For so many years my life has been marked by shame and isolation. Read more.Read More
Hiding was something I was very good at. I hid from others and from God. Struggles in my sexuality and identity pulled me away from people and God. I was afraid to be judged, expelled, and rejected by others. I tried to be a good, friendly, and godly man in front of my friends and in the church. I pretended that I was happy and fine even though I wasn’t. The truth is I was very lonely, full of shame, and I was hiding my true self from God and everyone around me.
Journey was the safe place for me to begin to open up and show my true self authentically before God and people. How was I able to do this? Because when I was brave enough to look into people’s eyes at Journey, all that I found was mercy. There was no judgment there. There was no disgust when I opened up my struggles to others. I saw mercy, acceptance and love in their eyes. My small group leader told me: “I am a broken man too, and God has had mercy on me. I’m not a judge. All I want is to bring you to God, The Source of mercies.”
Those words made me lift up my head and I saw God’s eyes for the first time. That’s right. I found abundant mercy and love in Him. Since then I have started this merciful journey; not alone, but with God and His loving community. I am grateful.
I grew up in a Christian home, but one with a strong suspicion of “outsiders”. I was taught that only members from my family could be trusted and that we were spiritually superior because we were blessed by God. With this upbringing, I grew into an adult who was extremely guarded and cautious of others.
I believed my life was “just me and Jesus”, and all other relationships were unnecessary and even pointless. But living with these false beliefs and unresolved pain from my past produced a deadness inside of me. I struggled with depression and loneliness, and the secret wish that I were dead.
When I came to Journey I was guarded and proud, not really trusting or wanting anyone to have access to my heart. With the help of Journey leaders I began to take slow, deliberate steps each week to move through areas of pain and healing. I found Journey to be a safe place, and found myself trusting people for the first time.
I began a brand-new journey of relational exploration - first in the discovery and friendship with Jesus - and then in the discovery of relationship with others and in community. Jesus met me at Journey, and in Him I found life and freedom.
Today, I still struggle with isolation and suspicion toward people, but Jesus is faithful in walking with me through my fears as He continues to draw me into relationship with Him and with others.
I used to believe that it’s more important to look good, than to actually be good.
My father was a well-known Christian leader; so we, as a family, were very good at looking good! I learned that perfect performance got me the affirmation I wanted so badly, so I became preoccupied with building up my “ideal Ricky” – my “glittering image”.
I worked hard to be a good Christian, a spiritual leader, and eventually a pastor. I found that people liked, admired, and were even impressed by me. I think I was hoping that God would be impressed, too. But there was a problem: I was just not the man people thought I was.
Behind the glittering image, I was a mess. I may have seemed confident, but really, I felt insecure. I struggled with jealousy because God seemed to bless everyone around me, but me. I was angry – at God, at my family, at myself, at the church.
Deep down, as I struggled with all this, I felt like a mistake. I was ashamed about who I was. I rejected and hated myself. I was tired of living this way. Deep down I longed to be free, and I tried! But I was just stuck. Journey helped me get unstuck.
In Journey, I met real people with real struggles. And these people gave me a great gift: they showed me a new way of being – that I could just be who I am, warts and all – before them, and before God. And as I learned to trust this, as I stepped out and confessed my struggles and my secrets, I found that I wasn’t rejected. I didn’t lose everything – and my life didn’t end.
In fact, in some ways my life actually began. I experienced a new depth of love, and acceptance, forgiveness and grace. Through Journey, I met Jesus in a real and life-changing way.
Life goes on, and life is not perfect. But I can say Journey has impacted every part of my life -- every part of who I am. I am not living that split-life any more. I’m living in freedom and connection with Jesus like I never have before.
I grew up in a Christian home, the middle child between two highly-gifted siblings. I always felt that I couldn't measure up, either academically or spiritually. I felt "less than" – so I set out to prove myself in areas where I felt strong. I was cheerful by nature and loved to sing, so I worked hard to prove myself musically and please people by being cheerful and happy.
This became my identity. I felt that my value was based on what I did – how much I served people, prayed, read my Bible, and how educated and skilled I was. I was constantly striving to prove my worth in hopes that I would be loved more by both people and God. I really felt that God's love for me was dependent on my faithfulness. Eager to please others to affirm my worth, I was often vulnerable to being manipulated, particularly by people in authority.
God used Journey to significantly impact my understanding of my identity, as I observed staff and volunteer leaders model what it looks like to be real about brokenness, as well as their security in who they are in Christ. As I continue to learn more about listening to Jesus' voice and looking to Him for my identity, I can accept that I am perfectly loved just because I am His child. I don't have to strive to measure up to anyone. He compares me to no one. He loves me uniquely but perfectly.
Although I can still fall back into the habit of thinking that my value is based on what I do and making others happy, I am learning to walk each day in more freedom, trusting in His great love for me. With His help, those "less-than" thoughts are being replaced by His truth. And I can reach out and be real with my close friends when old thought patterns creep back in, and receive their care. He is transforming me by his Spirit, not by my own striving. He is helping me discover my true self, safe in His love.
For much of my life I focused on doing the right things and doing them well; on the outside I looked like I had it all together, but inside I was insecure, I didn’t like myself, and didn’t feel like I belonged. Although I had been a follower of Jesus for many years, when I came to Journey I was weary and on the verge of exploding from years of hiding and stuffing my feelings down.
What I found at Journey was a safe and invitational environment that challenged me to recognize and acknowledge that I wasn’t ok, and explore my struggles. The leaders made space for me to encounter Jesus and experience that He was with me; I learned I wasn’t alone and that how I feel is important. Through this process I was able to connect with years of confusion, pain and self-hatred I had carried inside, and God began to minister to my heart.
Over the years, I have so appreciated the way Journey staff and volunteer leaders have helped me “grow up” in my walk with Christ. They have been with me each step of the way, but not doing the work for me. I’ve had to be the one to respond to God’s invitation to me, to take risks to be vulnerable before Him and others, and to stop minimizing and suppressing what’s painful and uncomfortable. I’ve had to be the one to take ownership for my life, actions, thoughts and choices, and to count the cost of following Jesus.
It’s sort of like training for a race. I need people “with me” - coaching me, equipping me with skills, helping me improve my technique and focus, encouraging me from the sidelines, or even running with me - but I still need to take the steps, choose to train, persevere and run the race myself.
Today, I’ve come to embrace the good and the gift of who I am in Christ. The journey has been hard and messy, but also filled with mystery, wonder, delight and freedom where I’m experiencing life more deeply and fully. It begins with what God is doing in me, and spills over into how I relate more authentically to Him, others, and the world.
I always knew that Jesus loved me, but I never really understood it. Fear of rejection was the underlying theme of my life; I was always striving to do and be “enough”. After being encouraged by a friend, I decided to participate in a Journey program. I was pleasantly surprised by the testimonies of the leaders facilitating the program; they were the most authentic and heartfelt I had ever heard. As I experienced the teachings and times of worship, and participated in a small group, I began to think that maybe Jesus had something for ME too.
During one session in particular, in a time of prayer, I had an image of my heart being like a house that I could invite Jesus into - except there was no chance I wanted to take Him in there! The house I saw was a mess and I was embarrassed. As I shared this with a leader and we prayed together, I noticed something else: there was a porch with a swing on it at the front of this house that represented my heart.
Through this image I came to understand Jesus was happy just to sit on the swing with me and spend time with me. I felt like He REALLY loved me. I couldn’t quite comprehend it, but it was the most wonderful thing I have ever experienced. Since that time, we have spent a lot of time together on that porch swing. It's been very comforting, experiencing His love for me. He has never pushed me off to go and “do” anything, not even to go and get started on cleaning up my house.
Feeling safe and loved by Jesus has been the catalyst for change in my life. This fall I felt God inviting me to offer ministry for moms in my church community. This was a big step after living with the fear of rejection for so long. I felt Jesus nudge me: “Tell people what I have done for you. Tell them how I want to love them too.” I now feel secure enough in the love of Jesus to be able to extend myself to others; worries about being “good enough” have become small in comparison. God says to me, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I now understand this to be true.
“I need help. I don’t know anyone who can help me. I’ll have to work through this on my own. I can’t! I’ve tried. I need help.”
I was stuck. I felt hopeless and very, very alone in this daily cycle of thoughts. I didn’t talk about my struggles with friends; I was too afraid of what they would think of me if I did. In a moment of desperation, I took the only step I had the courage for: I created a non-descript e-mail account and e-mailed my pastor anonymously, asking for advice. She referred me to Journey Canada, where I connected with a staff member who recommended I attend the Journey Discipleship Course.
I had grown up going to church, but I didn’t understand that struggles and secrets were something to bring to Jesus, not hide from Him. Journey was the safe place for me to begin to open up to God and other people. By doing that, I began the process of breaking through negative cycles of thinking and hiding.
That anonymous e-mail account was the first step I took over seven years ago to open up and be known. Since then, I continue to be connected to Journey Canada and meet regularly with safe people in order to grow in my relationships with them and Jesus. Sometimes embarrassment kicks in and I want to hide my struggles, but I can’t go back to the way things were.
I know what freedom feels like.
“Attend a Journey Canada program? No way!”
The last thing I wanted to do was to go and share about my identity issues and pornography use with a group of strangers. But when a mentor encouraged me to consider Journey, reminding me I needed a safe community where I could be honest about my struggles, I decided to try.
Honestly? I felt pretty awkward walking into the room that first night. In fact, I had already convinced myself that this wasn’t going to be the program for me - my issues were too unique and complicated for these people. But what I found was a group of people who understood. They weren’t awkward; they seemed normal, friendly, humble, and above all authentic. Quickly it became a safe place for me to come with all my messiness and struggles - where I was seen for who I really was, accepted and supported in prayer, and pointed to Jesus.
Journey is one of the safest places I have ever encountered for unpacking the difficult parts of life. The leaders and volunteers were the first people to exemplify a level of vulnerability and authenticity in community that I had not experienced before. They helped make it safe for me to be real about my own life, which has forever changed who I am and how I choose to follow after Jesus.
I come from a stable middle-class home with two loving parents, two brothers, and a sister. Our family was close but not intimate; we had fun together but also gave each other space. Things were loud, often boisterous, but real emotions were seldom, if ever, expressed. We attended church as a family.Read More
I am not a stranger to fear and anxiety. In fact, there was a time when fearfulness was my constant and closest companion. Difficult personal circumstances did more than destroy my peace of mind; they stole my dreams and hopes for the future, and left me feeling isolated and hopeless.Read More