Evan, 26, Ohio, USA
I had a quintessential middle-class American upbringing. I grew up in Grove City, Ohio with two parents, a brother and a sister, two cats, and a dog. During my earliest years, we only went to church on Christmas and Easter. My parents didn’t have a relationship with God, but some Christian practices, like praying before meals, were a part of our family culture.
When I was in 5th grade, something prompted my parents to start taking us to church. I started attending Sunday School, where I learned more about the figure of Jesus; but, at that point, He was just that — a figure. Still, because I went to church, kids at school called me a “Christian.” Little did they know, I fell asleep in service pretty much every Sunday! I had no idea what the Gospel even meant, but it sounded all right, so I went along with it.
I carried that Christian identity with me into high school. I’d always had the reputation of a “good kid” and it had served me well. I was pretty popular at that time of my life; I played football and was on the Student Council. I knew what was expected of me, so, while many of my peers experimented with drugs and drinking and hooking up, I held off. I felt like I couldn’t partake — not because of a genuine, faith-based conviction, but because I was a “good Christian kid.”
Things took a dark turn in 10th grade. I gradually began to realize that my friends weren’t my friends. As we got older, my choice not to party came between us; in my peers’ eyes, I was the “Jesus Kid”; yet, I didn’t even have a relationship with Jesus! And because I didn’t have Him, loneliness and depression plagued me. I’d walk down the hallways at school and feel so alone. I’d be chatting with people that I knew and feel like I wasn’t being heard. Eventually, I stopped hanging out with people outside of school.
My junior year, I started going to counseling and taking antidepressants. Things only got worse. One night, I found myself sitting in my room, drenched in my own tears, trying to come up with reasons not to kill myself. “No one would care,” I thought. “No one would even notice. No one would miss me.” Convinced, I took a bunch of pills. I went to sleep shortly after, hoping not to wake up the next morning.
When I woke up the next morning, there were no physical signs of what I’d done. Shocked, I got dressed, went to school, and things continued on like normal. Something about my survival awakened a new sense of guilt. My willingness to leave my family haunted me and I knew I could never go through with it again. Though the depression remained, my desire to kill myself gradually subsided.
I graduated and left for college, but I missed home and quickly returned. Once home, I got a job at a grocery store. I kept going to my hometown church, but I still didn’t talk to God. I was complacent in my walk with Him; but, because I was nice and went to church, I continued to consider myself a Christian.
I eventually enrolled in a community college and tried to figure out what I wanted to do. I was pretty lost. I had no hunger, no passion. My depression lingered. I didn’t know what I was craving, but I knew that I was craving something.
Then, in 2015, a woman who often came through my grocery line told me about an organization called “Twelve.” It was a nine-month discipleship program designed to counsel believers as they give their lives to God. I was nearing the age of 23 and I knew that I’d never truly surrendered my life. After a few months of applying and waiting and crying and doubting, by the grace of God I was able to raise enough money to quit my grocery job and move to the organization’s headquarters in San Diego, California.
As soon as I arrived, God began showing me so much about Himself. It was evident that there was so much more to the God I thought I knew. I became acquainted with His love and grace and as a result, I became more confident! For the first time, my confidence was rooted in who I was in Christ, rather than in my own abilities.
As my confidence grew, the hunger and passion that I’d been missing returned! I began to dream again. And it didn’t take long for God to fulfill those dreams. He’s led me to mission work in Mexico and Haiti. I’ve also had opportunities travel to schools across the States, sharing my story of depression, suicide, and salvation.
Today, I’m a part-time youth pastor at my hometown church. I get to love, encourage, and minister to my own community — a community that is very dear to my heart. High school SUCKED for me, but God is using that suffering for His good. He’s using me as His light, to prevent students from living my old life. I’m currently in Bible College and hope to get ordained after graduation. I feel confident that I’m on the path that God has laid out for me.
My life now and the life I lived before surrendering to Christ are like day and night. This life would not be possible without Him. Everything I have is all because of Him, His grace, His essence and His faithfulness. I shouldn’t even be alive today; but, thankfully, His plan was bigger than mine.
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