Wineskins Archive

December 4, 2013

A Turbulent Year and What I am Really Thankful For (Nov 2012)

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By Mitchell Roush

I struggle with a concept people throw around a lot, “I’m grateful for those terrible times because it made me into the person I am today.”

The phrase isn’t necessarily horrible; simply, I don’t think I can really utilize those words and mean it. There are definitely things that I’m utterly ashamed of. Actions or decisions or words I’d give anything to take back. There are, however, moments that came on the heels of such stupidity that helped illuminate the Holy Spirit’s role in my life. And for that discovery, I am grateful.

The year I turned fourteen was perhaps the most turbulent age of my life. Memorable for many bad reasons, initially. Here’s a list of what transpired that year for me:

Ran my right arm thru a plate-glass door severing 4 tendons and permanently damaging 10% of my major nerve. (Obviously surgery, casts, and months of physical therapy were required for rehab.)

Missed out on basketball season (my entire identity was wrapped up in excelling on the court.)

Going beyond boundaries I shouldn’t have with a girl and never being able to take it back.

Attended regular counseling.

Struggled with suicidal thoughts.

Was diagnosed and briefly medicated for depression.

Needed tutoring multiple times a week for reading comprehension problems.

The level of adversity and stupidity involved with all of this was unparalleled for me. Looking back, this was one of the major turning points for me. For the first time, I was forced to come face-to-face with one of the most brutal truths this world will ever know: CONSEQUENCES.

It was in the midst of all this turmoil and attempting to piece my identity-in-Christ back together that I received the most inspirational moment of my life…

Josh and Julie Marcum were the ebenezer God provided for me without me that year. A married youth ministry couple with Julie also being one of my reading comprehension tutors.

I remember baring my soul, confessing my struggles, and expressing my frustration to them about the finding myself in the “belly of the beast.” Without any hesitation, they were always there to listen, pray, and hug on me.

On their last day of work at my home church before they took off for full-time mission work, the congregation held a big send-off event for them. I approached them to say my good-byes. They hugged me with tears welling up in their eyes. Josh told me he loved me. Julie looked me square in the eye and said,

“God is going to use you for amazing things, Mitchell. Don’t ever lose sight of that.”

That was perhaps the weightiest moment I’d ever experienced. I felt my heart stir with humility and inspiration in a way I had never encountered before.

I look back on that moment and realize that God has used the Marcums’ influence on me in that moment to help remind me that I’m meant for greater things. It was in that moment I began to realize an inherently powerful truth of Christ:

There’s strength to be had in vulnerability and wisdom to be gained from humility.

We all have moments of which we’re ashamed. There will be multitudes of moments in our lives where we’re stagnant resulting from our own stupidity. But nothing can take away the fact that the Holy Spirit can tap on your shoulder at any given moment.

One of the traps we find ourselves falling into is going to that cliché phrase, “I’m grateful for those terrible times because it made me into the person I am today.” All this does is grant us permission to limit the weight that comes with grace.

No matter where I go in life or what I with my efforts, nothing can take away the fact that I’ll always be ashamed of the despicable acts that my past possesses. But I don’t want to grow comfortable with seemingly celebrating my shameful failures because I’ve turned out okay in the end. It almost seems as though I’m limiting the hand of God in all this and I’m puffing myself up by speaking about my perseverance.

When we leave this over-used concept behind, we’re able to understand what transforms. Know that God has delivered us out of certain situations where something worse off should have transpired as a result of our stupidity is enough to know grace is heady. Experiencing redemption in spite of muck we delve into rather than because of it is how we can be renewed. Moving forward because we’ve been healed, not because we needed perspective resulting from bad decisions.

Do I wish I could change things about my past? Yes.

Do I wish I didn’t have to have the difficult conversations with my wife about certain things before we got married? Yes.

Do I wish that I wouldn’t have hurt as many people throughout my “turbulent years”? Yes.

What I am grateful for are the intervening moments of the Holy Spirit.

What I am grateful for is that I serve a God Whose glory is worth celebrating.

I’m grateful the moments of weakness, impurity and stupidity don’t have to define me, whether I ended up on top or the bottom.

I’m the person I am today not solely due to my own human effort, but because of the grace that has washed over me.

Remember the moments of inspiration. Allow them to influence you. One thing is for certain, you are meant for more than you’re settling for.

Know that God is fighting for you.

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