When I was three, I lost part of my dad that I never got back￼. He had a nervous breakdown when the two children from his first marriage died in a small plane crash. My mom told me that after that it was like Dad didn’t want to live anymore.
It was early in the morning in Washington, D.C., and I was driving down Montana Avenue about ten minutes from home. But suddenly, the blue lights of a police cruiser zoomed into the reflection of my review mirror. My stomach dropped. When I pulled over, the officer swerved his car off the road and pulled up behind me. Then he got out, swaggered over to my window, and peered in. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” “I have no idea,” I answered flatly as my heart raced.
I have friends who adopted a little girl from another country, and their child has some significant disabilities that require her to wear a brace on her leg. You would think that fitting braces for a child’s leg wouldn’t be a difficult thing, but it has actually been a long process that has been debilitating and painful for her.
I wore a purity ring until I was 23. For those who don’t know what a purity ring is, it’s a wedding band sometimes worn by young, unmarried Christians. The ring is meant to remind yourself and everyone else that your heart belongs to Jesus and your virginity belongs to your future spouse.
When I was 18, I told the most elaborate lie of my life and I did it because I was lazy. I worked at the meat department of a grocery store where the assistant manager, Harold Johnson (a pseudonym), was known for recruiting meat department employees to stock shelves. That wasn’t my job and I was determined to avoid it.
So many times the same frustrating thing happens when I try to pray. “Heavenly Father,“ I say, but almost immediately I get interrupted by my own thoughts.
One day when I was in my 20s, I was struggling with a lot of guilt and shame because I felt like the only thing God ever saw about me was my sin and brokenness. God must’ve told my mother. I came into the dining room where my mom was and she said, “Joshua, look at that angel up there on the shelf,” and then she pointed to a ceramic angel behind me.
I can’t picture the Holy Spirit. I want to, but I just can’t. Now Jesus is different — I can see Him in my imagination: a Middle Eastern man with black hair, a beard, and smile wrinkles on His face (there are probably scars on His face too).
I pushed the elderly woman in the wheelchair and started our conversation but I knew I had to whisper. For this college sophomore, the workplace had become a tricky arena in which to talk about Jesus.
My wife and I did not intend to have another year of sweeping changes in 2016. We never do. We told ourselves this year was going to be different. The roller coaster was finally going to stop. No more big transitions like the previous eight years of marriage.
I knew my accent would stand out when I moved to Washington, D.C. I didn’t think anyone would make fun of it. As I walked away from the break room and said, “Bye, y’all,” to a group of coworkers, I hadn’t gotten far away before I heard one of them say, “Byyyyye yawl!!” It stung.
A few weeks ago, there was an unpleasant and unfair turn of events in my life that knocked the wind out of me. Feelings of disappointment kicked in. Those feelings eventually turned into anger, and the anger turned into a low-grade anxiety. I couldn’t stop looking in the rearview mirror and reliving what happened.
For a lot of my single years, I was hopelessly awkward. No doubt, there were still attractive things about my personality (or at least my mom says there were), but overall, I was kind of weird.
When I was in my 20s, I was obsessed with the fear that I was not actually saved — that my so-called “faith” was nothing but an elaborate web of self-deception that would end in eternal damnation.
Here’s a tough memory verse for all of us social media users: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26). “Worthless.” Whoa.