Monday, April 06, 2009

A story you should read! READ IT!!! (fist shaking)

When I was in youth group we had two awesome youth volunteers, Phil & Molly Stewart. Their daughter Melissa was around my sisters age and was starting in youth group when I was in college at Moody doing an internship with our youth pastor Mike. Melissa and I have recently reconnected via Facebook. Today she shared an amazing story about her life's journey that I want to share with whomever will read it. It is amazing and would be well worth your time to read it! Here is Melissa's story, which she entitles, 'The Pursuit of Happiness":

We live in country whose constitution acknowledges a pursuit of happiness. The constitution guarantees our rights of life and liberty, but only a pursuit of happiness; not a guarantee of happiness, but a right to pursue it. My story will recount how I spent the past 24 years pursuing happiness.

I started attending church when I was three years old. I was very lucky and blessed to be raised in a Christian home with Christian parents who raised me with Christian ideals from infancy. I was saved when I was 8 years old, and baptized when I was 12. As a young child, I was active in the Awana program. I memorized bible verses, witnessed to other children on playgrounds, sang worships songs while riding arond town running errands with my mom. As I grew older, I became active in the church youth group. I attended Christian bible camps in the summer, I participated in events such as the 30 hour famine, and enjoyed fellowshipping with other Christians on youth group retreats. During this time as a child, I pursued happiness while pursing God, and I was greatly rewarded.

If I were to pinpoint a certain time in my life when that pursuit of happiness took a drastic turn for the worse, it would be the very first weekend of my freshman year of high school. I got drunk for the first time. This opened a whole new area of opportunities for me to pursue happiness. I spent most of my high school days trying to figure out how to become more popular. I was consumed by vanity and self-fulfillment. My pursuit of happiness during these four years led to me being arrested at 16 for minor consumption, experimentation with eating disorders in a desperate attempt to stay thin and pretty, and a broken and battered heart from boys that used me because I allowed myself to be promiscuous. Needless to say I failed miserably at pursuing happiness at this time.

But I moved on. I enrolled in college. The first year I was enrolled at Indiana University we were voted "the number one party school in the country." It's true, I had a t-shirt stating that fact, and I wore it proudly. It was at IU, that I continued to practice the art of binge drinking, pushing myself to dangerous and near-deadly limits. I started smoking weed and cigarrettes. I thought promiscuity equaled popularity, and I desperately wanted to be popular and well-liked. In my search of popularity, I joined a sorority. I surrounded myself with girls who told me that I was nothing but the designers that I wore. Soon, I began resenting my parents for not being rich enough to provide me with the desinger jeans and handbags I needed to really "fit in" with my surroundings. Since I couldn't fit in with my "sisters" I escaped it. I discovered the joy of roadtripping: packing our bags, and packing a car, full of eager girls, in search of the next great adventure, usually a concert. As if this literal esacpe from reality weren't enough, while on these roadtrips, I would drink heavily, smoke heavily, and try to prove that I was someone. I thought that the more famous people I met, I would somehow become famous by default. Sadly, this is not the case. During my years of pursuing happiness at IU, I was rescued from being blacked out drunk in the middle of the street by some guy I barely knew. Just a few weeks later, I woke up in an emergency room in Cleveland, Ohio after nearly dying from alcohol poisoning. I failed so miserably trying to pursue happiness during these years that I thought my life was no longer worth living. I was found on the bathroom floor of my sorority trying to end it all. I didn't succeed in ending my life, but I succeeding in ending my time 'studying' at Indiana University.

I transfered schools to Indiana University Northwest so that I could move back in with my family, and get my life back on track. The one thing that was missing from the equation was God. I left his side some years ago, and strayed so far away, I wasn't sure how to get back. I thought that when I moved home, I'd start attending church again regularly, and somehow all would be right again. This isn't exactly how it happened. While I was going to school full time, and working full time in a retail job, I also got a side job working in a bar on the weekends. This bar was the reason I continued to binge drink, and smoke, and flirt with guys while flirting with disaster. I was usually too hungover to attend church with my parents on Sundays. Sometime during my senior year of college, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. adenoid cystic carcinoma. a-d-e-n-o-i-d-c-y-s-t-i-c-c-a-r-c-i-n-o-m-a. I can spell it because I used to type it into google every single day of my life, and read all of these web pages about this very rare form of cancer. This is what I translated: "your mom is most likely going to die. Your mom is probably going to die. Your mom is definetely going to die." You see my mom, wasn't just the woman who gave birth to me. She was my best friend, sometimes my only friend, she was my lifeline, my rock, my support group, she is the reason I'm even around to have a story to tell today. My mom couldn't die. No way. I could not survive without her. So I started bargaining with God. I made every promise to him under the sun. I prayed so hard, all day, every day, and made him promises I knew I'd never fulfill. He knew that too. Because as soon as I got done praying, I'd go right back to the bar, and start taking shots to get nice and drunk, so I no longer remembered my mom was even sick. Somehow, through all of this, by the grace of God, I graduated college. Shortly thereafter, my mom's cancer went into remission. She's been cancer free for two years now. Praise the Lord.

With my mom healthy again, I decided to return to my pursuit of happiness. I had big dreams for my life. Heck, I even have it tattooed on my wrist. "dream big." I wanted that sex & the city lifestyle. I wanted to do big things, buy nice things, meet cool people, and I wanted to do it all on my own. And I did. I live in an amazing apartment, I have an unbelieveable job, I've met just about every celebrity/pro athelete I've wanted to meet. When I went to the clubs, I was always VIP. What does VIP stand for anyways? Vain. Insecure. Pathetic? Thats what my life was. I thought I had it all, I thought I finally "made it". All of those years of wanting to "be someone" and I finally was. But deep, down, in my core, I knew there was something wrong. There was something missing. I kept searching and searching and pursing happiness, and I kept coming up empty handed. My favorite band at the time had lyrics to a song that kind of struck a chord with me. The lyric was "do you remember when we laughed and said 'I really want my life to matter, but I don't know what I'm chasing after." Well, I decided to post this as a status update on facebook. This was the day that changed my life for good. Forever. An old family friend reached out to me that day with some harsh words regarding the reality that I was living in. He brought to my attention that all of the empty and materialistic things I was pursuing were not going to bring me any closer to happiness, and that the longer I pursued these things, the more miserable I would become. That was it. That was all it took.

That one message broke me harder than my mom's cancer. I was broken down, in tears, in prayer for the next few hours. I prayed to God that he forgive me for straying so far from him for so long. I begged him for his mercy and for his guidance to lead me back to a life that would be pleasing to him. I have continued to pray this every single day since. I have also sought out, and found, an amazing church in Chicago and have been regularly attending for a few months. I have also joined a bible study group that meets once a week to discuss the Sunday message and to hold each other accountable. I have decided to volunteer my two week vacation at work to counsel at the same Christian Bible camp where I used to spend my summers as a teen. God has done some amazing things in my life, in just a short period of time. I am so excited to see what he has in store for the rest of my life. After 24 years of pursuing happiness, I finally found it.

The reason I decided to share my story has nothing at all to do with my personal happiness. It has nothing to do with me at all. The moral of my story is that it's N OT all about me. In fact, it's not even a little about me. It is all about Him. One truth I have come to learn is that God is a greater Savior than I am a sinner. The most amazing thing about that truth, is that it doesn't only apply to me. It applies to everyone. Even you. Yes you, reading this right now. If my story can reach out and touch the life of one lost soul, then every single trial and struggle I faced in my life has been worth it. If it could lead one more person to Christ, I would live those same struggles ten times over again. Every single day, for the rest of the time God allows me on this planet, I will spend pursuing Acts 20:24."However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." And there you have it, just one more story of proof that our God truly is an Awesome God.

Amazing testimony to hear! Thank you Melissa for being so vulnerable!


Bryce Gross said...

Thanks for posting this Bobby, And thanks to your friend for allowing you to do so. It's an amazing story that's useable for anyone.

Christina Ragusin said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm going to pass this story on , if you don't mind. It's really amazing!

Jessica Bensema said...

Thanks Bobby for posting this and for Melissa for sharing her story!