“I grew up in a Christian home, and my parents were believing Christians who showed me how to live through their authentic faith. At a really young age, I recognized my brokenness and my need for Jesus as my Savior.
“As a teen, I started to find my identity in my accomplishments and what other people thought of me. Because I was a Christian, I was seen as the ‘good church kid.’ High school gave me opportunities to lead in student ministry, but I put a new kind of pressure on myself. My hidden struggle with pornography and sexual sin started to weigh on me. I thought that if I ever shared what I was struggling with, I would be rejected and seen differently. The guilt and shame I felt continued to grow while I continued to strive to do ‘good things’ to earn my way to Heaven.
“I was living in secret but felt a conviction that what I was doing wasn’t what the Lord wanted of me. I desired to figure out a way to get rid of my sin without anyone ever knowing I struggled. I began working even harder to discipline myself. I wanted Jesus as my Savior, but I wasn’t living like it. I wasn’t fighting sin the way I was taught to – I wasn’t bringing it to the Lord or my community.
“Finally, in a relationship after college, it was exposed that I had been lying about my struggles. It felt like I finally hit the end of myself. I knew there was a path that leads to death (Proverbs 14:12), and I was on it.
“Ultimately, I realized I’d never be good enough to save myself. God finally broke down my walls because I refused to break them down myself. It was the most loving thing He could have done.
“As soon as I confessed, a group of men I trusted came around me to encourage me and remind me that my sin didn’t define me. James 5:16 says, ‘Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.’ Having people who can hold you accountable in those moments where you're tempted or struggling, the Lord can bring victory, and there can be freedom.’ The Scripture I’d learned my entire life continued to prove true. Romans 8:1 became so much more real to me. It says, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’
“I recognized that Jesus Christ died for my sins – whatever I committed in the past and whatever I would commit in the future. Because of that, I don't need to hide anymore. I don't need to feel that guilt and shame of those decisions because Jesus has already paid that penalty in full.
“I had a deeper understanding of the gospel. Because of what Jesus has done for me, I can now live in freedom, and I don’t have to hide my sin.
“This was a period of wrestling with God and being frustrated with where my sin had left me. Through my frustrations, I learned that it was okay for me to take my fears, anxieties, and frustrations to God and be honest with Him in my prayers. It was such an amazing season, but it was hard. God really showed me I could come to Him with anything.
“When I had a faith in Jesus but was still hiding my sin, there was constant anxiety because I felt like I had to make sure I was saying the right things to the right people. I was fearful I’d be caught in my lies. I would always assume the worst in situations because I was hiding behind a mask. It was exhausting and tiring, always being on edge and not being honest about what I was struggling with.
“It is so much more freeing knowing that I am accepted because of what Jesus did for me. I am no longer a slave to my sin.
“Fast forward a few years, and I continued serving in youth ministry but now with my wife, Laura. We were volunteers, but as time went on and pastors changed, we realized we wanted to do more ministry with our lives. Even if we remained in volunteer positions, we knew we couldn’t just assume to figure it out on our own. Together, we decided to take a year to dedicate our lives to studying God’s Word and learning how to do ministry differently at the Watermark Institute.
“God has been so faithful in teaching us and guiding us. God continues to draw my heart closer to Him each day. It has been such a privilege to dig deep into God’s Word, and it is amazing how much depth there is when you really study it. I have fallen more in love with God over the last eight months.”