In 2014 I took a trip with Revolution Campus Ministry formerly known as ACB. During that trip I was still struggling with a lot of issues in ways that I hadn’t been dealing with properly. I had many times contemplated suicide (never acting on it), self harm, I had become addicted to alcohol, was becoming a pothead, and had issues with my gender identity. I was very shut out and I had two experiences that have shaped me to be a different person during that trip. I’ll let what I wrote back then explain the power of God’s grace. The introduction is from my friend Kerry Cox’s page where this was originally posted.
A Cliffside Experience
Some stories are just better from the horses mouth. This story is about my friend Devin. Although it does show a major shift from his life before God it also shows how God continues to work on our hearts continually. Listen to Devin tell you this story of how God and his people can bless your life… — Kerry Cox
“You wouldn’t think you’d have a spiritual epiphany after watching a movie and climbing the face of a cliff with your bare hands. It’s kind of crazy how God works, and how those sort of things do happen when you’re least expecting it.
I guess I can’t say it was just a movie. “God’s Not Dead,” was more than just a movie. I could be saying that just because it made me cry, but it made me want to start listening to what God had to say. I wanted to do something drastic like the kids in that film did.
I’m a lazy person at heart. I spend most of my days playing video games, reading books; I am lazy in the sense that physical activity is the bane of my existence. So it was a shock that when I was on the annual A Cross Between Campus Ministry Spring Break Trip (say that ten times fast) that I willingly jumped right into a hiking expedition through the Ozarks in rural Missouri.
At first it was remotely tame, we walked through the woods. We had to take our time climbing down into the river valley. I of course, being the geek that I am, had a staff in the vein of Gandalf to walk around with. So I used to it’s advantage. I leaned on it and used it to pull me through.
If you know me well you know I have some gender identity issues. I’ve never quite felt like a man, being submissive in most of my relationships. Identifying as a crossdresser, and even contemplating getting sexual reassignment surgery, or if not at least living my life under the guise that I was female. This hiking expedition, while not only a man thing, some very beautiful, very feminine girls took this trek as well. So don’t get me wrong when I say that I preferred womanly pursuits and this was very out of character for me.
I am a Christian. At the time I was, and still am, very young Christian. I struggle with issues, hang ups, and still had problems associating myself with the words manhood, masculinity, strong, faithful, and courageous. A group of about thirteen including myself split off from the bulk of our campus ministry.
Kerry Cox led the charge to keep exploring for caves in the rock face. We found a cave, and tried to get other people to join us exploring it, but the rest of the group decided to start heading back and they took the path that we had used to get into the valley. We continued on, hoping that we might be able to find an easier route to return by. I had joked “suckers, they took the hard way back. I bet this way is easier.” Much like in the bible the road less traveled is not the easier road. Regardless, it is always the better path. It is the path that leads to the most change. The cliff, hill, mountain, death trap that we decided to climb up was at least 70 degrees in most situations and while there were plenty of places to grab a hold you could not always tell what you were about to grab and if it was going to be strong.
I did not think that I could do it. With each step Kerry and the other people in the group kept telling me I could. Though it was strange being encouraged the way that they did. These people were acting out an important part of spiritual relationships with your fellow believers. They were encouraging and spurring me on. We are called to encourage, and this was a situation where I was being called to climb to trust, and to be willing to accept that I was a man. To believe that I was made to do these kinds of things. Kerry with a straight face, not knowing the inner struggles in my heart or past kept repeating to me. “You are a man. You were made for this. You can do this. Just grab the next branch. Bear crawl up this mountain.”
I want to say that I had a great crisis in my head where I thought about the things that he was saying to me, that I came to a conclusion that “Yes I am a man. Yes I can.” That is not what happened, it was more of a decision to let go and fall, to keep on going, or to slowly back down and walk the hour or two that it would probably take me to get back to camp. Even then that is deliberating and elaborating the situation more than it actually was.
Fortunately, he was right, there was a shed of manhood, of masculinity in me that I hadn’t wrapped in lace. There was a part of me that heard those words“you are a man,” and took them to heart and I climbed the side of that cliff being pushed and pulled by other people prodding to the top. This was an intense moment for me, I never thought I could ever do anything this ridiculous. That being said I also didn’t think that I would still be alive, or even remotely happy, or dressed in pants and a t-shirt with a beard at this point in my life.
bed up that cliff. While to some it might have been simple. To others it might have just been a difficult climb, but for me it was a point in my life where I had to start choosing who I was, and while I still have urges and feelings and think that I might have been better off a girl. That day as I got to the top of that cliff and Kerry and I hugged and he showed me what I climbed up. I really began to understand God’s promises to prosper me and not to harm me.
Staring down at the cliff as they dropped a huge rock that quickly slammed it’s way to the river below and while overlooking the rolling Missouri countryside I suddenly understood it.
Our struggles in life are like cliffs, they are like mountains. We cannot overcome them on our own. We have to trust and accept ourselves as who we are, we have to trust others and accept their help and encouragement, and above all we have to trust God that he made us exactly as he envisioned us. That we are beings that are perfect in his glory, that even though we are not perfect. We make mistakes. We fail and get lost along the way. Jesus Christ, He saves us. The fires of God change us and mold us into stronger beings. Without God I could have never overcome mountains.With him mountains turn into molehills. They’re still there. They don’t disappear, and it doesn’t get easier. It just gets more bearable. You don’t have to fight alone.”
God does some amazing things. No matter what your struggle is, there is no mountain God can’t level. — Kerry Cox
Who Am I Today?
Today, I am still that same scared little boy on the side of that cliff. I’m a semester away from graduation. That terrifies me. I just recently broke off a relationship of almost two years and have begun trying to focus on the one true relationship. The one with my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. To many this seems insane. With all the history that we had, with all the dreams that we had. Why would someone do that? The same reason why I would move away from my hometown. The same reason why I would climb up that cliff. The same reason why I’m telling people that I am a recovering alcoholic. That I am a crossdresser, that I am addicted to pornography and into things that make people cringe.
The truth is, Christ is worth more than anything I’ve ever experienced. He’s worth more than any earthly relationship, and I suck sometimes at showing it. I put other things before Him all the time. I put one of my closest friends, my ex in front of Him. There’s a lot to say about a man who can admit he has made mistakes and has broken people’s hearts. I can only do these things because of the voice that God gave me. There’s hope here. I don’t have all the answers, but I know someone who does. It costs a lot to find him, but it costs even more to deny the truth. This I have experienced, but I know that there is hope!
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” — Matthew 13:44–45