So brevity isn’t really a strength of mine. I’ve always been the type who needs to write my thoughts down to keep them straight. Over the last couple days God has been showing me his plan for my life in incredible new ways. I just wanted to talk a bit about what Ignite has done to reveal that to me, and what I want to do with that love powering my life.
When I first came to SEMO, it’s safe to say that my life was just about at rock bottom. I was attempting to escape from two controlling relationships that had pretty much driven my senior year of high school. First off, there was the girl I was dating who I knew didn’t love me, or probably really even like me. And of course there was the pot. For the past two years I had been having secret liaisons with shady people to get high in their basements and avoid spending time with the people I knew wanted to help me. I was miserable, and my solution was to dive in deeper to the things I knew would just make my misery worse.
Looking back on that whole year now, I know what would have healed me. But back then I was committed to ignoring the fact that I was miserable and hoping my move to Cape would help me to get my life back on track. My plan was to make some great new friends, maybe find a girl who could put up with me, and get my life kick-started back up. I definitely didn’t plan on meeting Jesus here.
That’s the funny thing. In a way Jesus was the very first person I met on campus. I showed up at Dearmont to get my stuff all moved in, and two guys I didn’t know just instantly started carrying my things for me. They were smiling and making an obvious effort to invest in me. Neither of them were part of the Greek move-in group, they were just two random guys who wanted to make my first day a bit easier. That was the first impression I got of SEMO, and in those two fellas I got my first real taste of Jesus loving me through the people here. Unfortunately that was the first and last time I ever encountered those two, but the impression will always be there.
So I spent that first weekend at college getting to know the people in my dorm. I felt like they were good people, and some of them are still among my best friends to this day. But I craved more. There was some hidden desire on my heart that I couldn’t quite place, and I had no idea how to satisfy a desire that couldn’t be identified. Looking back today I’m certain that what I was missing was intimacy. I wanted people to know the things about me that I hated. I wanted my life and my well-being to be a priority to somebody.
One night during that first week I was feeling pretty antsy to get out of the dorm and have some sort of adventure. A couple of my friends were going to go play capture the flag with a group they found on the SEMO portal, so I decided I would jump in. Before leaving, I got high. And that was how I showed up to my first Ignite gathering. People I didn’t know began talking to me and asking me questions about my life. They legitimately seemed to care about me. And oh goodness, it weirded me out.
Not in a bad way of course. Because like I said, that kind of interaction was exactly what I had been looking for. But I needed people around me who would pour into me the kind of unconditional love that would validate me even at my lowest points. I needed to access the love of Jesus, and these Ignite people were already investing that into me.
So I began to come to some more Ignite events. I came to the house party the next day and met people who began having legitimate conversations with me. A fellow named Josiah Johnson started to ask me more personal questions about things like where I was on my faith journey. I gave the standard answer you’re supposed to give in those situations: I had gone to church as a kid, but that was about it. He told me to join his iFam, and maybe to come worship in a couple days.
From then on I was pretty much adopted into the family. People who I’d only spoken to once or twice knew me on a first name basis. I would pass people from Ignite while walking through campus and they would stop to ask me about my day. I was cared for, I was important to them, I was loved. And I started getting hungry for Jesus. Slowly I began to understand that Jesus was loving me through these people, and that his love was the love I’d been feeling since I stumbled across Ignite.
Realizing that I wanted Jesus to take control of my life was the climax of the story. I was at a prayer event called the Axis, surrounded by Josiah, Sean Kenney, Demarcus Patterson, Peter Depue; people who to this day are still among the most important people on my journey. I felt the love that God had for me. I knew that was what had to be the focus of my life. That love has been present throughout my whole life, but it took the love of a family to reveal it to me in a way I could process. Because of the people of Ignite, who love me despite (or even because of) the things that have hurt me, I can embrace that every day.
God is love. That’s the essence of who He is, I suppose. Perfect power embedded within perfect love. And this family who adopted me and molded me into the person I am today, they are the vessels of God’s Spirit. That’s what Ignite is to me. God’s love empowering people to love me, and giving me the strength, somehow, to love myself for the first time.
But it’s so much more than that. Ignite revealed God’s love to me. Now I strive to be an image of God’s love to every person I meet. Am I doing that great of a job? Jury’s still out on that one. That’s why I stay invested in this family. If they can reveal Jesus to me, I know they can help release my love into the world. Every day these people help me love. And because I’ve lived a life of despair I can fully appreciate the beauty of this new stage of my life. That’s what Ignite gave me, and that’s what I want to give back to this broken world that desperately needs to feel God’s love.
If you’re a new freshman who doesn’t really know anybody, or needs somebody to talk to about Jesus, please talk to me. Please guys, join an iFam. Come worship with us. Even just stop by the house and hang out with us when we do our homework. Lately God has been putting the desire to reach out to people on my heart. The stage in my life when I first began to know God was beautiful. In a lot of ways, I’m still going to be meeting God in new ways for the rest of my life. But what I long for now is to show God’s love for others. I’ll admit that terrifies me. But it’s what God is telling me to do. So I’m ready to be his soldier.
If you managed to get through this whole Russian novel, thank you. If you want to get in contact with me I’d be more than happy to chat or get coffee. My number is (573) 881-5301, and I promise I’ll return your call. If not me, there are so many people throughout Ignite or other campus ministries at SEMO who want to love you. Please let them. Thanks guys, God bless.