A Gospel-Centered Transformation

 

Michael, 30

I was not born into a Christian household. I was raised by undeniably good parents as the youngest of three boys. From a young age, it was apparent I was an introverted child. I had trouble making friends and my older brothers had personalities more aligned with one another. I was primarily raised by my Mom, who opted to stay-at-home while my Dad worked. While still in elementary school, my Dad moved out and my parents separated. This created a great deal of uncertainty, though my Mom tried her best to conceal it with ever-increasing love and attention paid to my brothers and me. Though my Dad had moved out, he would still come by the house in the evenings for dinner before again departing. As my parents’ relationship grew more strained with time, my Dad began to come by for shorter and shorter durations, though he still provided full financial support.  

One weekend, while still in elementary school, I remember hoping to spend the weekend with my Dad at his place. As I packed a bag getting ready for my first venture to his house, he asked me if this was something I really wanted to do. After having a conversation with my Mom, he ultimately convinced me to simply stay at home for the weekend rather than go with him. I took this as a deep rejection from one of the only male figures in my life. I have never been to Dad’s place. As the years wore on, little changed. Dad would come by the house most evenings to keep up appearances before departing, with my Mom and brothers not seeming too perturbed by the situation.  

By the time I entered my teen years, I began to view pornography and soon developed an addiction. I simply accepted this as something normal. I was not a Christian and did not have any comprehension of sin. Thus, my heart never felt the weight of darkness that is so synonymous with lust. I remained deeply introverted and had few, if any, real friends while in junior high. I mostly kept to myself, though my Mom did her best to encourage me to participate in extracurricular activities—football and choir.  

As I entered high school, not much changed. I was still a severely quiet kid with few friends. I didn’t drink, go to parties, or really do anything too disreputable. However, I had an ever-growing addiction to pornography. I participated in football and choir in an attempt to socialize, but never felt accepted by either group. By the time I was finishing high school, I had given very little serious thought to my future. But I made good grades and college seemed a reasonable choice, another opportunity for a new beginning. 

College functioned very much like high school. I lived at home with my Mom and two older brothers who were still living there as well. My Dad was pretty well detached emotionally, though he did continue to provide full financial support for us. As time wore on, I became increasingly discontent by my wayward lifestyle. I saw two older brothers who refused to act as men or provide an example to me of what adulthood was supposed to look like. My life was a predictable cycle of loneliness, pornography, and strained familial relationships 

As my addiction to pornography strengthened, major depression took an ever-stronger hold over my life and I began to struggle with feelings of same-sex attraction (SSA). Though I never engaged in any same-sex relationships, I still gave myself over at times to sin and worldly temptation. Only by the grace of God can I say that I stayed (and remain to this day) a virgin who was and is awaiting his bride. By what should have been my senior year of college, I was still unsure of what trajectory I wanted my life to take. I contemplated transferring universities in order to be away from my home and family and visited several schools as a prospective transfer student. After a period of indecisiveness, I decided to stay at my present university.  

At the start of the next spring term, I was inexplicably drawn to a bible study at the Baptist Student Ministry (BSM). This night in January was, in retrospect, an amazing show of grace by a Lord I hardly knew. I began to attend weekly worship and bible studies and felt, for the first time in my life, as though I had found an environment in which I could be happy and content. After about a year of weekly attendance, I was still clinging to the secret sin of SSA and pornography. I began to enter into a period of discontent and depression and consciously worked to rebel against the newfound goodness God brought into my life.  

In April 2011, I was assaulted by a man while drinking at a gay bar in Fort Worth. As if that night were not traumatic enough, I was later pulled over and arrested for DWI while trying to drive home. After spending the night in jail, I was picked up by my Mom and taken back home. Over the next few months, I was consumed by the events that had taken place. By early June, I had decided to end my life and attempted to do so. I remember waking up in the hospital the following morning with my Mom again at my side. By the end of that day, I had been transferred to a nearby psychiatric hospital for evaluation and would remain there for about a week. 

In July, I was introduced to Ricky Chelette and Living Hope Ministries by a friend I had previously met while attending the BSM. When I met Ricky, I was again emotionally destitute and spiritually bankrupt. What vestige of a Christian life I thought I had lived seemed an eternity removed from my current state. At Living Hope, I was brought into an environment rooted in biblical teaching and Christ-centered compassion. I was able to partake in a ministry that seeks to bring healing and reconciliation to my life’s difficulties. I was introduced to the most fundamental teachings of the gospel and found myself being shepherded toward sanctification. Ricky invited me into his home for lunch every Sunday. He opened his home and his life to me on Thanksgiving and Christmas. At Living Hope, I came to see what potential exists in relationships founded upon a Christ-like sense of sacrificial giving.  

Over time, and with the encouragement of Ricky and Living Hope, I completed my undergraduate degree and was encouraged to pursue graduate school. During that initial semester, I accepted an opportunity to participate in Living Hope’s Hope House Program – an intentional discipleship house with high accountability. At 26 years old, this marked the first occasion in my life I was not residing at home with my Mom and older brothers. However, this time was not without its own trials and pains. My time at the Hope House was marked by emotional regression and increasingly severe depression. In the face of chaos and suicidal ideation, Ricky and Living Hope continued to provide unwavering love and support to me. 

I soon moved to Dallas to be closer to my graduate school and began to regularly attend a gospel-centered church there. In June 2015, I followed the Holy Spirit and decided to publicly commit my life to Christ, with Ricky and several of my Living Hope brothers front and center at my baptism. 

Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the tutelage of Ricky and Living Hope, I have seen incremental transformation and sanctification take root in my heart and permeate every aspect of my life. I have been transformed from an introverted, socially isolated, addicted, and severely depressed child into a young man entrenched in the gospel. Today, I regularly serve in various roles in my church, including the pre-school ministry, and am regularly involved with a loving, gospel-centered small group. Today, like so many days, I contemplate with great joy what God has done through Living Hope Ministries! I cannot imagine where my life would be had I not been introduced to Living Hope.