The year was 1991 and I, a 12-year-old buck toothed four eyed kid, was in love with a girl named…well, let’s call her Christy. Christy was 14, absolutely beautiful and way out of my league. She had beautiful brown eyes and amber hair that fell just below the middle of her back, and much like her personality, it was full-bodied and a bit untamed. She smelled of spring; flowers blooming in the long-awaited sunlight, honeysuckle on the vine. (Is it creepy that I still remember how she smelled?) She was best friends with April, the youngest of my 3 sisters. April was the closest thing I had to a brother and in our younger days we did everything together. However, as we grew older she spent less time with me, her annoying little brother, and more time with the lovely Christy listening to New Kids On the Block and talking about boys. Obviously I was fine with that….the more Christy came around to see April, the more I got to see Christy!
There was a lot going on that summer, both with my raging hormonal body and with life in general that I won’t get into here. I was stuck in this place between being a kid and a young man…I felt awkward all the time. I spent most of my summer days, afternoons after school and Saturdays roaming the streets of my neighborhood on my bike running from my preteen angst, thinking about Christy and hanging out with my buds.
There were 5 or six of us that road bikes together in my neighborhood. We were wanna be BMXers jumping every thing that we could put a ramp in front of. There was this place we called The Dips out behind a nearby elementary school and we would go there almost everyday in the summer. It was where the city had dug out a trench to put in a drainage ditch but never finished it. Apparently they rerouted the ditch and just left this massive dirt half-pipe in the earth…it was perfect! We played who could get the most air, a game that always left someone injured. Besides riding bikes, the other thing that we liked to do was smoke cigarettes while we sat around and told stories about shit that we didn’t know much about. There was a store not far away that would sell cigs to minors so we would put our money together and buy a pack of smokes before heading to the dips. I loved that time in my life and I loved my friends…they were a good group of dudes.
It was that summer that one single event would change my life forever and I wouldn’t understand how dramatically it changed me until years later.
It was around that time that a guy we will call Jason started coming around. He had a short-lived romance with my sister Abby but it fizzled out pretty quick. Jason had just got his license and drove a cutlass supreme with tinted windows and I thought he was super cool…like Marty McFly cool (Back to the Future was and is my favorite movie). Plus he told me that he did the whole skateboard-car-surfing thing so in my mind, he was boss. He was sort of a big brother to me in that short time. I liked having him around but after he and Abby called it quits he would still come over which I didn’t quite understand but I didn’t think much of it at the time. My mom seemed to trust him and would let us go cruising the neighborhood in his cutlass. Sometimes it was just me and him and he would let me ride up front….I felt like so cool! One Friday night Jason brought over one of his friends, a guy that April was sweet on, and they were all planning a night of cruising in Jason’s car. The lovely Christy was also there so naturally, so was I. April did not want me tagging along but I had plans to put the moves on Christy that night so I was determined to go. So, I did what any guy would do who’s trying to hook up with his sisters besty – I went and told my mom to make them let me tag along…and she did! Smooth, I know! So, all 5 of us loaded up in Jason’s car to cruise the streets of my neighborhood. April and Jason’s friend got in back and me and Jason sat up front with Christy between us. I thought “This is perfect! When the time is right I’ll reach over and hold her hand….it can’t fail!” I had dreamed about her for so long and I couldn’t hold back my feelings any longer…I had to have her, like Romeo had to have Juliet. I would stand at the balcony of her heart and boldly proclaim my love for her
It is my lady! O, it is my love! O, that she knew she were!
As the night went on my heart was beating faster and faster. I kept telling myself “Do it…make your move!!” The time was now….the moment that I had waited for was here. There she sat just inches away.
But then I noticed something…
Why was she sitting closer to Jason than me? Why did she move in his direction? Then, much to my horror, I saw Jason’s hand on Christy’s leg. It didn’t register at first….I thought “Why is his hand there? Dude, move your hand…she’s spoken for!”, I screamed in my head as we made our way up the streets towards the elementary school. The further we drove the further Jason’s hand slide up Christy’s inner thigh. I was paralyzed by a mixture of adrenaline, anger and hurt as I began to understand how things really were at that moment. I had made a terrible error in my reading the situation. Jason was moving in on Christy, rounding 1st, and (Hopefully not while I’m sitting next to them) about to get to second base. Completely devastated, I leaned my head against the window in defeat trying not to watch my surrogate big brother put the moves on the girl that I was in love with and had dreamed about for so long. I knew then why April didn’t want me tagging along…she wasn’t being mean, she was just trying to save me some embarrassment. We made our way through the streets of my neighborhood not really going anywhere, hence the point of cruising and before I knew it we came to a stop on the street out in front of The Dips, the place where I spent all of my time with my friends. I sat there and wrestled with the reality that the heart of the one I loved belong to another. “So, that’s why Jason kept coming around.”, I told myself as I sat there feeling like an idiot in a car with 4 people, not one of which wanted me there. Over the years I have really embarrassed myself many times but I don’t think I have ever felt that foolish. I sat there for a minute or two longer and then did the only thing that I could think of…I bailed….Opened the car door and I ran as fast as I could as the tears came streaming down my face. It was right there, mere feet from The Dips, where I enjoyed being a kid and riding my bike with my friends that the boy that I still was and the man I was becoming brushed past the other like strangers in the night. At that point in my life I had no one, not a single solitary soul that could help me make sense of what I was feeling in my little hormone enraged body, no one to help me interpret the anguish that I was experiencing.
That night I went to bed and buried my head in my pillow and sobbed for what seemed like hours. The next day, the world kept turning, life went on around me as it did before and I beat back the pain of my heart-break and went on like nothing ever happened. Because that’s what men do, right? We suck it up and move on and we don’t let some silly crush keep us down. But no matter how hard I stifled the heartbreak I never really got over Christy and even now at 4 am as I write these words I swear I can smell her fragrance – the symphony of spring flowers bursting forth in bloom – and I can still feel that old familiar sting, a pain that is still fresh.
That night, that rejection was like an arrow to my young heart. Over the years I would receive many more but none would stick as deep as that one. John Eldredge in his book The Sacred Romance says that the arrows have a message. And for that one, the message was clear:
You’re just not enough
I wasn’t enough for her, I wasn’t enough for anyone. Not strong enough, cool enough, handsome enough, brave enough…..I just wasn’t enough. And unfortunately for me, I had no one around to tell me otherwise.
So, I spent the rest of my teenage years and well into my adult life trying to be more than enough for everyone around me. In my late teens and early twenties that event would lead me to some unhealthy places and bad relationships. It would even cause me to turn to porn, a place where you can get any girl you want no matter how much you fall short. But all the porn in the world would never truly satisfy my desire to be enough. John Eldredge also says in his book Wild at Heart that in the heart of every man lies the question that begs an answer:
Do I have what it takes?
When we fail to get the answer to that question in the right places we tend to go to some unhealthy lengths to get an answer. As a young adult I did my fair share of dating but whenever I would find a girl that I liked and who was genuinely attracted to me there would be this thought that would pop into my head, “Ok, what’s wrong with this girl? There has to be something wrong with her if she likes me!” A friend nicknamed me Jerry, short for Jerry Seinfeld because of how quickly I would go from one girl to the next and with every relationship threshold that I crossed over I would lay my question, am I enough(?) at the feet of some poor girl who didn’t have the capacity to answer.
Now, its important to mention, none of these people set out to hurt me. Christy never meant to break my heart and Jason had no intention of moving in on my girl…or maybe he did but that’s not the point. It’s just the way life is sometimes. There are events that take place that wound us and we never really recover on our own. We need a proper interpretation of events, of our story. We need Jesus, the one who came to bind up the broken-hearted and set the captives free to reveal our wounding. I know some might think “Dude, you got rejected by a girl…stop making a big deal out of it!” and that is the kind of thinking that I grew up with. But like I mentioned in my blog post called Almost, we all have sorrows and we do ourselves a disservice when we belittle them and dismiss them as insignificant.
If we are to follow this man named Jesus, he will always lead us back to the places where we were wounded in order to heal us and make us whole. (And by the way, men – this is the path to true manhood, to becoming the heroic and masculine dude you have always dreamed of being.) He does this through people and events if we listen and are looking. For me, it was when I finally got to a place where the things I was doing to try to be more, to try and be enough, stopped working and God began to show up in the frustration; All my failed attempts to succeed in music and how I needed so desperately to be desired was nothing more than that question begging for an answer, am I enough? These are the places where the enemy will show up as well. Yea, that’s right. you have an enemy called Satan and he knows you better than you do including all of the ways that you are wounded. He is called the accuser of the brethren in Revelation 12. He perpetuates the lie that you are less than, that your evil, that your nothing more than a victim, undesirable, weak, ugly, stupid…the list goes on. He will use the events in your past to bind you to an identity that is false. But he has been defeated, cast down by Jesus, the hero of our story….and this Jesus will show us our true identity…..
As I sit and write these words today I am confident that I am, in fact, enough, more than enough! Enough of a dad, a friend, a son, a husband, a lover…I am enough. I have what it takes! That’s not just some self-help bullshit that I learned from Tony Robbins.
It was in Colorado that God came to me on a hillside and told me who I really am and pointed out all the things that I was doing to bury my true self, the self that he created and died to redeem. He gave me a vision where I had these 2 people in my head, one that I wanted to be, the false self, and one that I was trying to separate myself from, my true self.
Stay with me here…it’s a little confusing.
The 2 of us, my 2 selves, were on a stage in front of a crowd with my true self, the kid that got rejected that night so long ago, sitting on the side of the stage with his head down in shame and my false self taking center stage. My false self was trying to convince the crowd that I am no longer this kid, that I am no longer the weak little 12-year-old that couldn’t get the girl. I am a strong, confident, self-made dude with the world on a string. I was standing there on that stage trying to make a case for how much better I am than my true self when Jesus took the stage, quickly dismissed the false me and embraced my younger self, lifted his head, awakened his heart and gently whispered,
“This is the Jesse that I created, the one that I went to a cross to rescue and the one that will valiantly fight for the hearts of men and women. I have bestowed upon him strength and courage. He has what it takes!”
In that moment, In my mind, something extraordinary happened. I allowed my adult self to go back to that night, to that place where the boy was wounded to pause just for a moment to look upon him with compassion and longing as if to say, “You matter and I need you. I’m sorry for forgetting you, for trying to silence you all these years.”
This has been a long journey for me, a journey where God has led me back to these long forgotten places in order to restore me. This is a journey that we must all take if we want wholeness, the Shalom that Jesus offers us. This is where life in Jesus begins, not with surrendering to the ministry, taking a position at a church or moving to the mission field…as noble as those things might seem, they are only endeavors that serve humanity when we have first taken the journey to wholeness. And only Jesus can take us there. There is a value in each of us that He seeks to unearth through the work of redemption and restoration. This is what the this gospel you’ve been hearing about is really trying to do in your heart.
Now, my question to you is will you take the journey?
How do you begin? Well, it starts in the questions that you can’t find answers to, in the struggles that you can’t quite get past, in the failures that your ashamed of, in the broken heart that you’re trying to hide from the world. These are the places were Jesus is waiting. Meet him there…he’ll take care of the rest.