The night I got arrested…

24 03 2011

Last weekend I shared a story with about 50 parents about a mistake I made when I was 15 years old. I point to this experience as the beginning of a tumultuous 4 years in High School.  But not for me (at least, not at the time). My parents experienced the most hardship and difficulty during this part of my life. I know it’s true because they told me. Staying up late at night arguing what to do with me and how they were supposed to move forward in the midst of a pretty solid amount of dumb decisions.

The night I went to my first ever High School dance I was filled with excitement, fear, and anxiety. Mostly the latter two. I succumbed to peer pressure (which would turn out to be a trend for me) and invited a girl I didn’t know all that well because “we were part of the same group.” We dressed up, I placed the corsage on her wrist, we ate a delicious dinner, had our parents drive us to the school, and I suffered through the actual dance- only dancing during the slow songs. To my wife’s chagrin, I still treat most situations involving and form of dance this way.

After the dance I went to my friend’s house with 2 of my best buddies and began to watch TV and talk about girls and eat a ridiculous amount of food. At about 2 am one of the less intelligent members of the group informed us that he had smoke bombs and it was our duty to light them in front of the Carl’s Jr. down the street. We agreed. We put dark clothes on and set out for our adventure. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it very far.

As the lights flashed above the police car our immediate reaction was to run. All of us except for the guy whose house we were staying at. He decided to sit on the curb, so we had no choice but to join him. The four of us were piled in the back of the police car and I thought my life was over. We ended up having to pay a hefty $20 fine and take a 4 hour curfew violation class on a Saturday.

The part I remember most about the whole experience was probably mom and dad’s reaction. That and the horrible feeling in my stomach the next morning. Like I said before, this was the start of a string of stupid decisions I would make for the next 4-5 years and my parents had to deal with the headache of it all. However, in their response and reaction to my dumb decisions they ALWAYS communicated love. I knew they cared about me, I knew they loved me, I knew there would be consequences, I always got disciplined and I always knew they had forgiven me.

This week I am teaching on forgiveness and in preparation for the message, one of the first things I grabbed out of Timothy Keller’s book The Prodigal God was that forgiveness costs something. It cost my parents a lot of sleepless nights and it caused arguments and disagreements between them. But the price they paid for me is the reason I am sitting in an airport getting ready to go with my dad to our yearly March Madness games. I have a great relationship with my folks. I respect them and love them and I am so thankful for their sacrifices.

But, as much as it cost my parents to forgive me, it cost Jesus a lot more. As much as my parents sacrificed for me, Jesus sacrificed a lot more. As much as my folks longed for me to come home, Jesus desires for me to come home that much more. Without any kids of our own, I think this is part of the way I understand forgiveness. And I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am. Hopefully our students grab onto that as well.



Identity Crisis

10 03 2011

Everyone has struggles and obstacles and different issues they are trying to overcome or resolve. A good friend of mine is currently in the process of sharing his fight with bi-polar disorder.  (I really want to encourage you to read it on his blog as it has been very freeing and powerful for a lot of people). As I’ve read his story I am reminded of something the very same friend and I asked High School students to take part in back in March of 2010.

We were in the middle of a series entitled “Identity Theft” and as we closed the series we asked students to share their secrets with us. We thought if students had the ability to voice their pains, regrets, struggles, or fears it would help them move even closer to finding their identity in Christ. I don’t think we were really prepared for the response that Sunday.

As the cards flooded the stage we began to recognize a momentary sense of relief. A burden was lifted. After that weekend, I decided to take all of the cards the students wrote on and put them in my office. I wanted our students to know I wouldn’t forget their struggles.

Well, two weekends ago I learned something about those struggles. I learned they won’t forget them either. During the last weekend in February our lead pastor, Steve Madsen, asked the congregation to bring their struggles to the cross. It proved to be a powerful message, as hundreds of people wrote their struggles, regrets, pains and fears on note cards and nailed them to the cross. All last week our staff prayed over these cards and as I sat there reading some of them I began to get the feeling like I had heard these somewhere before.

“I can’t believe I went through with the abortion.”

“I fear being a teenage mom will become my identity.”

“I have an addiction to pornography.”

“I no longer want to live.”

These people’s stories break my heart and I’ve come to understand even more through this experience that it doesn’t really matter what stage of life we are in, we still hurt. People are broken, people are in pain, and most people don’t know where to turn.

My favorite part about my friend’s story is that Bi-polar disorder is not who he is. It does not define him. I think he would probably say he has surrendered that part of his life to Christ and has found freedom in the surrender.

***Side note: I want to be clear and make sure you do not think I am comparing bi-polar disorder or any other illness with sin, because it’s not. I’m essentially talking about pain, sorrow, regret, and struggles as a part of our lives and as they become more prevalent, we have tendencies to allow them to define who we are. ***

I think surrender is the key here. The only way to be completely healed is to nail our pain and afflictions to the cross and leave them there. Jesus didn’t die to borrow our transgressions and our hurt, he died to remove them. There is freedom in Christ because he conquered the cross and when we find our identity there, we experience that freedom. I hope our students and our congregation continue to surrender and find healing. I hope as people share their burdens and struggles we come alongside them in love. I hope we trust God, amidst confusion and emptiness, for His never ending grace and love. And I hope we choose to find our identity in Jesus Christ and not the hardships we encounter.

Room Raided

4 03 2011

This is a video a few of our students put together for the Freshmen “You Own the Weekend” service. (The Frosh class rocked it last Sunday by the way!!) Let’s just say I feel violated and there really isn’t much truth to what happened here. Except for the last picture of me. Weight room is real. Check it out: