve heard from others my whole life. My story seemed too subtle. Seemed like it was lacking something. I’ve learned since then, that the uniqueness of God and how He works in each person’s journey is more beautifully earth-shattering that I could have known. And while I didn’t go through what a lot of people go through, it doesn’t make my story any less miraculous.
I was exposed to “church” from a young age. My mom and dad made a reasonable effort to take us regularly. I, being a kid with “better things to do”, wanted nothing to do with it. Not that I didn’t like the idea of God, or even outwardly rejected Him, I was bored. But, it was one day a week. My parents were divorced when I was in the 3rd grade. My dad moved out and it was just my two brothers and myself with my mom. Church was sporadic from that moment until my sophomore year of high school. My mom had various relationships before being remarried. My step dad was a nice guy, but much more on the scientific ledge than believing in faith. We never went to church and my parents never mentioned God. My dad was the one who still took us to church from time to time. We went to church enough that I began to develop deeper relationships with other youth and the youth leaders, and found that I actually wanted to be there. I had a base knowledge of God, but this was the first time where I wanted to know more. I remember a conversation I had with my dad one day in the car. It centered around heaven and hell and it was at that moment that I wanted Jesus to be in my life. I wanted Him in my life because I was. I didn’t want to go to hell. I didn’t understand that what I really needed was a Savior, and thus, I missed a lot of the character of who God is because my reason for wanting him was for personal gain.
I want to preface this portion by saying that I love my dad. He’s changed dramatically in recent years and is a man who fears the Lord and has a heart that is seeking after Him. However, that was not always the case. I think my dad always had the base knowledge of God but, like I did as well, never thought he needed Christ as savior. That being the case he did a lot of things he wasn’t proud of in life. That story is long. As I got older, I heard some of these stories, and not in an “embarrassed” or “apologetic” way, but almost proud. I realized right then that I really wasn’t a whole lot like my dad, nor did I want to be.
And that’s when God spoke to me. My entire life God had been present. God had been protecting me from all of the traps that can so easily take hold of someone. My parents were not ‘strong’ Christians. They divorced and tore our family apart at a very critical period in my life. I never had a model for what it meant to lead a family. Both my parents were remarried and the strain that that puts on anyone is enormous. I went from two brothers to being one child of nine in a very short time. I hated high school and had friends that did destructive things and had sexual relationships, did drugs, etc. But; God kept ALL of that away from me. He kept the anger issues that my dad struggled with away from me. He kept me from seeking other religions like my mom did. He somehow worked in my life to keep me sexually pure until I married. Somehow, and I didn’t know it at the time but, I knew that God was bigger than all that I was going through and even though I didn’t deserve that He knew that that is what I needed to become closer to Him. It was probably sometime during my second year of college that this hit me HARD. It was then that I realized that God’s love, grace, and mercy were a far greater reward than my measly goal of not going to hell. I knew then, that Christ was my Savior. I’ve been working every day since then in trusting and trying to be obedient whenever I feel that God is calling me to do something. With His help, I will trust Him when He says He’s going to move. With His help, I will lead my family as He wants me to. With His help, I will be a light wherever I can be.
Author: Mike Ellis
Photographer: Jon Morton