Yes, this is me and my story. I was a counselor/ videographer/photographer at a kids’ camp at my church, so I didn’t get to post it. But in the past three days, it has gotten quite a lot of attention and wanted to post it to bring more glory to God and change more lives myself, not to “toot my own horn”.
I guess you could say, spiritually, I had it made growing up. My mom was the Children’s Director and my dad was heavily involved in the youth group when I was a kid. I grew up in a great home with great influences, I was sheltered carefully from the things of the world, and I had felt the “tug” to spread the Gospel all over the world, or what I later learned was a call to ministry, ever since I was little. Everyone had always told me I would do great things, which I guess Satan caught on to that notion, because he started to attack my dreams and invade my mind and give me horrifying visions since I was about two or three years old. Now, these weren’t your average nightmares of the Boogeyman chasing you, or you going to your first day of school without pants on like most kids have. In these dreams, Satan would show up, torture my friends and family, make me choose one person who would live, or that he would kill all of them. It was in a lifelike state, too. As you can probably guess, this really changed my personality. But, in God’s amazing grace, He can make anything that Satan does into something great to glorify Him. This set the tone for my life and my ministry: love others unconditionally and more than I do myself, because in my mind, reaching them is vital. I know where I am going if I die today, I don’t know for sure about them. So I promised to be a positive influence and a beacon of light to point to God’s glory in everything I do. Also, God used my sensitivity and ability to see things such as angels and demons, that Jesus Himself would appear to me in my dreams and pray with me, teach about loving others, vision, and things of that sort. But, as a child, I didn’t know any better… so I thought this was totally normal and that everyone had experiences like this. Later, we were packing to move to a new place. But when my parents started to clear out my bedroom, I totally freaked out when they started to lug out my favorite piece of furniture, a big, red wooden rocking chair. I screamed out “No! That’s where Jesus sits when He tells me bedtime stories!” and since I was a little kid, my parents looked at each other and probably thought, “well, he is having one of his little moments again where tells all of his little lies. Let’s just pretend like we don’t know he is lying. “So Braeden, tell us one of these ‘bedtime stories.’” And well… I basically preached a sermon on loving others when I was four years old.
So other than the spiritual warfare over my consciousness, my childhood was picture perfect: an older sister who was a role model, caring, Godly parents, and a great church, basically everything you could want really. But as I said, I was sheltered by going to a private Christian school where I was accepted and loved and the center of the “in crowd”, if you will. But when fifth grade rolled around, I wanted to go to school with all the neighborhood kids and my friends from all the sports teams I was on. So, I went to public school starting that year. It was a great year of school: straight A’s, good friends, instantly in the inner circle, and my teachers couldn’t say enough good things about me. But I started to notice that some of my best friends were starting to use different vocabulary, hang out with kids that always looked at me as a “goody-goody” and a “kiss-up,” which didn’t bother me, I was friends with them. But it was just a slight enough shift to where I wasn’t their best friend. Then the next year, in sixth grade, this shift went from subtle to drastic and blatant. But because I love people so much, I would do anything to be a part of the group of my all my good friends again. I started letting them pressure me in the smallest things, and before I knew it, I had a new girlfriend every other week, going to a party or a new cool place every Friday night where my friends would do a lot of “illegal recreational habits”, as my mother would say, smoking cigars with my lacrosse friends, etc. I became addicted to these types of things. But by opening the door to sins I had never even thought of or heard of, I had turned my back on the my source of my love, charisma, and overwhelming joy: my Creator and Comforter. My friends started to use me as the punching bag of the group, because they all know I would never do anything in return unless I truly felt threatened; I would turn my cheek metaphorically and literally constantly, just as I was always taught. They started to call me awful things, most of which I can’t repeat, but one really hit home: gay. It was tossed around like it meant nothing, but I took it seriously, not knowing any better. I started to somewhat believe it. When they said I was other, much worse insults, I believed it. Satan used this window probably the most. He would take these seeds of hate and have them grow in my head till I thought even worse things about myself than what my so-called friends were saying. When it started to get to the point where I was so depressed I was popping prescription pain killers every time I got the chance to lock my bedroom door, I would cry myself to sleep at night because of some break-up that in retrospect didn’t mean anything, I just wanted someone to love me as much as my Heavenly Father, which nobody would. I didn’t know that this was happening because I had turned on my faith, but that’s exactly what it was. By the middle of seventh grade, I had almost tried to attempting suicide six times. But all to no avail; I had tried everything! Why wasn’t it working! Something always stopped me last second.
One day after school, I sat in my room with music on so loud that nobody could hear my screams of agony and hurt as I twirled a knife as it glistened in the light. Could I do it? Or was I that much of a baby like everyone had told me I was? When I had touched it to my skin, a song came up on my rap, depressed indie, and scream playlist that definitely wasn’t supposed to be there: How He Loves by John Mark McMillan. I knew that couldn’t be coincidence. I bawled my eyes out like I never had before. I had my first vision I had had in years: a little kid running to the feet of God, which I recognized as myself with the 1990s bowl cut I had when I was three years old.
Your Daddy in Heaven is always one step behind you. He really does love you more than you can comprehend. He will never let you go through anything you can’t take. He will catch you with arms wide open as soon as you fall; His grace and compassion are eternal, just as you are in Him. No matter what you’ve done, He still loves you unconditionally and has already forgiven you.