Transforming Men Through Jesus Christ In Authentic, Weekly Fellowship In Discipleship

Justin Patton (The 23rd)

I grew up in church. I could count on one hand the amount of Sundays my family missed. From a young age I learned biblical characters and their stories which, instead of inspiring me, terrified me. My immature understanding of God led me to avoid Him. “What if He wanted to use me,” I would often think. Moses, for example, had to live in the wilderness, eat off the ground, never saw the promised land, and worst of all the people of Israel talked bad about him. If I dedicate my life to God, there’s no telling what He’d make me do for Him! Even at a young age I could guarantee God’s will for my life would be contrary to the plans I’d already made for myself.

I had faith in Christ, but I did not live my life for Him. As the youngest child in a modest home, there were countless things that I wanted to change or wish I controlled. When molested by my older cousin, in a situation where I was physically powerless, I vowed to control every aspect of my life that I could. This insecurity was exacerbated further with a sense of financial powerlessness through the ’08 recession. As a residential broker during the sub-prime mortgage crisis, my father was no longer the breadwinner in the household which put a great deal of financial strain on my parents’ marriage, eventually ending in divorce. These traumas entrenched my ultra independence as a defense mechanism. I filled voids by joining nearly every activity you could imagine in high school: football, JROTC, math club, tennis, track, honor society, you name it. If it kept me at school where I could avoid my home life, I got involved in it. I continued to compartmentalize aspects of my life and withdraw from family to the point I went off to college at a random school I had never visited and rarely heard of before applying, in a state I had only been to once.

During the first week of college, I was faced with the tuition bill and the inability to pay it. Understanding the financial struggle my parents were having financing my older brother’s education, I refused to add to the burden. Confronted by another uncontrollable situation, doubt set it in about my worthiness to even attend college coming from the family I’m from, the place where I was born, the education I received prior, etc. I felt like Israelites in the wilderness wondering, “wouldn’t it have been better to just die where we were, in Egypt?” I recall praying to God in total surrender, proclaiming that I don’t have the answer to every problem faced and that only He could move miraculously in this situation. God indeed moved miraculously on my behalf, through the form of last-minute donor contributions, scholarships, and student loans, and ultimately undergraduate and graduate degrees from Texas A&M University. I’m reminded of the book of Isaiah chapter 43: 15-19 where God reiterates that He is the same God that has delivered Israel from all of their past tribulations, but (v. 18-19) “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

I thank God for my FinD brothers. Discipleship and discipline go hand in hand. I’m grateful to be held accountable and to have God-sent help do deal with the real and honest problems that we all face. I’m so grateful for a space that fosters a true strive for a Christ-like life with the leadership and wisdom of other men. I’ve gained so much peace after joining, learning how much we have in common and how redeemable our lives are!

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