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.
I have this one childhood memory that used to haunt me. When I was in first grade, a careless adult did a great deal of damage with very little effort and it seemed like the hurt from that incident couldn’t be undone.
One Sunday morning when I was in my early 20s, my mom came up to me after church and said something that stuck with me: “I notice you always pray to Jesus. You should think about calling God ‘Father.’” I thanked her for her input but it agitated me a little. I was more comfortable keeping things on a first-name basis with the Lord and starting all of my prayers with “Dear Jesus.” I didn’t like the way it felt to address God as my male parental figure. I already had a father-son relationship and it was complicated.
One time I was at the bus stop and I saw a woman take her daughter by the ponytail, pull up, and force her to move down the sidewalk. As the girl walked forward, she tried to reach up and pull her mother’s hand away, to no avail. As the little girl cried and begged her mother to stop, a man standing nearby laughed about it, and the mother began laughing, too.
I was five years old when I walked into my mother’s bedroom and told her I wanted to give my life to Christ. We got down on our knees beside the bed and I asked Jesus into my heart. After that, I proudly told everyone that Jesus had saved me, but my pride slowly diminished over the years.
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.
One day last year, I was in a little convenience store in downtown D.C., where I quickly grabbed a drink and headed to the cash register. Three ladies were working, and when I looked at the youngest of the three (in the center of the photo) a simple phrase came into my head and seemed like it was just for her: Don’t settle for less.
The other day my seven-year-old daughter said something I wasn’t expecting: “Daddy, I know a bad word.” Oh no, I thought, my worst fears about the D.C. school system are already coming true. “Oh really?” I said casually. “What word did you learn?” “The S-word.” I cringed.
I went through a long, dark time a few years ago. I prayed that God would end it, that He would set me free from the people and circumstances that vexed me. He did not.
When I was little, our family hit hard times and we didn’t even have money for groceries. I was just five years old, so I wasn’t sure what was going on — all I knew was that the cabinets were empty.
Throughout my 20s, one of the biggest sources of stress in my life was the fear that God didn’t really love me and that I would never really know where I stood with Him. At one one point, however, I put His love to the test: I went on a sinning spree that took me further than I wanted to go and convinced there was no way back.
When I was in first grade, my brother Caleb and I lived in another state for a month — I don’t want to explain why. All I will say is that it was unexpected, confusing, and the result of serious complications in my parents’ relationship.
The other night, I was putting my little daughters to bed, and I sensed that I needed to talk to them about shame. I figured we could discuss it the next day since it was already late, but I didn’t realize the Holy Spirit was prompting me for a reason. Before I left the room, one of my daughters said, “Daddy, a girl at school called me a mean name.” “What was it?” I asked. She covered her face with her hands and said, “I don’t want to say.”
A massive evangelistic event was afoot in Washington, D.C. There was all-day activity, preaching, and Christian contemporary music. And there were Christians, lots of Christians. I stepped onto the Metro one night after work, and I soon realized some of the attendees of the event were on the train. In addition to looking like fanny-pack tourists, they were wearing Christian-themed t-shirts. Two middle-aged women in the group were quietly talking about their strategy for sharing their faith with strangers on the train….
When I was in third grade, I had problems behaving. My heart was in the right place, but my good intentions didn’t make it to the surface a lot of the time. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to follow the rules.