Wednesday, May 1, 2013

#TellHisStory: You Just Have to Ask

This is a story born from true circumstance.  I liked the idea of interweaving the testimony with the song Hello, My Name Is by Matthew West.  It's real, you know - this forgiveness/grace thing.  All you have to do is ask....

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  
James 5:16

Everyone was there, sitting on the futons, the rug, pulled up in chairs.  It was a shoes-off, bare-feet-in-the-shag-rug kind of night.  The volume of music playing in the background was just right, allowing conversation to ebb and flow like tides on the ocean; voices pitched high and low, threaded in and out of the noise in the room.   The perfect night for fellowship.  Like it was staged or something.  The boy looked around at the group - his group - some of them friends from way back in elementary and middle school.  He was ready.

"It was just a pack of cigarettes.  Sitting on the coffee table in the middle of the room.  Just an ordinary pack."  His voice was quiet, earnest.  Some of the kids were still talking.

Hello, my name is regret
I'm pretty sure we have met

"I always thought it had to be a kind of traumatic event that got people started.  Hiding in the woods -  drinking.  Even drugs.  But for me -- just that pack of cigarettes.  Weird, huh?"  He looked around at the group, head swiveling on his wrestler's body - a mountain in the chair - boy and man at once.

Every single day of your life
I'm the whisper inside
That won't let you forget

The music still played, seeping through the room and insinuating itself into his story.  You could see him searching the faces of his friends - for common ground, for acceptance.  Like the rotating beacon of a lighthouse - a flashlight in the dark - searching.  He smiled, a self-deprecating smile, a looking-inward-I-wish-I'd-made-better-choices smile, a smile of remorse.

"I didn't want anyone to know.  So I went out in the woods."  Nodding to the group, now silent - mesmerized - he continued.  "I never skipped classes; I kept up with youth leadership.  But I knew - I knew it was wrong - what I was doing.  Not just the alcohol and smoking - the drugs, but the secrets."

Hello, my name is defeat
I know you recognize me

"So I tried to stop.  I knew it wasn't right - it's called sinning - what I was doing.  The cigarettes were starting to affect my lungs and my wind - I can't even run now without wheezing - y'all know what drugs and alcohol can do....our bodies are supposed to be temples.  I was polluting that temple."  The faces in the room were still - like statues - some frozen in disbelief, some completely blank, expressionless - all listening.  Taking it in.  Watching the man-boy in the chair.  Soaking in his confession.

"And that's when I starting piling up rocks."  His hands were restless.  First on his thighs, then folded across his chest, then down to his knees.  "Not literally."  He smiled again, humor radiating.  "Rocks.  Like piling a burden on your back.  Sin.  It weighs you down."

Just when you think you can win
I'll drag you right back down again

"I was living a double life, and it was tearing me up."  Heads were nodding - common ground.  "I couldn't forgive myself."  His voice was flat - emotionless - like it was coming out of a deep well, coming from a distant place.  He gazed across the room - it was that thousand-mile stare you see on soldiers sometimes - on soldiers who've seen too much, done too much, who can't stop the images. 

‘Til you've lost all belief

"Y'all know me.  I thought I believed in God and all.  I know that Jesus died to take away our sins - to forgive us.  But I guess you have to ask Him first."  Shaking his head slightly, eyes refocused, he contemplated the youth in front of him.  He paused, choosing his words.  "I guess I kind of lost my way."

The only sound in the room was the music in the background.  Like it was staged or something...

These are the voices, these are the lies
And I have believed them, for the very last time

He shifted in his chair, pulling his bulk up, sitting taller, straighter.  The mood in room altered - like a light in the darkness.  The youth leaned forward slightly as he spoke again.  "So, Blackstone.  That's why I'm talking to you about all this tonight.  Blackstone changed me..."  A laugh escaped.  His eyes sparkled.  "No, it was Jesus - but it happened at Blackstone."  

Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I've been saved, I've been changed,
And I have been set free
“Amazing Grace” is the song I sing
Hello, my name is child of the one true King

"There I was, in the middle of this hidden life, making bad choices, and feeling worse and worse about myself because I wasn't stopping.  I kept piling on rocks...I felt guilty about not stopping.  I felt guilty about being a youth leader - I was supposed to know better.  The worst thing was thinking about my Grandma - it would just make her so sad to know what I was doing.  That was probably the biggest rock - I was loading myself up good by Blackstone..."

I am no longer defined
By all the wreckage behind

"It was Saturday night.  During the communion service.  We prayed."  Heads were nodding again - definitely common ground.  "I asked for forgiveness - forgiveness for the cigarettes, for the alcohol, for the drugs.  Forgiveness for the hiding, for the secrets.  Forgiveness for the disappointing.  Mostly, I asked for forgiveness for the trying-to-do-it-myself-and-not-asking-Jesus... for my lack of faith in Him.  Because we're not supposed to do it alone.  We're supposed to ask.  Shoot, we sin all the time.  Jesus doesn't want us to pile up rocks and burdens - we're supposed to let them go - give them up.  So I did - I left my pile of rocks at my seat in the auditorium at Blackstone."

The one who makes all things new
Has proven it's true
Just take a look at my life

"I am forgiven.   I came back from Blackstone and I have stopped making those bad choices.  I told those not-friends that I wouldn't be hanging out with them anymore.  No more trips to the woods.  Well...I do still hunt...."  He smiled again - a happy smile - a carefree smile - a smile with a touch of wisdom and experience.  "I thought y'all needed to know.  You need to know how easy it is to be pulled away - it was just a pack of cigarettes on the coffee table.  You need to know how easy it is to get lost.  But mostly, mostly you need to know how easy it is to come back."  

He had them, this audience of his peers.  He had all of their attention.  No more whispering, all ears listening.  His eyes picked out each one, each youth, as he looked around the room.  I need to leave them with one final word, he thought.  They need to know.  So, purposefully, with all of the authority he could gather born of his recent experience:  "Jesus really does save, you know... All those rocks... the ones I kept piling on..." He shrugged his shoulders hard.  "Those rocks are gone"

Last look.  Last words.  "You just have to ask."

What love the Father has lavished upon us
That we should be called His children
I am a child of the one true King

God in Heaven, thank you for the courage of this youth leader.  Continue to hold him in your hand - to guide and direct him as you guide and direct us all through your Holy Spirit.  Thank you for forgiveness and grace.

Linking With:


  1. It's amazing how we think we can stay one step ahead of our sin and that even little things don't matter. But, they do. They pile up like rocks and they get more and more burdensome. What a great example this youth leader is to his kids-he's not perfect but he was honest about it. He didn't try to hide. He was real. And that is what our kids need more of. Realness. Thank you for this.

    1. It was pretty amazing to sit and listen as he presented his story - to watch the faces of his fellow youthies as what he was saying sank in.... It really is true that we try to talk ourselves out of the weight of sin - but it piles up, and piles up. It was a good message for all of us, who were there. Thanks for reading.

  2. Wow - this is a powerful story and I love how you used Matthew's song playing in the background. Only God could have set that stage that night. Beautiful. My favorite line that the youth says" "I was polluting the temple." Wow.

    1. He's a really good kid - just made Eagle Scout last spring - so it was both surprising and not surprising that he gave such a powerful testimony. He is very articulate - so yes, God let Satan tempt a powerful presence - And the message was stronger because of who this youth was - a leader at the conference, and a pile-er on of rocks. I think the kids really listened. I think it really hit home. It was a good reminder to all of us. Thanks for visiting.

  3. Powerful story, wonderful narrative. I was your "neighbor" today at Jen's place.

    1. Thanks for visiting, Elizabeth. It really WAS a powerful testimony. Have a wonderful week.

  4. Janet,

    This was lovely. I am a youth pastor's wife and so was quickly swept up in the story and the details familiar from teens I know too. Your line: "mostly you need to know how easy it is to come back." Sums it up perfectly!

    Thank you, God, huh? Nice to meet you. I'm hopping over from the IP link up.

    Jennifer Dougan

    1. Dear Jennifer, That's what I always say - Thank you, God! Bless you and your husband for the work you do with youth - they are so full of promise and possibilities. I'm glad you could visit.


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