[After I spent time reflecting about Thanksgiving, I then shared the following words at a college group bible study on Tuesday, December 1st.]
I would like to share where I have been, why I am thankful for all of it, and where I am now.
My parents got divorced when I was in 1st grade. I could get along with everyone in grade school, but I only became friends with one person at the elementary schools that I attended. That made me feel alone at school since I am an only child. My dad didn't know how to love me, so I haven't seen or talked to him at age 17. I did not find a church youth group that I was truly happy with all the way through my first few years at ASU. Ever since age 17, I have had to pay my own way through college and have been working full time since I was 19. When I was 20, my mom moved to Washington state, leaving me with no real family within 1000 miles of me. After a few years at ASU at age 22, I bought a town home and a car which ultimately ended up getting me into five figures of debt, compounded by my inability to get roommates for the home. This July, I felt a calling to quit my job and relocate to the West Valley to pursue ministry opportunities that I was not completely certain of - The most difficult thing I had done in years. Since then, I have not been able to find another job.
It doesn't sound like there is much, if anything, to be thankful for in everything I just mentioned. That is because it is exactly what Satan wants us to believe. Those things that I mentioned did happen in my life, but that is not the whole story or the entire truth. When I was 19-20, I believed those negative half truths and I didn't seek God hardly at all because I didn't believe he was present in my situations. Amidst having plenty of worldly friends and possessions at the time, I ended up in a sad, painful place where I felt alone. Everyone has negative things in their lives that they typically don't talk about at their dinner table, especially at Thanksgiving.
At the end of my teenagehood, I didn't realize God was there in all of those situations until I made an intentional effort to have a personal relationship with Christ like never before and find a Christian community that supported that relationship above all else. I believe we are all called to do that in some way because 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 in the Word tells us to "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Also, the first book of Peter illustrates the eternal rewards of handling suffering, the latter of which are blessings and salvation through your strengthened faith is favorable before God. This is coming from a disciple facing oppressive brutal persecution from the Romans at the time, which ultimately lead to the torturing and execution of him and other Christians. It is through Christ Jesus' footsteps, truth, and grace that I know God has and will use all things for His glory by being present in every situation if we seek and obey Him.
Now for the truth that has set me free: Through my parent's divorce, I have become very close with my mom. Despite a lack of friends at my schools, I had family friends from other school that I grew up with and their fathers became my own. Being an only child gave me the opportunity to become more independent and more easily connect with people one on one. Understanding my dad has drives me to be more empathetic, loving, and eventually a more fatherly person than I would be otherwise. My years of searching for Christian communities lead me to ASU's Campus Crusade for Christ and Living Streams - Two church bodies that have helped me find who I am in Christ. My previous full time work blessed me with skills, work experience, a career, and friendships that I will always have. Selling my home at age 23 allowed me to wipe out my debt and provide for my basic needs until I find another job. My time of currently being unemployed has given me the privilege of spending more time with God, my Christian family, and new ways of serving him such as Young Life - All things that have brought me more joy and purpose than ever before.
God's living word should have been enough for me to know that He is always there. I ended up learning these biblical truths in some difficult ways, but I know that I would not be where and who I am today without that journey, and I am thankful for all of it. "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." [Philippians 4:12-13]