It's been a crazy, awesome experience...
My number one desire was to step out in faith and hopefully let my love for Christ and people be used to impact others in a way that they would know God exists and He loves them. I hopefully do that everyday in my church but this was to be something new and unique...really out of my "churchy" comfort zone.
I'll be honest, I threw myself into this mostly because I wanted my son to have this opportunity and to have hope again. Getting fit and healthy for myself was next on my list. I expected to go into this be around for a month or so...lose some weight...get some tips to help me get on the right track...then be sent home to continue on and allow my son to move forward in this journey. However, God had other plans.
Turns out, I was to spend a great deal of my time working on me, separate from my son. I needed (and still need) a lot of work, God knew this, and He brought me to a place of fully having to depend on Him to make it through. My family, my friends, my students, my church, even my son who joined me were all removed from me so that I had to stand there open before my Maker to deal with the flaws in my life. It has been the most humbling yet rewarding experience of my life.
Early on, God led me to a couple of verses that became, and continue to be, my focal points.
First was this one:
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" Philippians 1:6
This verse helped me through many difficult and dark days in this journey. I camped on the fact that no matter what I was facing I could be confident of the fact that God had begun this work in me and He would not stop working on me until I was perfected.
This doesn't just mean during this experience but also through the rest of my life.
The second was:
"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14 When I began to get wind of how some were seeing me, I really struggled. It has been so hard to know how things are portrayed compared to how they really are
and yet have no control or ability to communicate the truth. There are so many who have been given limited information through which they have formed opinions. This isn't their fault, but their words still hurt even though I keep telling myself that they don't see the whole picture...that is where this verse came to mean so much to me. I had to accept there are things out of my control and push forward to achieve the prize for which I was called. So even in the midst of the struggle I set my heart and eyes on the prize and received strength in Christ like nothing I've ever experienced before.
Now understand, we all may see the "prize" differently.b][ My prize has never been about money or material things, I walked into this being really clear that I didn't care about any of that. The prize I fought for was the ability to be a healthier, stronger witness for Christ; [/b]a better, more energetic husband to my amazing wife; a more loving and caring father to my children;
and a pastor with renewed passion for the people I serve...I've received and will continue to receive these prizes. With two weeks left in this experience I had one more important issue to address and that was one of character and integrity. The right thing to do was to look at what God has accomplished in me through this and to be willing to stand up and surrender the value of material goods and potentially the opinions of others. This was not a protest, it is just my way of saying people/relationships matter more than money/popularity/fame.
We weren't kicked out...no one called us a cab...we weren't "demanding" we get our way; it was literally a peaceful decision to agree to disagree. It was just time for me to go.
I know many will still judge me, but that's okay. I never quit,
I was just done with this part of God's shaping of the man who sits here typing this. He will never be done or give up on me and I will never stop pushing ahead to grow in Him and make known His love for all people. I am deeply thankful for this amazing experience and I have gained everything I possibly could from it. This show has changed my life.
Based on what you've seen if you believe I have failed, then I genuinely ask you to pray for me. I still have work to be done in me and I honestly value your grace and prayers.
However, if you believe I have done well through this, then thanks for your love and support. I genuinely ask you to pray for me...I still have work to be done in me and I value your grace and prayers.
Lastly, I leave you with this challenging verse and say, "I won. I gained the prize that I was the most important."
"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win." 1 Corinthians 9:24
Give grace, live truth, reflect Jesus.