Opening a Heart / by Jeffrey Waters

            People often wonder why I am so quiet or seem so distant from people. Or why I am always just on the surface level of telling everyone how I am or what I have gone through. After a few more talks with other people I believe it's time for me to be a little more vulnerable and start to let people in my real life, not just the life everyone on the outside sees. So far I have always closed my heart to others when they want to get to know me and help me become a better person in life.

            I would say the main reason I am the way that I am is because of all the events, or more specifically tragedies, I have experienced in life. When something bad happens it's just like an ongoing roller coaster of negative effects. One of the main events that has occurred in my life, which made me go beyond rock bottom, was when I lost some of my closest friends. Tiffany, Chad, Malik, and Heather were their names. To be honest I have never told anyone the names of those friends as I just didn't want to think about it and think that they were gone from my life. August and November of 2010 along with February and May of the next year were the months they passed away. So, during my sophomore year of college and first year here at SEMO, when God was not in my life yet, I had to deal with deaths about every three months. Not having God in my life just made me go into a deeper hole and choose wrong directions in life that I pray no one has to go through. During the following summer, I continued to veer away from God, which hurt my relationships with people who were close to me and saw me going the wrong direction and could not steer me into the light.

            So coming into my second year here at SEMO I basically had given up on life and success with nothing to look forward too. In my mind, I basically kept saying explicit terms to myself and wondering, “Is it even worth staying in school or staying with life in general; what more could go wrong?” Then I decided I'll just do random things and with that I started going to Ignite's opening week activities and I remember meeting some people who just kept wanting to know me.  That was something I was not used to, nor was I trying to find people like that at that time. One of those people were Nick Centanni who first invited me to church at La Croix. Weird thing was that he didn't even go to that church there but was friends with Jessica King, another person who had an impact on my life but probably still doesn't even realize that. It was just really different for me the first time I went to La Croix. Then at another opening week event I met another friend of mine who made a huge impact in my life.  Her name is Taylor and she was on the gymnastics team at the time. She is the nicest and most caring person I know. As we kept getting to know each other she offered rides to La Croix and we always had, as I called it, our “Laundry room talks.” With all of them just showing me the love they have in Jesus Christ through the actions of showing me love was unbelievably awesome! With those few people helping me and joining a small group through the Ignite community, those people helped me see a light.

            I still remember the day I truly gave my life to Christ, which was October 2, 2011. So some people don't even realize that I am this young in my life living for our Lord, but I absolutely love it! Something that made me see God's love for me a lot more was this past summer after losing another friend, his name is Zach. This was the first death I had dealt with, with God in my life. I was working at a camp at the time for only around two maybe three weeks. But when you work in that kind of environment you become a lot closer to strangers a lot quicker. They saw the pain I was going through and our staff that week just wrote me so many encouraging notes to help me get through it. I love all of them for that and they will forever be in my heart.

            In the end I know God wants me to have an open and vulnerable heart with people, which is still difficult for me as every time I seem to get close to people I lose them. Is that why I am so hesitant to open up to people? I honestly don't know. I do know that the people I have an open heart with right now make me so grateful to have the times that I do with them. As I continue to try and open my heart to others I know God will be testing me a lot, just as he did after I lost my first cross country and track coach along with other events. Just seeing peoples’ love for God through their actions towards me, whether it is late night talks, nature walks, or hanging out with each other, makes me want to have a vulnerable heart and slowly be open to others. I hope and will try to be more vulnerable and use the story that I have to help other lost people find their way to God as I did with the relationships I have built with him.

- Peter DePue