Off and on throughout the last 17 years, Janet and I tried finding a church home but it was difficult. I also, now know that God was keeping us from finding one for a few reasons. Walking into Pathway for the first time was a very interesting experience for me, personally. 20 years prior to this, I walked out of my last church home deeply wounded and swearing I would never return to church. The pain inflicted by the people I loved and thought I could trust was too deep. I had made a mistake that I brought to certain leaders that I felt I could trust in order to be restored and get help. Instead, suddenly the entire church knew what had happened. I was verbally and publically ridiculed, shunned and betrayed. On top of my shame for what I had done, I now had no church family to help me or stand with me. I hated the church and I hated church people more. My faith in God was solid and intact but the shame that weighed on me forced me to run from Him. I couldn’t bear the fact that He was looking at me. Not after what I had done.
The next several years I found myself on a downward spiral of sin. Nothing was worse than what I had done so I might as well try as much as I could… and I did. After years of punishing myself, I looked around and found myself in the metaphorical pig pin. I had nothing left spiritually or morally. I had ground it all away. I know now that God opened my eyes that day. He reminded me of the person I always wanted to be… but shame was still heavy on me. I still couldn’t return to God completely and I certainly wasn’t going back to church. I picked myself up, dusted myself off and tried to cut out a new life for myself.
It wasn’t long after that I met my wife, and a promise fulfilled by God, Janet. That’s also when God started pulling me back again. Our life together wasn’t perfect and we weren’t living like we really should have but God had plans for both of us. As the years went on we had our 2 boys Benjamin and Jacob. Throughout the years we tried almost every church in Longview. Nothing worked. Every church I went to I found something wrong. I was cynical towards every church and every member. “They are all just waiting to turn on us”, I would think, every time. I had resigned myself that God didn’t want me in church anymore. Then in 2012, we had a house fire and all our memories were burned to the ground. It was a blow to our family and one that I thought we wouldn’t recover from. I had always dealt with depression off and on since I was a teenager but after the fire, it became front and center. For the next 4 years I would battle it and so would the rest of my family. There were times I thought it would tear my family apart. Many nights were spent with my wife crying and me unable to respond emotionally to her. I spent holidays laying in my bed while the rest of my family enjoyed them without me.
Janet was at her wit’s end. She began to cry out to God where I couldn’t. She became my light in the darkness. She would start sending me messages of encouragement through scripture almost daily. She began to flood our home and life with prayer even though we still weren’t where we needed to be and I felt God beginning to pull at me again. Then God lead Janet to listen to the Pathway podcasts in early 2016. Some friends of ours had invited us several times but my cynicism was still very much in place. I looked up the church online and swore to myself and my wife aloud, that I would never step foot in that church. Yet, I’ve always been amazed when I look back and see how God weaves things together.
In the summer of 2016 our A/C broke and the person that came to fix it was an owner of Pathway and an old schoolmate of Janet’s. They got to talking about Pathway and he invited us. I resisted, then the A/C broke again. The same guy came back out to fix it again and the conversation started up again. Again, I resisted. The A/C broke a third time and the same guy came back out and told Janet, “This really isn’t about the A/C. You guys need to come.” So, being quite obvious that God wanted us at Pathway, I swallowed my pride and we attended a service and of course, everything was wrong with it. The music was too loud, it was too flashy and the people were way too happy. Then I heard Pastor Marty preach in person. He began talking about how messed up we all are. How messed up he is. He spoke directly to my fears and reservations. Still… I hesitated. I couldn’t deny that God was calling us here but I still had baggage that I had to deal with. We visited off and on for the next few months. Then on December 5th, 2016 God got a hold of me. As I was driving to work I broke down crying, the entire 45-minute drive to work. I couldn’t figure out why I was crying but I couldn’t and really didn’t want to stop. There are few times when I can, with all certainty, say that God spoke directly to me. This was one of those times. He told me that my time away was over and that I needed to dig myself into the church as far as I could lodge myself in it.
Pathway seemed like the most logical choice since God was really pointing me that direction and I’m certainly glad He did. The last 10 months at Pathway has been a blessing from God. I’ve grown in ways that only He could have brought me to and Pathway has been integral to that growth. I serve on the Hospitality team and the Tech arts team. I’m part of 2 lifegroups, one of which I lead. The people at Pathway have proven to be genuine people who just love Jesus. Pathway has shown me that my past experience isn’t the norm and that there are people who truly reflect the character of Christ. Moreover, I have found a family again that has earned my trust which I thought to be impossible.See More Stories