Check out this story from one of the men that came to last weekends intensive!
“I was in a very dark place 4 years ago. It was after my first year of college and I was back home after going through a lot of growing my first year away. I was taking on more responsibility and setting goals for myself. One of my goals was to travel to Spain with a study abroad group, but I ran into an issue: I didn’t have the funds to go. I was looking for summer jobs, and I found a contracting job working on foreclosed houses through one of my friends that paid $10 an hour.
My sole motivation for the job was to make money, and I would use money/studying abroad as the motivation to make it through my job when things got tough. And man did they get tough. I won’t go into all of the details, but some of the duties included spraying bleach on mold in flooded basements, tearing down moldy drywall, mowing grass that was 3 and 1/2 feet tall, pumping out flooded houses, and cleaning out houses that people were evicted from (some people left some nasty things-like meat that hadn’t been refrigerated for a month or a dead raccoon with a bees nest in it). The days were long, and it was a high stress job because we needed to complete a certain number of jobs in a day, regardless of how long the jobs took. The houses we went to were in high-crime areas as well, which made me feel more anxious. During the work day I remember telling myself when things got tough,”You’ll make it through-just think of the money you’re making-it’ll pay for Spain”. But the longer I worked, the more empty I felt. I was anxious all of the time, even after I would get home from work. I would loathe having to wake up and go to the job, each day I would think about how there were only x number of days left. The way I would cope with these feelings was to find my purpose in the money I was making, the reputation I had built with others, finding pride in my physical abilities, etc.
I won’t go into the whole story, but eventually I hit a point where God pulled out the rug from under me. Each one of the things that I found my identity in was taken away, and I felt helpless. I remember battling with the thoughts of “what’s the point of _____” (Ecclesiastes resonates so much with what I was going through). Towards the end of the job, I was so lost, so broken, and in such a dark place that I had suicidal thoughts. I felt scared and alone, but I never told anyone what I was going through. I just put up the facade that everything was ok and I was having a great summer; inside I felt empty.
I didn’t pray much during this time. I had been a Christian since 7th grade but my relationship with God had been stagnant throughout high school, and He felt distant. I didn’t think I could talk with God about what I was going through because I felt ashamed. The lie was spoken to me that God didn’t love the real me, so I couldn’t talk to Him. I felt completely alone and didn’t want anyone to know what I was going through. I was listening to lies like “You’re not enough; the real you isn’t lovable; you’ve sinned so much, you aren’t worthy of being saved” and I believed them.
I distinctly remember seeing a pocketknife in my room at night that my grandpa gave me, and after looking at it, day after day, I became terrified of it. It was a symbol of my pain, and I didn’t want to get close to it. When the depression and darkness would come over me, I didn’t even want to be in my room because it was there. I was horrified at myself for even thinking about suicide, and I didn’t want to get close to it. So one day I decided to throw it away. I was sick of it being there, feeling scared of it, and I threw it away to eliminate the chance of hurting myself. I have always been skeptical of weapons (like knives) since then because they reminded me of what I went through. They remind me of the possibility of what could have happened, and I was scared of them.
When we went through the ceremony on the mountain where we wrote down the lies that were spoken to us, and left them on the mountain, I could immediately identify lies that were spoken to me. This past year God revealed so many lies that I had believed, and He walked with me through the hurt that occurred in my past (including the story above). He pressed in and spoke truth into them, and I’m so thankful for how He has worked in my life. He has pursued me and healed me. He drew me close, even when I was so far gone. He has always been there for me, even in the hurt. He will never leave or forsake me. I could go on and on, and I loved hearing more truth during the trip this weekend about what it means to be a Christian man.
When I saw that the leaders were passing out knives during the mountaintop ceremony, initially I had similar feelings come back that I felt for so long about knives. But something different happened this time-I saw a TRUTH inscribed on the knife-I didn’t feel fear. I felt comforted while Dave talked about being “Buoyant” and I truly felt God’s presence there on the mountain. I didn’t put these pieces together until I was talking with my girlfriend about the ceremony and showed her the knife after we got back, and she mentioned how cool it was that a truth was inscribed on a knife (she knows about the story above). After she said this, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was amazed by how great God is, and how He used something that brought so much fear, anxiety, insecurity, etc. to me for so long to speak truth. I don’t feel that fear anymore; God worked in an amazing way on the mountain and I left with a sense of freedom. After reflecting, I felt so much healing come from God’s amazing love.”