but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 3:15

I grew up in a Lutheran church, stopped going to church by the 8th grade. By high school I was an atheist, I didn’t believe God existed. Most importantly was my hatred of people. In high school, I was as much of a lone wolf as someone can get. I had very few friends, and I’m using that term very loosely here. They were more like a group of people I sat with at lunch and told dirty jokes with. I didn’t depend on them for anything, and I certainly didn’t share anything personal with them.

My high school was fairly large, so I generally didn’t have any classes with those people. So most of the time I sat in class quiet and alone. I didn’t mind being alone, since I didn’t like people one bit. I was very cold and emotionless towards others. Yes, I was suicidal for a short time, got counseling, and what I took away from that was that I shouldn’t take my frustrations out on myself, I should take them out on other people. I valued others as nothing. And I was big into manipulating people to react the way I wanted them to (generally, I just wanted them to be left alone, and I did a good job of getting that). There was one thing stopping me from actually killing people, and that was my view on death. I didn’t believe in a heaven or hell, or any sort of afterlife. I viewed death as the end, and that’s it. It was almost as a reward. But if someone crossed my path, did something to me, or looked at me in a way I didn’t like, I wouldn’t have killed them, because that would mean they would no longer feel any pain. I wanted them alive so they could feel pain and suffering.

There were people who tried to reach out to me. I remember there were a few people in study hall that would try talking to me every week (we only had study hall once a week, as I recall). They would always say hi, ask me how I’m doing. I didn’t want anything to do with them. In my view, they weren’t really trying to be my friends, the only reason they were talking to me was because we happened to be sitting at the same table. I flat out ignored them, and they would give up after a couple minutes. Except for one time. Here’s a key theme to remember throughout all of this, I absolutely hated being touched in any way outside of a handshake. So anyways, the guy that would normally sit next to me was talking and he said something along the lines of, “I feel bad for him (talking about me). I want to give him a hug, but I’m afraid of what he’d do to me.” At that point I looked him in the eye (I think this was the only time we made eye contact) and said, “Touch me, gay boy, and I’ll rearrange your face.” That made him jump back and almost out of his seat. Needless to say, he didn’t sit next to me for the rest of that class. And that’s how I treated the people who were nice to me.

That’s how I accomplished my goal of being alone, by making people afraid of me. I didn’t do much talking, but I did a lot of listening. I could hear what others were saying about me. People that I never even talked to or interacted with would say that they were afraid to even say hi to me, including big football linebackers in gym class (and I’m not that big or muscular).

For college, I went to a city that was a good distance away from where I was. I viewed college as a fresh start, and for the most part, it was. Around this time I did believe that God existed, but I wasn’t sure “which god.” I returned to my Christian roots, as that’s what I was familiar with, but I did end up checking out some other religions. Christianity made the most sense to me, so that’s what I stuck with, but I still wasn’t sure, and I wasn’t really committed to it or anything. I got invited to a Christian fellowship group on campus, which I went to off and on. I wasn’t as violent as I was in high school, although I still felt I could tap into that whenever I wanted to.

Fast forward to my 4th year in college, where I decided to go on a mission trip with that Christian campus group. In previous years, my friends would come back from these mission trips going on and on about how great of a time they had, and so I saved up some money to finally go on one. I’d never been on a mission trip before, given my lone wolf and fairly sheltered life. There’s actually a lot of “normal/typical” things I haven’t done before (although, that keeps changing too). I still hated being touched. I recall a fundraiser the group did for this trip, and at the end we had a big group photo. I was kinda slow to get into the photo, so I was on the end, next to a guy that knew my name, but I didn’t know his name at the time (which annoyed me). What made it worse was when he put his arm around me, like people normally do in photos. I was thinking to myself the whole time, “If we weren’t in a group of Christians, I’d shove you to the ground right now, punch you in the face and tell you to never touch me again. Hurry up with this photo.” And that was replaying in my mind over and over.

Now, I’m going to take you to Tuesday night on the mission trip. We had a dancing activity for that night. During this, I sat down just to take a break. Shortly thereafter, my body started to shut down. I couldn’t feel anything from the waist down, and it was a fight just to open my eyes for 1 second. When the dancing was over, I had to be literally carried into the other room where we were going for worship. At this point, people were getting worried. A girl named Jamie came over, and she was checking my pulse and stuff, and said it was low (she was going into nursing). I wasn’t dehydrated or anything, because I was drinking plenty of water. I’d never had an experience like this before, and I haven’t had one since. They decided to carry me downstairs to our sleeping quarters. It took 3 guys to carry me downstairs. I didn’t mind being touched here, as it was kinda necessary.

When we got downstairs, we had a small group there to pray for me, led by JohnMark. I was ok with that, but what I wasn’t ok with was when they all put their hands on me to pray (about half a dozen people). I would have gotten up and walked away from that, but I didn’t have the physical power to, I didn’t even have the power to utter a full sentence. Afterwards, JohnMark told me that he could tell I didn’t like being touched during that prayer. After the first round of prayer, with nothing happening, Jamie came down to check on me again (still low pulse). Then she put her hands on my shoulders, and they began praying again. At some point during the prayer, Jamie said something along the lines of, “If there’s any evil spirit in him, let it be cast out in the name of Jesus.”

At that moment I felt something come out of me. It felt like a big burden was lifted, and I was at peace. A couple minutes later when they finished praying, I could move my toes. This was the first time I could feel anything from the waist down since I first sat down during the dancing. Within a couple minutes, I had regained full energy, and I was walking around and talking, but I had no idea of the full ramifications of this event. The next day, I was a completely different person. I no longer hated being touched, and I was no longer afraid of having close friends, two things which, I never intended changing. Now I enjoyed being hugged by my friends, and every day I’m thankful to God that I’m not who I once was. I no longer hated people, I loved people, and I love the person I’ve become. A few weeks after the mission trip I was baptized, and that was another adventure in itself.