Growing Pains

“The atlas threatens, bold out on the open road, and dares us to count the cost. 

It taunts, beckons, time ticks by seconds of life that screams it’s lost.

 Change is subtle. And you change a lot with the seasons, but home…  home does not.”

Levi the Poet


The summer was one of new challenges, old insecurities, and experiences that have indefinitely shaped me for the better. It’s the first summer I’ve spent completely away from home, moving to Statesville, NC for an internship at which I had no idea what to expect. What I’ve learned over this time has been a plethora of lessons on life, ranging from the gnawing loneliness that comes with uprooting your expectations to the overwhelming responsibilities of leadership (and the ever beating disappointing feeling of never having “arrived.”)

I remember the day I came. My car was packed with everything I’d need for the summer, my clothes, my living supplies, and a case of books. I navigated the long, winding roads with the help of my GPS. Drove through Mount Holly, saying goodbye to the summers I had spent in the last several years. Goodbye to long nights at the park, to days at the lake, to late-night excursions in houses that gave me nightmares, and to friends who I love dearly. I brushed memories full of joy and pain away as I thought about how I began last summer, with no idea of the suffering I would come to know come June. I drove through Huntersville, Davidson, Cornelius, passing long stretches of land where cows sat chewing on dirt, blissfully ignorant of the world that lay beyond the fence. I prayed that God would give me a heart for the kids I would be ministering to. I asked him that however long this journey lasted, whatever I experienced, that my purpose would not waver. That I would take all the tools he had given me and make his name known, never backing down from the glorious hope found in the Gospel in the name of Christ.

Upon entering Iredell county, I read the sign on the side of the interstate…”Welcome to Iredell County: Crossroads for the Future.” It was an interesting thought, that God would shape me somehow here. And he did. In more ways than I can count. The past 3 months here have been an adventure. More times than one, I have been incredibly lonely.

New places can be terrifying, and I remember being incredibly nervous for a while. But God proved his faithfulness over and over and over again in the conversations I was able to have with all those kids and the new experiences that taught me how to truly seek after Christ. I learned, sometimes through tears, how to be a leader, how to be an example of grace to those who watch your life. I learned to find satisfaction in Christ alone, because he is surely more than enough.

A few Sundays ago was my last day working at the church, and since, I have moved back to Gardner-Webb to finish up my last semester before getting the degree I have worked so hard for.

And in moving back, I hit a wall. I’ve asked God over and over….”what is my purpose here for this semester?” I am overjoyed to see leaders rising from the underclassmen I met a couple years back. It is encouraging to see ministry carry on, but where do I fit in this grand puzzle? How can I be of the most use to these people and most obedient to the call of God on my life to preach the Gospel?

I feel like Buddy the elf in his bed at the North Pole. Too big. My experiences within ministry and life in general have put me at a completely new place. I view the world differently, I view my old struggles and my new ones with different eyes and my thoughts today look nothing like my thoughts a few years ago (or even a few months ago.)

In just 4 short years, I have become a new man. My faith has been deepened and I can see my life with a little more wisdom than I used to have. And I see younger men rising up and continuing on their journeys. And I am not sure where to go from here.I want to protect others from making the same mistakes I did in ministry and rather than jump in and try to fix things, discernment says to stay back, because they won’t learn unless they go through it themselves. Discernment tells me to hold my tongue and enjoy a season of rest.

Where I’ve always been a fixer, there are some things I know I cannot fix because the only way to learn is to endure. Where I sometimes see the smug arrogance with which some go about their duties, I wish I could show them the early years of my college experience so they would snap out of it and see where that smugness leads. I wish I could minister to people by fixing all of their problems, but I can’t. There’s nothing to be done so I pray, I seek, I stay silent.

That’s honestly the most difficult thing in the world for me.

But I believe every single step is overwhelmed with purpose. I believe God’s plan reaches farther than my mind can conjure. I believe his mercy is all sustaining and painfully real. I’ve seen God set captives free and in this new phase of my life, maybe I need to do that by praying for the discernment to know when to speak and when to keep my mouth shut. Praying for opportunities to boldly speak the truth, sometimes without saying a word.

Whether I’m in Iredell county or Gaston county or Cleveland county, I am at the crossroads of my life, and I have to trust that my God is big enough to take care of me, regardless of whether or not I understand every single step.

I was a freshman once, living in Mauney Hall in a community I would grow to love and that would shape me into the man I am. And 4 years later, I’m sitting in my room in Mauney hall, seeing that community birthed into the lives of those who came after me, on the cusp of a new journey I barely understand.

I’m learning to make Christ, the only desirable thing in me, the only thing I desire. Slowly, I am being transformed.

Gardner-Webb, like Belmont, and even Statesville in some ways, has become my home. And change is subtle. I change a lot with the seasons, but home does not.



2 thoughts on “Growing Pains”

  1. Thank you for being willing to share your heart, Stephen. Growing up is not easy, and it is especially difficult when you see those whom you have mentored over time mentoring others. God has a way of raising up new leaders even after we are gone. That has a been a struggle for me because 3 out of the 4 years at GWU, I was in one of those leadership positions. It hurts sometimes because we want to continue on that path. Undergrad was by far the best time of my life and often times I would like to think that I’d do anything to go back to it. However, now that I have been done for going on 2 years now, I’ve learned a lot about letting go but never forgetting. God’s thought process on change is vastly different then ours, and honestly, sometimes it is frustrating. Although we wish things can stay the same way forever they change as do we. The only thing we can be certain of is that we have a consistent God in an inconsisten world. With this in mind, I am reminded of the lyrics that state, “All of my life, in every season, you are still God and I have a reason to sing. I have a reason to worship.” My encouragement to you is to worship and sing to the Lord just as much, if not more than you have in years past. Change is necessary and it is beautiful. It challenges us to rely all the more on God. I love you dude! Lets hangout at brcc today or tomorrow?

  2. Stephen, this is AWESOME! Randall and I look forward to seeing what God has in store for you! As always…thanks for being, not just our son’s friend, but also his brother! We love you…and Jordan, I am sure, is so proud of you!

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