The song in the video – “Ask Me” by Amy Grant has served as an incredible sense of encouragement and hope to me in my recovery from childhood sexual abuse. I cannot tell you how many times I have listened to it, over and over again, celebrating the hope and freedom Jesus has brought to my life over the past few years. My favorite line in the song is towards the end where it says,
“He’s in the middle of her pain. He’s in the middle of her shame. He’s in the middle…….
Mercy in the middle.”
What it means to me is that our God of mercy brings comfort to us in the midst of our deepest, darkest moments (see II Corinthians 1:3-4). I’ve come to believe and know that God was with me, bringing mercy and comfort to me when I was locked in a closet as a 7 year old enduring the horrors of sexual abuse. He was with me through years I kept it a secret. He was even there with me when I chose to medicate my pain in so many unhealthy ways. He was with me in 2005 when I finally began the process of working through and overcoming the horrors of my past. Every step of the way God has been there with me bringing “mercy in the middle.” And God can do the same thing for you! No matter what you have faced in your past or face in your present, God is there with you bringing you “mercy in the middle.” No matter how painful or shameful your situation may be – YOU ARE NOT ALONE! God is there with you ready and able to lead you out of the darkness. It won’t be easy and it will take a lot of hard work but not near as much work as it takes to live with shame. Trust me, it is so worth it! Freedom is a beautiful thing and you too can live in the freedom God has for you. If you need professional help check out The Heart Matters counseling center. These are the people who led me out of the darkness! I’ll leave you with a prayer I pray daily:
“God send your mercy in the middle to the abused and addicted still suffering alone. Use me to lead them out of the darkness.”
I’m sitting on an airplane with my 6’6” totem pole body crammed into a regular, no leg room, non-exit row, teeny, tiny airplane seat. I’m sitting next to a guy who is also circus freak tall and we’re both cramped, crunched, and fighting for leg and elbow room like sardines in a tiny can but at least we’re not alone! I don’t think there is anything more encouraging than knowing that whatever you’re facing somebody has either been there or is there right now and feels your pain. I think the most comforting words in the English language are, “Me Too” because those words scream out “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!” My 94 year old grandmother, Maw-Maw, would put it this way,
“A burden shared is a burden halved and a burden born alone is a burden doubled.”
The problem is not so much finding someone who has been where you are but finding someone with the guts to be real enough to admit it. Sadly this is especially true in the church where often times rather than helping our wounded we shoot them and that has got to stop! I say its time we take off our masks and stop pretending we’ve got it all together. We need to start being real and transparent about who we are and what we’re struggling with so we can make it safe for others to do the same and hopefully all get better together. I’ll go first. To those who have faced the horrors of childhood sexual abuse I say, “ Me Too.” To those who have had their butts kicked by an addiction I say, “ Me Too.” To those who are fighting through the 12 steps trying to get well I say, “Me Too.” To those who have been beat down by the reality of depression I say, “Me Too.” To those who struggle to let Jesus take control I say, “Me Too.” To those who are sick of going to church and pretending everything is fine when its not I say, “Me Too.” To those who have feared that if people really knew you they wouldn’t love you I say, “Me Too” To those who battle insecurity I say, “Me Too.” To those who just want to be loved and accepted, warts and all I say, “Me Too.” To all the broken, hurting, and struggling people I say, “you are not alone. You have never been alone!” Somebody, including Jesus, Heb 4:15, has been where you are and you do not have to suffer alone!!! So let’s take off our masks, get real with each other and with God and start saying “Me too” as loudly and as often as we can!
I’m going to INDIA tomorrow!! INDIA – that’s on the other stinkin’ side of the dang world! I know, I looked it up. I actually got out a globe and looked. When we were kids and we tried to dig our way to China in the backyard, we were wrong. We weren’t digging to China, we were digging to India! I am a little concerned about how I am gonna cram my 9 foot legs and my A.D.H.D. brain in an airplane for 14 hours on my flight to the other side of the world but I’m sure that once I’m there that will seem insignificant and petty.
I cannot believe I’m getting to do this. I am so blown away at this opportunity God has dropped in my lap. I’m going with my good friend Coby Colley and Asian Partners International. We’ll be working in New Dehli, Gorakpur, Varanassi, Patna, and several other places I can’t pronounce. We have many things planned but what I am most pumped about is working with the people who minister to the orphan beggars at the rail stations. These are the kids portrayed in the movie Slumdog Millionaire. These kids are horribly abused and forced to beg for money to pay off their pimps. Not sure if that’s what they’re called but somehow it seems fitting. I will be working with the leaders there to help them understand how to talk/minister/reach out to someone who has been abused. If you know my story of childhood sexual abuse then you know this is something I am really thrilled to have the opportunity to do.
I am really excited and somewhat nervous. I’ve done mission work in Mexico and Haiti but I’ve been warned that nothing can prepare me for what I will see in India. I’ll be updating this blog and twittering whenever I can to keep you posted on what is happening so you can pray specifically. Thanks to everyone who is praying and those who provided funding for this trip. I couldn’t have done this without you!
This has been one of the most jacked up years ever! My ministry schedule was basically empty for most of the Spring and I only had 2 camps booked for this summer – down from a normal 6 or 7. For a long time I tried to blame this on “today’s wintry economic climate” because it was easier than admitting that God was trying to get my attention. Somewhere around March I quit being so ding dang hard headed and accepted the fact that I couldn’t continue to blame the economy for my empty schedule because if God’s hand was still on my ministry then the economy wouldn’t matter. So I started practicing what I preach and started digging into the Word – searching- seeking- praying- trying to wrap my head around what it was God was trying to teach me. Over time I begin to realize that at least part of what God was trying to teach me was humility. Which is not a fun lesson to learn especially the 2nd, 3rd, or 29th time! Anyway I got it in my head that if I just humbled myself and let people know that my schedule was empty then God would open the heavens, the phone would start ringing, and everything would get back to normal. So I made a video titled “Runks Summer 2k9 plan B”, emailed it to a bunch of Student Ministers, and waited to see what happened. Here’s the video I sent out……
As you can probably imagine, it generated a lot of response, just not the response I was looking for. I got lots of positive feedback, encouragement, and funny emails but no bookings. What really surprised me was how many of my friends called to see if I was OK. It caught me off guard because at the time I was honestly just trying to make a funny video, humble myself, and do what I thought God was leading me to do but when I look at it now I can see the reasons for their concern. I can hear the desperation in my voice and see the fear in my eyes. I have a tendency to be glass half-empty guy. I don’t like it. I’d pay money not to be that way but because of the abuse in my past when things get bad I tend to freak out and think the world is coming to an end. I know that’s crazy but sometimes that’s my reality and that’s exactly what was going on when I made that video. I still think the video is funny and have no doubt that I was being obedient to God when I sent it out but at the time I was literally freaking out. I was so worried that my days as an evangelist were over and that God was done with me. I know that’s pretty extreme but I’m just being honest.
The crazy thing is, that stupid video turned out to be the catalyst God used to turn things around. My plan B turned out to be a stepping stone to get me to God’s plan A. Out of nowhere, God dropped the opportunity of a lifetime in my lap. A friend of mine, that saw the video, called and asked me to pray about going on a two week mission trip to India in July! I told him I’d pray about it but I knew from the second he called that this was part of God’s plan for me. The day after that a former student of mine from my Youth Minister days who is an internet marketing Guru offered to help me come up with a new marketing strategy, redesign my website, and start this blog. I thought for a while that I was supposed to write a book this summer but I think this is taking the place of that for now. I can already tell that this blog is going to be good for me and hopefully offer some hope and help to others. Then through a series of crazy events, God made it clear that I needed to leave the agency that had done my booking for 5 years and go back to doing my own booking. Nothing against the agency, I just wanted to get back to a ministry based approached where we discuss, dream, and plan for ministry before money, contracts, and all that junk ever come up. This is where lesson number 2 came in: Re-learning to trust God for everything. Once again, God has reminded me that I cannot depend on my talent, my gifts, or a big shot booking agency to make this ministry a success. I’ve simply got to put my trust in Him and not in myself. I’ve learned this before but somewhere along the way I got wrapped up in ME and forgot about it.
And then I went to Super Summer Arkansas. An event that could have easily been an ego trip deluxe but I went there broken and humbled with a renewed trust in God as my provider and it proved to be one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Every compliment I received, every student that was saved, every life that was changed – rather than stroking my ego brought me to my knees. The entire time I was there I kept pinching myself because I just could not and cannot believe that God was letting me speak at such an awesome event. A young youth minister friend of mine that knows my situation bought every one of my meals at the time-honored tradition of late night dining after worship at youth camp. It was so humbling for him to do that for me but also an absolutely incredible blessing! And then on Wednesday afternoon of that week, I booked the first event I’ve booked myself in 5 years. We shared ideas, dreamed dreams and made a plan for what is going to be an awesome event. Afterwards, I went outside, called my wife, and wept like a baby. I kept saying over and over, “Its not over. Its not over. Its not over! God is not done with us. He’s got more for us to do.” That may seem silly to some but I can’t tell you how awesome it is to know and believe again that God is not finished with me – that He has more for me to do.
Its been a crazy year and an even crazier summer but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I wouldn’t want to go through it again but I wouldn’t trade for what God has done in my life. My schedule is still a little thin but God is meeting our needs and I’m not worried about it anymore. I’m just going to stay focused on being broken, humble, and faithful and do whatever I can to meet the needs of every hurting teenager God places in front of me.
I’ll leave with you with the words of a rap from Will Smith which oddly enough seems to fit here:
“I got my X-ray vision through all in my way. No Plan B, it distracts from Plan A.”
No more plan B for me. I’ll stick to God’s Plan A. Its safer there and a lot more fun.