Everyone’s testimony is important. In case you were not raised in church, “testimony”, is Christian lingo of one’s first-hand account; it is most basically their faith-story; rags to riches of the spiritual sense. It’s interesting how we idolize certain individual’s testimonies. You know what I’m talking about…There’s that handful of men and women in your church that get asked to share their faith-stories over and over and over again–why?–because their stories are CRAZY. They were in a gang, or brothel, or occult, or they were recently released from prison. If anyone’s testimony is getting made into a movie–it’s theirs.
But, everyone’s testimony is important. Mine won’t ever be made into a movie (which is lame, because I LOVE MOVIES), but it’s worth sharing. Why? Because God thought I was worth saving, and because if me writing this out impacts just one heart for the Kingdom of God, then it’ll have been worth the 40-60 minutes I took out of my life to write it down.
No falling asleep on me, alright? Okay, here goes nothing. (I’m going to break it down into B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (After Death/Post-Salvation)
Let me frame my story for you a bit. What I’m about to share with you is primarily my search and pursuit of an identity. Questions like “Who am I?”, “What am I made for?”, and “Am I loved?” will be dealt with.
Born and raised in Kansas City, under a Christian household and extremely conservative parents, I had always been very protected from the outside world. Imagine my surprise to “college-life”. We’ll get to that later.
My Dad is the hardest working, most selfless man I know. Seriously. He’ll work a 70-80 hour week and not complain once about it. On top of that, he somehow found time to throw the baseball and patiently teach me how to pitch (my nick-name was “The Wildthing”, so you can just imagine how ‘good’ I was and how much patience it took). It was awesome that he coached me, because he played for the St. Louis Cardinals in the minor-leagues, so bragging on him in elementary-school was AWESOME. I took full advantage of showing off his baseball-cards and all that jazz. My Mom has always been there for me, through thick and then, she’s always, always, without a doubt, loved me more than anyone else on earth (besides Jesus), and we like almost all the same things (everything that is bad for you…ice-cream, brownies, mint-chip errything, etc).
I was a nerd. Okay, I am a nerd. I loved reading and studying, was a total teacher’s pet, and was every school staff’s favorite student. While I was “cool” with the teachers, I wasn’t nearly as cool with the peers–I was the “goody two-shoes”, the “mama’s boy”, and later ‘affectionately’ called “Father Meyer”–straight-laced, rule-following, boredom (I was the kid saying, “We probably shouldn’t do this” and “Guys, I can’t watch this movie. Mom wouldn’t let me.” You get the idea). I was lucky, though. Despite my social awkwardness and nerd-status, I made some friends in elementary that would stick with me to this day. Joey (in 2nd grade) and Jake (in 5th grade) have been my best-friends since then. We met in class and started playing on the same Little League baseball and basketball teams. They were athletic. I was not. But, we had a blast together.
My friends were jocks–they had it in with the ladies, were athletic, and everything cool. I was not. However, while they were good with girls, sports, and natural musicians/vocalists, I discovered a few talents of my own. I played in the area philharmonic symphony and was a pretty darn good violinist, began writing at the age of 15/16, and had a ridiculously good understanding of people and how to counsel/encourage them. In the 1st grade, my parents had started making me study my Bible 30 minutes/day, which translated into me having a good understanding of Scripture at a young age, and being a good teacher/leader spiritually. I loved it. Youth leaders said that I had the potential to be “the next Billy Graham” and that has always lit a fire in my soul, as I thoroughly enjoy ministry work. But, to be honest, back then, it was all about pride and recognition. I loved being higher than another. “[Insert name here] is sleeping around and I lead a Bible-Study, so open the gates of Heaven–here I come!” That is the sad but truthful state of my heart in those days.
Identity was a center-stage issue for me. Honestly, some days it still is, and it rears its’ ugly head on days where my confidence goes out the window and is replaced by lies from satan. I’ve always had sort of an awkward build, either scrawny or bulky, depending on the season, but my image-issues worsened when I was diagnosed with Scoliosis in 3rd grade. Scoliosis is an S-curvature of the spine and if not corrected, can cause all kinds of health issues. An orthopedic doctor and spinal-specialist worked together with my physician and they decided to brace me, placing me in an awkward back-brace–the brace made my jeans bulkier, placed steel rings up around my neck, and made me look kinda like a RoboCop. To make matters better, my peers were kind enough to call me “brace-boy” and ask me repeatedly what was wrong with me–kids can be the meanest human-beings on the planet sometimes. Anyways, I had to wear the brace 20-22 hours/day, so that left 2-4 hours of physical activity time I could have it off (for gym-class, baseball, backyard football).
With the back-brace, nerd-status, and struggling with constantly comparing myself to my way-cooler friends, I had a difficult time finding confidence, so I searched for sources of affirmation and power for identity. Teachers told me I was really smart, so I became really smart. It’s interesting how much power words have–my friend Brad tells me that he’s an engineer because people told him he was really good at math and science–people tell me that I can write really well–so here I am–writing. I began to constantly seek the approval of others–a lifelong struggle for me–I want to be liked, by everyone. So whenever a teacher didn’t seem to like me, or a peer had something against me, it would internally wreck me for a while, as I attempted to resolve it, trying to win over their affection in every way possible. We all know how that works; it doesn’t. It turns out, sometimes people just don’t like you, and that’s unfortunate, but you have to get over it, and move on. That was hard for me to do.
So what did I do? I turned to girls. Why? Well, they’re pretty and what makes you a man, after all? A girl, right? Wrong. I didn’t necessarily “chase skirts” and I certainly didn’t sleep around, but I did flirt, a lot, with anyone that would let me. If a girl returned my “You’re pretty.” with “You’re handsome.” then I’d be happy and if they didn’t, I’d be sad. I gave them the keys to whether or not I were satisfied with myself. Soon, “You’re handsome.” wasn’t good enough and I needed further forms of affirmation, and you get the picture.
So no, I didn’t do meth or heroin, and I haven’t killed anyone, but I have been addicted to affirmation and various forms of lust and I have hated another before (according to the Bible, that’s the same thing as killing them. I’m not in need of a rehab facility for alcoholism, but I am and always will be, in need of the continuous counsel of the Holy Spirit. What makes me better than you? Nothing. And, as someone that constantly likes very much to better than someone else, that’s hard for me to say. I am no better than you, nor will I ever be. I am a sinner, saved by grace. It’s not my performance, nor goodness, nor excellence, nor brilliance, nor religiosity, that saves me. Jesus, on a cross, by grace, did.
How did I come to salvation? What questions did I wrestle with along the way? What is the new Justin like, opposed to the old? What present-day struggles remain? If you’re still reading, mad-props, but that’s a story for another day. “Justin (A.D.)” is coming soon.