Taking God Out of the Box

“I once lived a life centered solely on my own pleasure.” – Ryan Cardoza

Where, or rather, who were you at this time four years ago? Are you different now than you were then? Are you better or worse? If the goal of all Christians is to become more like Jesus every day, week, month, and year, then be encouraged by Ryan Cardoza’s story.

Four years ago, Ryan was addicted to alcohol and weed, and lived a life centered solely on his own pleasure, including homosexual relationships. Today, he is a Christian.

His parents were never married, and though Dad was around frequently, he never invested in teaching Ryan about God or modeled what it meant to have a relationship with the Lord. Though not ideal, his early childhood was normal enough until one day in first grade. Ryan was introduced to a dark world when he was sexually abused by a male classmate. In that moment, his innocence was taken away, and his entire view of the world shifted. In his new, altered reality, homosexual tendencies and abuse became the new normal. Pleasure was the ultimate goal, and its pursuit would plague him into adulthood.

Around the same time of the abuse, Ryan was invited to a local Bible study in the apartment complex where he lived with his mom. This was the first time he had heard the gospel or anything else about Jesus. He began attending the Bible study and church, even going on a few discipleship trips. In hindsight, Ryan laments that during that time, he wasn’t discipled meaningfully and never developed an abiding relationship with God.

In junior high, Ryan began to compartmentalize his faith into an ever-shrinking box he called “church things”. He treated Christianity like a book you save to read later. Church was just another piece of his overall life, which began to include drinking, messing around with girls, smoking weed, and working out. He followed the girl he was dating at the time to
college and further delved into a lifestyle that centered on pleasing himself. If it felt good, he did it. When his girlfriend broke up with him before graduation, he spiraled. He felt
so hurt by women that he fell back on something from deep in his past and began to pursue same-sex relationships.

He moved to Dallas after college and lived with two female co-workers. While he thought new city meant new beginning, in reality, his increased income led only to increased pursuit of pleasure. In the midst of his hedonism, God began to stir his heart. Through the experience of living with two girls and growing emotionally close to one of them, Ryan began to doubt his own homosexuality. “Maybe I was just heartbroken,” he remembers.

The remnants of his childhood faith began to rekindle as he started visiting churches. At the invitation of a friend, Ryan visited The Porch, Watermark’s ministry to young adults. He was immediately struck by the authenticity of the people he met and heard from the stage. Real struggles were being addressed and dealt with in a healthy, biblical way. The gospel and what it meant to be a Christian were presented in such a way that he had a hunger to experience more of this “Christian life” he had compartmentalized for so long. Over the next few months, he continued to be impacted by what he heard about the Lord and began to “unbox” his theology.

In 2014, Ryan went to Launch, Watermark’s annual young adults retreat. He had driven out there alone and numerous times considered turning around. The first thing the speaker said when he got there was, “Satan is so ticked you are here.” God used that statement to get Ryan’s attention. He came back from that weekend transformed by Christ and resolved to stop living a half-committed Christian life.

Later, Ryan went through GroupLink, where he found out more about joining a community group. On the very first night, he shared his entire story. “If I’m going to do life with these people,” he said, “they should know who I am – who I really am.” To his surprise, not only did the men in that group accept him, they started a community group together. Over the last two years, these men have provided both encouragement and admonishment to Ryan as the Lord continues to change his life. Ryan has been discipled in a way he never had been before. He has learned how to study and apply the Bible and truly live life fully devoted to Christ. Of all the things that have changed about Ryan, the biggest is his focus. Prior to Launch, he lived his life for his own pleasure. Now, his focus is on others. He has gone on discipleship trips, serves others, and spends his time and energy to bless others instead of seeking what he can get in return. – written by Mike Netzer

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