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.
From an early age I recall feelings of inadequacy, that maybe I just didn’t quite measure up or wasn’t as acceptable or approved of as were my siblings. This fed into a sense of insecurity and abandonment. By my teenage years and into my 20’s, my need for acceptance and approval was met amongst my friends, none of whom were Christians. This provided a type of security and identity – I fit in and was one of the guys – but to maintain acceptance and approval meant conforming to a lot of the worst the world had to offer. I learned how to do or say things to win approval and acceptance from others, and tried to be what I thought people wanted me to be. To fit in, I became emotionally shallow; a people-pleasing conflict avoider. During this time my relationships with both women and men were largely self-centred and lacked commitment; the same for my relationship with God. I questioned who I was (I really didn’t know) and what I wanted to do with my life.
Over time, I began to consider God more seriously; my relationship with Him deepened, along with relationships with other men and women. He has slowly been reaffirming my identity in Him, gently exposing the lies I believed and my need to ask forgiveness for believing those lies. Even today, 30 years later, I can still trend towards conflict avoidance or people-pleasing to gain acceptance or affirmation – I remain a work in progress.
When I attended the Journey Discipleship Program in the fall of 2014, I did not come with “obvious” issues like addiction to pornography or abuse. The first night of the program, I thought “What the heck am I doing here?” However, in many ways it’s the things that fly under the radar that end up causing the most damage. The Journey Discipleship program provided an environment where I could safely share my story in a small group setting. The leaders gently facilitated encounter with Jesus. Through this, the Lord showed me where He was in my story and what the truth was; He reinforced the fact that the Father alone gives me my identity, and further affirmed His unconditional love and acceptance. I came away with a much richer knowledge of the God who is and the heart He has for me.