“When I was young, my childhood home felt like a firm foundation. My mom was the main provider for our family as I was growing up. She worked, cleaned, cooked, helped my brother and me with school, and cared deeply about our spiritual development.
“Two areas of life remained consistent through my childhood: church and baseball. I strived to do well in sports but also became involved in our local church. I made the decision to accept Christ and get baptized when I was nine years old, and I was encouraged over my summers at church camp to make my faith my own.
“At home, my dad developed a lot of health problems due to multiple knee, hip, and back surgeries. When I was in middle school, he started to abuse alcohol and over-the-counter drugs. He really went off the deep end, and chaos ensued in my family for the next few years. My dad was verbally abusive and eventually moved out, and then my older brother left for college. Our house of four now was a house of two, and I quickly assumed a ‘man of the house’ role.
“My once ‘firm foundation’ was now destroyed, but I began to see the Lord in a new way. He is my perfect Father in heaven. He is my strength and refuge. Through hardships and my parents’ divorce, I was continuously reminded that He is the only thing worth putting our trust in. When my earthly father fell short, my Heavenly Father still came through tenfold. The Lord’s kindness met me in the midst of it all.
“I became more dependent on my relationship with the Lord through those hard and challenging years. The Lord carried me through college as He surrounded me with other believers and community through summer camps and my Christian fraternity. Even through disappointments with my dad, the Lord comforted me, continuing to build a truly firm foundation in Him.
“I started going to counseling during my senior year to deal with some of the wounds from my past, and that eventually led me to have a conversation with my father about his substance abuse and alcoholism. I told him how much I loved him but didn’t agree with his life decisions. I wanted to help him change.
“My concern and openness were rejected with, ‘Ben, people don’t change unless they want to.’
“From that point on, I realized my only job was to love him unconditionally, just as Christ constantly pours His love on us. We constantly disappoint the Lord and run away from Him, but He only meets us with love, grace, and mercy.
“Later that year, I moved to Dallas for a new job. It was really tough for me at first to be away from family and community, but this is when I fell in love with the local church for the first time. I got involved in a community group and found nourishment from being surrounded by other believers.
“And my community group showed up for me when I needed them most. The following November, I received a call from my brother that my dad had taken his life. My community group rushed over to my apartment immediately. With my favorite food in hand, they sat with me to listen while I began the process of grieving the death of my father.
“The last two years of my life have been filled with changes, highs, and lows. I lost my father, joined the Watermark Institute, got engaged, and married my wife Lainey. In a world and life that can be very discombobulating and jarring, I was reminded by His people and His Word that the Lord is kind. He has shepherded and comforted me in the midst of immense hills and valleys.
“My firm foundation is built in Him alone. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, I can walk in the identity of being a beloved son. I get to walk in the freedom and joy of the reality of the gospel.
“Revelation 21 gives me so much hope. Verse 4 says, ‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ When I read God’s promise in the Bible that there will be no pain or weeping, I just can’t fully comprehend it. That is a reality. It’s not a fairy tale wish. There is a day when God is going to come back and make all things new. For as much as I have wept over the years, there is a day when I will experience the fullness of joy in the Lord’s presence.”