A Changed Life

by DanWolgemuth on October 20, 2006

When Rick stepped uncomfortably to the microphone on Tuesday night, I thought I knew what he might say. But I wildly underestimated what was about to unfold. This story threw a lasso around every painful moment that the individuals in the room had experienced and drew it powerfully to the compassionate heart of God.

Rick, now in his thirties, described life as a 400-pound 16-year-old. Without anger or resentment, he shared about growing up in the home where an alcoholic father transferred his guilt and shame to unsuspecting and vulnerable family members. He described a world without a safe place. Not one.

Rick gave examples of the cruelty, but he didn’t really need to… because everyone in the room remembered the “Rick” in our high school class. We remembered the scene in the cafeteria, or in gym class, or in the hallways.

But Rick’s downward spiral had an exit. He found a friend. And it was this friend, Dave, a Youth for Christ staff person, that introduced him to the lover of his soul… to Jesus. Rick experienced the love of a God that didn’t weigh him before he embraced him. He found comfort and hope with a God that convinced him that he was more than an object, he was a person of dignity, an image bearer.

In those five minutes, Rick uncovered every painful encounter and every gut wrenching rejection. At the same time, he exposed the tendency in each of us to judge and to shame others. Overtly or covertly, I’ve been on the dispensing side of that disgust.

But not Jesus… and not Dave. And because of that unconditional love, Rick is liberated to live and love and give back. He looks like a shadow of the young man that walked the halls of his high school… now over 200 pounds lighter. Yet that transformation pales in comparison to the change in his heart… a change that was birthed when compassion rules the day.

“…the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” ~ James 5:11

The safe place. In His embrace. Jesus.

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