“As I grew up, anger and bitterness grew in me,” said Halton Pecoraro. “Part of my anger was rooted in struggles with my health; I was born with Spina-Bifida. I have had 19 surgeries and walk with a brace because my left leg is paralyzed from the knee down. Throughout my childhood, every summer meant a new surgery. I was angry with God. I wondered why He made me this way. I was angry that others could do things that I physically couldn’t. I started to find identity in other ways and in what people thought of me. I struggled to believe that He was good and wanted good for me. I wanted to escape instead of surrendering to Him.
“When I was seven years old, my older sister asked me if I knew who Jesus was. She explained that He was the Son of God who lived a perfect life, died on the cross to pay for my sins, and rose again three days later. She told me how each of us have chosen to rebel against God and go our own way (Isaiah 53:6) and that made us enemies of God. But God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to pay the price of our sin so that we have peace with God through Jesus (Romans 5:1). I accepted Christ as my Savior and knew that I would go to Heaven one day, but I struggled to trust God in my daily life.
“Although there was anger and doubt inside my heart, I tried to appear strong on the outside. Because my father was a pastor, I thought my life had to look put-together and perfect. I seemed happy and spiritual when I showed up to church on Sundays, but I was wearing a mask. I showed others the parts of me that I wanted them to see and hid my sin and brokenness, including a secret addiction to pornography. My sense of identity was wrapped up in what people thought about me.
“One of my numerous surgeries was a facial reconstruction surgery when I was 18. It required my mouth to be wired shut for eight weeks. I could not sing or lead in worship at church, something that I loved to do. I started to realize that I found a sense of identity not only in singing but in many other temporary things. This was one of the first of many breakings of my hard heart. God was slowly revealing that I couldn’t keep living life without Him. Even though I knew about God and was active in my church, I was not surrendering to Him in my everyday life. God began to teach me that He defined me, not my success or sin. I started to see that even when I was faithless, God remained faithful– a lesson He is teaching me to this day.
“As I entered my college years, I started attending the Porch, Watermark’s young adult ministry, on Tuesday nights with my girlfriend, Nikki. The pastor was talking freely about the same struggles I felt enslaved to. God used the pastor’s authenticity to teach me that I didn’t have to wear a mask or play a role. God’s grace required nothing of me, but it was slowly changing everything about my life.
“In 2015, God once again showed me His undeserved kindness by allowing me to marry my wife, Nikki. Through our experiences with other Christians and Members at Watermark, we got a taste of biblical community, and this eventually lead us to join Watermark years later. Today, we are surrounded by Christ-followers who really know us, love us, and encourage us to pursue Christ in all areas of our life.
“In this current season, the Lord is allowing me to get to know Him even more through the Watermark Institute, a training program for ministry leaders. God is illuminating His Word in a fresh way. I am learning that God’s Word is so much more than a list of rules; It’s a story from cover to cover about God’s plan to rescue His people through Jesus.
“One place in God’s Word I return to again and again is James 1:2-4. It reminds me that I don’t have to doubt Him when I go through challenges and hardships, because even if I don’t see it, He is redeeming it for my good. I lack nothing because I have Him. God is continuing to use my suffering and struggles to remind me that He is faithful in every moment. Whether I suffer with daily, physical pain due to my Spina-Bifida or with the emotional pain caused by sin in my life, I can trust Him with it all.
“I have chased sin, been disobedient and a slave to my broken desires, pursued sexual immorality, and caused pain to myself and others (Titus 3:3-4). But the Lord showed me His goodness and grace, while I was still a sinner. I will never be the same because of Jesus. This is why I know and can say with confidence, ‘My God is faithful.’”