If you listened to The ATTIC: Teen Talk Radio last night, you know that Judith and Michael have been working on this blog entry for us. These two amaze me…awesome stories of grace, of a second chance. God is teaching them both DEEP things about His character and His plans for their lives. I’m honored that they would co-author this blog for us today. If you’re a teenager, a youth pastor, or a parent and are interested in submitting a “guest blog” for us one day, PLEASE send your idea to email@example.com –Steve
Judith (whose thoughts are in the black font) asked Michael (whose thoughts are in the blue font) to put some input, just so you could get two different stories, both standing by the same point: legitimacy.
Michael, Cassie, and I spent a weekend in a little town in central Alabama with our spiritual father and his family. We also had the privelage of hanging out with Steve and Lindsey Austin. I think I speak for all of us when I say it was life-changing. We not only got closer to God, but realized how to live with an “IMperfect mindset”, not longer an “I’Mperfect” mindset. We learned how to be real, and that set us free.
So get ready, things are about to get real.
“I am great!”, “Too blessed to be stressed!”, “Not struggling, not me!”, we’ve ALL said it.
We have all claimed that our lives are the definition of perfection, and that we are above struggling. I know I’ve thought “I’ve got this in the bag”, that struggles were just for sinners and “back-sliders”. I would walk around with my head high and pity people in sin, calling it compassion. It was all a fun ride; things working out to my advantage, people commenting on how “great”, (then you read something like Matthew 23:28, and it really messes you up) I was. Then I came to a screeching halt, disgusted with the realization of the lie I had created.
I had been living a complete lie, striving to be perfect while driving my own life and walk with Christ into the ground.
Why is it so hard to be real?
Why is wrong to be weak?
Why is it bad to ask questions?
We all have questions. We all want answers, and we want them to be real. I can’t tell you how many times I would long for someone who I was pouring into to break down and be honest about how they were REALLY feeling, but I couldn’t even be real myself. When was the last time you walked up to someone and just threw up all that you were feeling? When was the last time you let someone into the area of your life that you were even afraid to face yourself? All tough questions, trust me, I totally know what you’re thinking. “But if you knew the things that I struggle with..”, or “No, but this is bad stuff..”. The enemy wants us to think that we are the only ones facing these particular struggles and temptations. He wants us to become so focused on hiding the sin, til eventually we don’t see it as sin anymore.
Last weekend was huge for me. Sitting in a living room with three close friends, Michael brought up Nehemiah and how he wasn’t afraid to be real, and how the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. Then IT happened. The presence of God swept in that room, we began being real, and chains began breaking.
(Steve and “Silent Judy”)
…So there I was, gossiping like a little girl with three of my friends about changes going on in my church that I didn’t like and the sins and shortcomings of other youth leaders, when IT happened. The voices of my three friends faded into the back of my mind and took on the sound of an adult speaking on Charlie Brown, and I heard HIM. God asked me the question He’d been asking me for a month now. “Michael, what do you want to be?” I thought long and hard, dreaming of being an amazing musician and talented speaker, but once the “performance” was over, I felt… Empty… I now knew my answer. “God, more than anything, I want to be… REAL.”
Now, what happened next TOTALLY proved that this was a GOD moment. I did not grow up in church, so I have little to absolutely no Bible knowledge. Have you ever been in a service where the pastor says, “Now, we all know the story in the Bible of *insert random name and/or Bible story here*…” Well, I’m the one saying, “NO WE DON’T! WHAT’S THAT?!” — Back to the story. —> God reminds me of someone in the Bible who rebuilt some wall to some city… And this dude’s name started with an “N”. The fact that I found Nehemiah without the help of Google is just more confirmation to the fact that this was GOD. The walls of Jerusalem had been destroyed and Nehemiah was devastated. He wanted to rebuild the walls. I could relate. My youth group had once been something great, and I watched it slowly fade and come to destruction. I just wanted to rebuild it. Read Nehemiah 1:5-11 to see the legitimate prayer this guy prayed:
Nehemiah did not complain about how it was all the other people of Israel’s fault that this tragedy had occurred. He first and foremost examined himself and said, “Hey, MAYBE this could SLIGHTLY be MY fault too…” He broke down his pride and confessed his sins against GOD. He could have put on his “I’m a perfect, God-loving person” mask that we love to wear so often, but instead, he got real.
Next, Nehemiah get’s all of Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. Instead of having everyone work on one section of the wall at a time, which would have taken FOREVER, he had them all work on the wall in front of THEIR OWN house. Only after they were complete with the wall in front of their own house, did they help their neighbor. In doing this, they had to trust their neighbor to do their part. The same exact thing is what must be done in our Christian walk: we need to stop worrying about what others are doing and first build our part of the wall. We need to first remove the plank from our eye before we can remove the speck from others’ eyes. (Matthew 7:5) I challenge you today to stop with the gossiping and backbiting, examine yourself and confess your struggles and sins with others, and build your wall.
People want to know they aren’t they only ones struggling, that they aren’t alone. So my prayer for you is that you will be weak, because when we are weak, He is made strong.(2 Corinthians 13:9).
Don’t shout not “I’M perfect”, but that you are “IMperfect”, and watch as God breaks not only the chains around you, but the chains on you.
–Judith (aka “Silent Judy: The Rock”) and Michael
GOD LOVES TEENAGERS!
About the authors:
Michael Hamel was born in 1991 in Rome, New York. Growing up, he always called himself a Christian, but never actually understood what that meant. In the 8th grade, he got his first girlfriend, and things began to spiral downward. After a devastating break up, Michael was faced with depression and thoughts of suicide. His brother, Tommy Hamel, had been inviting Michael to church, and just to get out of the house, Michael said “yes” one day. From there, Michael got saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, and began writing music for his new-found Savior. Things took a nasty turn soon afterwards, however, when drama was started among the youth and Michael and his brother left the church with much hurt. Michael then went back to what he was familiar with: girls. He swore to himself that things would be different this time, though. And they were… He moved much faster physically with this one, and soon was stuck in a hypocritical lifestyle with a “You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian” attitude. Two years into this relationship, he went to a church his friend had invited him to and immediately was in the presence of God again. He had once again found what he had been missing. Soon after, he decided that he was sick of straddling the fence and wanted to live fully in sin or fully for God. Michael picked the latter, laying down all his desires, including the relationship he was in, and now lives in a deep relationship with the one true loving God: Jesus.
Judith Paden- I’m 18 years old trying my best to live for Jesus with all of my guts. I am extremely weird, and I am okay with that. I face the same struggles, temptations, and hardships we all face; do I fall? Definitely. Does Christ pick me up? Always. I long to live a life of such selflessness. Without Jesus in my life, I’m addicted, broken, lost, alone, needy, angry, and weak. On the other hand, with my Jesus in my life, I’m free, whole, in fellowship, satisfied, at peace, and strengthened by Him. My “life means nothing without Christ at the crown”. I, like you, wanna love Jesus and wanna love people, the real way. I want to live a life that is legitimate, not perfect.