From Bullied to Judgmental and Beyond (Part 1)

As someone who was bullied and didn’t really have a lot of friends from about the 3rd grade until sophomore year of high school I learned a thing or two about being judged. I didn’t have the coolest clothes or backpack and I certainly didn’t hang out with the cool kids on the weekend doing whatever they did. Instead I worried about people staring at my big ears or if someone would find my lunch box at the bottom of my bag, because apparently a metal Hot Wheels lunch box wasn’t cool in the 5th grade. With that, I became very conscious of everything I did and how people might judge me. In turn, I began to look at others the same way. In fact I still struggle with judging people today. Whether it is the guy tatted up buying Bud Ice at Walmart or the guy driving an old beat up Honda Civic with huge speakers and no muffler, I have an opinion about them, their life story, and why they were so much worse off than me. It can make me miserable, and it used to be pretty bad.

 

To be honest I don’t really remember when I started to have a change of heart. Maybe it was when an already tight group of friends let me hang out with them after my date ditched me at MORP my senior year. Perhaps it was when I became best friends with my roommate freshman year of college after we both weireded each other out in our first impressions.  Either way, God put people in my life to teach me two simple lessons: I’m not better than anyone because we are all different and unique, and everyone has a story with a reason to be loved.

 

To address the first lesson about me not being better than anyone I should reference my being bullied. See while I was never physically bullied, psychologically I was fighting a losing battle against other kids, myself, and the devil. Despite being decently athletic I wasn’t friends with the cool kids so I was always picked close to last, wasn’t invited to sit with them at lunch, and I definitely was not picked up with them in carpool to do fun things after school. Wow writing about that now seems so petty, but weird and nerdy little Chuck took those things hard. I saw them as signs of rejection. I told myself I wasn’t wanted by my peers, and the devil reminded me about it constantly. So I tried to fit in.

 

I tried to beat the system. In my mind if I did the things that the cool kids did that I would magically fit in, get picked, and have lots of friends. But as I’m sure you can guess I couldn’t beat the system. I was constantly reminded how much of a nerd I was, or how I just wasn’t good enough. At this point I realized I couldn’t beat the system but maybe I could change it. Surely I wasn’t the nerdiest, or the biggest goody two shoes, or the weirdest Christian around. There had to be others that were less cool than me. Indeed there were, and I made sure that I found them. I didn’t do it to prove to others that I wasn’t the worst. I did it to prove to myself that I had more worth than someone else. In my head I put others down, found their quirks and thought “at least I don’t do that”, and just in general mentally bullied them to make myself feel better.

 

Needless to say, my pain was only temporarily relieved. I did not gain anything. The devil was still there to remind me of how I didn’t fit in, even when my peers didn’t. But things started to change when I got to high school. Part of it was that my relationship with God grew exponentially as I really began to claim my faith as my own and realize that I am His child no matter what. The other part was that I found acceptance in a random group of friends. God placed Mackenzie, Mac, Ashley, Dalton, Emily, and Brooks in my life for many things, but the one thing that always stands out was that they accepted me for who I was, and there were no questions asked. I mean yeah I had made more and more friends in high school, even a couple girlfriends too, and those friend groups were awesome. But this new one was special. Here was a group that had been friends forever, and they just let me be a part of their group no questions asked. No judgement. (Also shout out to Mac for letting me dance with Ashley after I was left high and dry, true bro.)

 

It was through those budding friendships that I realized that I don’t need to build myself up over others so that I can feel like I’m worth something or prove something to anyone. There is no need to assume that someone else is dumb because they cannot do something that I can do or are ignorant about a certain subject. (Note: it is oaky to be ignorant because it simply means you don’t know that you don’t know.) In fact, that thought process has become something that I absolutely loathe. I cannot stand when someone makes fun of someone for not being able to do something. Now those who know me know that yeah I will make a joke if you don’t know how to do something that might be a little basic. However, right after I make that joke, I will do anything to help you figure out how to do whatever it is that you are struggling with. After all that is what Christ has done with us. Here we are hopeless sinners in need of a savior and instead of laughing at us because we don’t know the way to heaven Jesus shows us the way. He takes us by the hand and guides us.

 

I really wish that more people were like that today. In fact, that reminds me of one of my pet peeves: people who make fun of others in the gym. Whether it is the fat person trying to get in shape, the person who doesn’t know how to do an exercise properly, or someone who can’t lift much weight, not everyone is a gym rat. So stop recording them on snapchat and posting their valiant efforts and painful fails because it’s not funny. Think of the courage it took for them to come to the gym, maybe even for the first time. Everyone started somewhere, so why not go help them out and teach them what you know so that they can get started on the path to their goals?

 

Sorry about that mini rant. It just really highlights my point. We each have a different set of talents, goals, abilities, and tastes given to us by God, and throughout our life we learn things based on how we were raised to prepare us to do His will. That means that as a city boy I might not fix as many engines or ride as many dirt bikes as my country counterpart. But does that make me any lesser of a man or a child of God? Absolutely not. That is what makes me different. My skills are in sports and politics. That’s where my calling is. So does it matter how fast I can rebuild the front end of a car or do drywall? While I’d love to be able to do both, the answer is no.

 

But there is someone out there who could rebuild the front end of a car in a weekend and patch up some drywall on their lunch break and that’s awesome. That’s what they’re good at. Just as I wouldn’t want them to look down upon me and make fun of me for not being able to fix a set of disk brakes, I shouldn’t look down on them for not being able to kick a soccer ball very far. We have different skills. We all do. So let’s stop looking at our neighbor and thinking that wow I might be dumb but at least I know how to *insert task you think is simple* because to some people it might not be. We all fail at something, and when we do we would love to see a friendly face staring back at us saying that it’s okay and to not be embarrassed. No one wants to be laughed at and called an idiot simply because they were ignorant. We all could use a little more love and compassion. So go out and make a difference in someone’s life. Be there to support not to demean.

 

Now in closing I think that it is very important that I highlight one thing, well two things. First I will talk about the second lesson in a second blog post so stay tuned. But as far as the first lesson goes remember this: in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talked about how murder begins in the heart just like adultery (Matthew 5:21-30). In the passage he explains the new covenant and that you don’t have to actually kill someone to have committed a sin equivalent to murder, “You have heard the it was said to those of old, You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgement. But I say to you whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement.” That same concept applies to judging others and bullying them. Just like I mentally bullied people in middle school so that I could feel better about myself, when we think of someone as a lesser person for failing or being ignorant, we are still sinning against God because they are made in His image just like us. Also, trust me; it does not make you feel better about yourself in the long term. So to Kassandra Shands-Cherry, Harmony Tarrant, Braden Dunford, Ramond Motely, and anyone else that I bullied but have woefully forgotten, if you ever read this blog post I’m sorry and I hope that you can forgive me. You never knew my thoughts but trust me they weren’t nice and I’m sorry. To the rest of you, go out and be Jesus to the world. Be that helping and compassionate hand someone needs. Show others how to change a tire, and while you’re at it show them the way to eternal life: to the Father through the Son.

Our dreams vs. God’s calling

Okay so I know it has been a long time since I posted and for that I am sorry. For some reason I just could not find the words to express this thought. Oddly enough God gave me a few experiences to help me round it out. I’m still not sure if I got this out of my head and off my heart correctly so I pray that God is with you when you read this so that He may interpret. Without further ado I present to you the blog that took almost 2 months to write.

Over the past few months many people have been saying how awesome it is that I am pursuing my dreams, chasing my dreams or something to that effect, as I play soccer in Spain. But it got me thinking, and that phrasing does not really still well with me. My dream? To me that sounds selfish. It makes this whole endeavor seem to be all about me, what I want, and how I want my future to turn out without regard for anyone else. Now while the world says that is all well and good, the Bible points to something that is quite contrary. Jesus does not talk about pursuing our wants and desires, otherwise classified as dreams, so that we may live successful lives for our own satisfaction. Instead, He wants us to pursue His calling for our lives, because the God of the universe just might have a better plan than we could ever imagine.

Now, I realize that this is nitpicking about dreams, and what the word means, but I feel that the words we choose reflect the manner in which we are thinking. Dreams are selfish. They are all about what we want. Think about it. When someone asks you what your dream is, what is usually the first word you say in your answer? My. The response is usually, “MY dream is…” The answer itself is selfish. No matter what we say, whether it is to end world hunger, save all the kitties from the trees, or to have the most money ever, a dream is selfish. Therefore, no matter what we say we are speaking on our own behalf. That is a problem. When it comes to living life we are not to have our own agenda. The disciples did not have an agenda when they followed Christ (aside from spats about who is going to sit where), so why should we? They left their families, jobs, way of life, and any future plans to follow to the savior of the world when He called them. Perhaps Matthew dreamed of being the richest tax collector in the Roman Empire. Yet he left that to submit to follow Christ, and he got something greater than all of the riches in the world. Shouldn’t we do the same? Jesus indicated that following Him required that we deny ourselves and pick up our cross (Luke 9:23), that we must turn from our family and friends, and even forsake ourselves to be His followers (Luke 14:25-33). Forsaking ourselves means forsaking our dreams.

Sounds harsh huh? Well think about this. Aside from being selfish there is simply a logical problem with dreams. We will never attain them. Why? Like a mirage, a dream is an image or situation that is created by the mind and has no real attachment to the real world. Simply put, dreams are not real. How can we obtain something that is not real? You can’t. Not to mention the fact that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). So if God can do so much more than we could ever think of why would we waste our time thinking of grand things? They could never compare to what the Lord has. We need something to take the pace of dreams.

Despite the fact that dreams our selfish, not focused on Christ, and logical unattainable, that does not mean that we cannot be thinking about the future. Anyone who went to DBU knows all about Jeremiah 29:11 and how God tells His people that he has “plans” for them. That word is so important. Plans. A plan is a set of actions that have been thought of as a way to do or to achieve something (Merriam-Webster). Our lives need a plan. What is yours? What do you want to accomplish? But before you give your answer, let me share mine.

I don’t have a plan, but God does. See my plan is to accomplish God’s will for my life. In everything little thing that I do, I want to do things in a way that glorify the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31) and complete the tasks He has set before me. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Those good works are my daily tasks. Those good works are the choices I make every day. Those good works are what some people call my dream. See to me, playing soccer at any level, for any amount of pay, for any amount of time, and for any team is not what I want. It is what God wants. I am His workmanship: He created me. I am created for good works: to glorify Him and spread the Gospel. He prepared all of this in advance for me: He gave me the talent, the work ethic, the opportunity afforded me by my parents, the right people supporting me, and an infinite number of other events that led me to be where I am today. Some people call that luck, and now I’m living out my dream. To me it is all a part of God’s plan and my calling, and I am simply answering that calling and doing the works He prepared.

Who knows what may happen from here? I may sign a huge contract this week and be a millionaire by Friday, or God could tell me to step away from the game by Sunday, or nothing could change in my life for the next 10 years. No matter what, nothing has been derailed. This plan He has for my life, this calling, goes way beyond soccer. It’s my whole life. That is something that I have really become at peace with over these past few months. I used to worry about what tomorrow might bring (Matthew 6:25-34) but now I don’t really. My only concern is making sure that I am making choices based on the calling of God. Why? Because my wants and desires change like the weather in Texas, but God’s will is unchanging. There is a warm kind of peace that comes with that. I don’t feel trapped, or cornered into making a decision based on what someone else wants. I feel at peace knowing that when I pray for wisdom and understanding like Solomon did (2 Chronicles 1:11-12), I am praying to the almighty God of the universe for the things I need to live the best life possible, the one He has called me to live.

CAN YOU COMPREHEND HOW AWESOME THAT IS?! I never did until I actually experienced it. I mean people had always talked about it, but I never got it. My whole life, everything, is in the hands of the God of the universe. He has called me to do something miraculous, something breath taking, something that only I can do, and that is live my life for His glory. Whatever made me think that I could dream of anything greater than that? Could the rush of thousands of fans screaming in a match really top the feeling of knowing I’m 100% in tune with God’s call for my life? Absolutely not. All of the moments in my past, and the pasts of everyone that I meet have happened for a reason, and that reason is so that I can glorify Him at all moments in the present. He is in control of every single moment, controlling the things that I can’t, while allowing me to make my own choices. He has provided me a calling but has not forced me to answer it. Yet I want to answer it. I want what He wants. He has provided so much, starting with His son. He sacrificed His only son so that I might be saved from my own sin. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Man that is awesome! He gave His own son for you and for me. The things we ask for on a daily basis pale in comparison to that act.

Now despite how awesome I felt writing that last paragraph, it hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows. I will admit it has been a struggle. As a human I have earthly desires and there are things that I want that don’t align with God and His will and calling for my life. There are things that I want, that in order to obtain them I have to stop abiding in God and rely on myself. The rewards from those things are often immediate but they do not last, and they do not bring as much joy as the things that He has in store for my life. But when I turn my desires into the desires of God amazing things have begun to happen. When I take the two options, wanting what I want versus wanting what God wants, and I am able to make them into a single choice, I want what God wants, I truly allow Him to work in me and bless me. After all, that is what He wants. He wants great things for me, because great things for me means I can bring glory to Him.

So what are your plans? Even if you and I want to accomplish the same thing, bring glory to the Kingdom of God by doing His will in our lives, your calling will certainly be different in application than mine. If it wasn’t then we would be sitting side by side writing this blog together. So while I don’t know what He is calling you to do, I do know that it is going to be awesome! How do I know? Because the bible tells me so. Just look through it, every individual story is amazing and is full of treasures you never knew existed until you look deeper. Think about all of the experiences in the life of Moses that turned Him into the man God chose to lead His people from Egypt. Look at how God set Him up, chose him, and equipped Him to be a leader despite a speech impediment. That could be you, granted on a smaller scale and with different imperfections, but the concept still applies. So how are we to know exactly what to do next and what we are called to do? How do we know what His plan is for our own personal life?

Getting instruction from God is like getting instruction from anybody, you can’t just ask, ask, ask, and not listen for a response. What’s more, if you don’t have a firm relationship with someone there might be some miscommunication or misunderstanding about what exactly needs to be done when they try and explain something. It’s the same with God. You have to read His Word, talk to Him, and perhaps even more importantly listen to Him. That’s how you’ll get to know and understand Him.

I recently read 1 John and it talks so much about abiding in the Lord. That is, accepting or acting in accordance to what He says. I would strongly encourage you to read the book. It’s pretty short but man it’s powerful. But why stop there? Read other books of the bible, head to Proverbs for some wisdom, or the letters of Paul for encouragement. Let God lead you where He needs you. Take it from me, while you’re never forced to answer His calling for your life, the sooner you do the more awesome life will be. Granted it won’t be rainbows and sunshine all the time, God does promise trials and tribulations. But those are just more opportunities to glorify Him. After all, what’s greater that glorifying the God of the universe? Nothing.