Dying On the Inside

“I became the man I never wanted to be and actually considered ending my life. I was dying on the inside and didn’t know who I was.”

“I was no stranger to sports injuries,” said Josh Hickman. “I’d torn my ACL twice playing football, so I assumed recovery from a meniscus injury would be as quick as the others. As a junior in high school, I’d been recruited by Southern Methodist University to play football. It was an escape from my chaotic family life and the alcohol and drugs that had been part of my world since middle school. So when a sports medicine guy told me that I had sustained a career-ending knee injury, I was completely blindsided.

“My identity was entirely wrapped up in football, and I had no idea what to do when it ended. My scholarship was still in place, but I had to move home and travel back and forth for class. My family was going through a difficult time, so living at home was a dark season for me. I tried to hide my feelings by drinking, and partying, but it didn’t work. Eventually, I became the man I never wanted to be and actually considered ending my life. I was dying on the inside and didn’t know who I was.

“In 2011, someone who was very close to me was killed in a motorcycle accident. Her death made me question what I was doing with my life, and I decided to start going to church. My cousin, Kristen Cox, invited me to Watermark, and that’s the first time I remember understanding the true gospel story. I thought that in order to be a Christian, you had to do good works and live a perfect life. After all the wrong things I’d done, I figured I could never be forgiven. Turns out I had a very wrong view of God’s grace, even though I actually have Proverbs 3:5–6 tattooed on my body.

“That next weekend, I vowed to clean myself up, but I ended up blackout drunk yet again. I woke up the next day disgusted with myself, not knowing how I got home. That day I told God I was tired of living life on my own power, and I wanted to put my trust in Christ. I learned that I could never earn my way into God’s favor (Romans 3:21-31) because all of us have ‘sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.’ But Christ, who knew no sin, was sacrificed on the cross as a payment for my sin so I could be reconciled with God. It was only by God’s grace that I was saved (Ephesians 2:8-9), not by my works. From that day on, I was willing to do whatever it took to submit my life, my actions, and my plans to Christ.

“I started getting involved here at Watermark in a community group and in Equipped Disciple classes. I learned how to study the Bible, memorize Scripture, and practice other spiritual disciplines. But, I wasn’t practicing one of the most important things as a follower of Christ: confession. My wife, Kacie and I were dating at the time, and I had never told her or anyone else that before I became a believer, I had not been faithful to her. It didn’t make sense to share that secret, but the weight of my sin was heavy on my mind.

“I had seen the Lord do an amazing work in the marriage of someone else in our family, Susan and Raeul Cox. Their relationship had almost ended in divorce, and the Lord restored them and changed their entire family. I knew if God could do that for them, He could help me, too. So after reading 1 John 1:9 and Joshua 1:9, I pushed through the fear and confessed to Kacie what I had done. 1 John 1:9 says, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ I can tell you from experience that it’s true. My confession transformed my heart and it changed the way I pursued Kacie as we moved forward. I put the Lord first in our relationship, and we both became stronger as we moved toward marriage.

“When I first started following the Lord, I heard a football analogy that really connected with me. It’s like we’re all part of a team, and the people who are having the most fun are not on the bench; they are on the field playing the game. I was watching from the bench for so long, wondering if my life would ever get better. It was the Enemy who wanted me to stay on the sideline and keep my secrets to myself. Now that I am actively engaged as a follower of Christ, there is much more fun and freedom. There’s nothing left unsaid in my marriage with Kacie either, and that is so much better. There’s life and joy in Christ and being open and vulnerable with His people. That’s how I’m able to love my wife, my kids, and our extended family with a heart for them to know Christ like I do.”

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