"My biggest fear is that I will look back at the end of my life and realize my life had no impact on the lives of others." This is junior year of high school Ty when asked what my biggest fear was. What a strange answer to a question that is normally answered by an irrational fear of some animal, roller-coaster, or clown. But in the midst of my search for identity, I knew that this life was about more than myself. I knew God had placed a call on my life to leave impact that would last far beyond my years here on earth. But oh, did I run.
Growing up in Grayson County, Virginia, there wasn't much to do but hunt, fish, and try to get really good at whatever sport was in season. It was a place where people would give you the shirt off their back, and I had a family that supported me in whatever I chose to pursue. My story was one of identity; or lack thereof. I chose to pursue the sports dream. The hardwood, the gridiron, the diamond, the newspapers. All these at the forefront, seeming so profound and exciting, yet so fleeting. Here today, passing away quickly tomorrow. The pressure to perform, placed on me by no one but myself. The prison that looks like a palace from the outside, yet offers no life. The small-town kid that would defy all odds and get the chance to play Division 1 basketball. The type of dream that only comes to pass in some Hollywood film, except I caught it, and it is there where the story really begins.
Quickly, the game that I once loved became something that I dreaded every day. I wanted to quit oftentimes worse than I wanted to breathe. I quickly fell into anxiety and really battled daily with very depressive thoughts. It was the beginning of God showing me that my identity was wrapped up in something that could never suffice. The year quickly became one of turning to anything that would take the pain away. Alcohol would do so, but only for a few hours, and even at that, it only numbed it. This freshman year at Radford is one I always look back on dubbing it the worst year of my life, while also one where eternity was being shaped, slowly but surely.
Going into that summer, I stopped playing basketball, and thought the pain would end there. If anything, it got more profound. Who was I? All everyone had ever known me as was the star athlete. When that quickly faded, I longed for a sense of identity. The alcohol continued as well as the desperate search to be loved. Deep down, I knew there was only One who could truly love me the way I longed for. But I knew what that meant for my life and if I'm being honest, I wanted to be my own god. Time after time that spring and summer, that longing to be my own god led me down a road that I had never imagined my feet would traverse.
My biggest fear began to replay in my mind. Ty, don't worry, you don't have to worry about your life leaving an impact far beyond when you pass. It was, but not in the way I had intended. I was leading people in the path of destruction, but little did I know how the Lord would soon turn it around.
With an opportunity to lifeguard at a church camp, I thought what could it hurt? Little did I know that through this camp, God would take my life and turn it into something I could have never imagined. The second day of the first week, I remember that night of service as clear as day. The speaker, where I was sitting, the faces in the room I can still bring back to remembrance. It was the defining moment in my life. The night I made the decision that I could not be my own god, in fact, I had tried and failed miserably. The night I realized that everything I had been looking for: to be loved, to be known, and to make an impact, was all wrapped up in one decision. On June 24, 2015, I made the decision to accept Jesus as Savior AND Lord. That I wanted Him to not just save my life, but to lead, guide, and direct my steps as I continued forward. As I write this, I am in tears at His mercy in that moment to break off the addictions that had held me in bondage. To speak over me a new identity, one where He calls me son. Where His love for me is never based on performance, but on His unfailing character and what Jesus did on the Cross. I could never be the same. To taste true freedom is to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Throughout the course of those 4 weeks, God moved in powerful and profound ways. I saw Him move supernaturally in ways that shattered every box I had ever tried to put Him in. THIS is who God is, and I decided that if He cares that intimately for each person on this planet, He deserves much more than just another Sunday. He deserves my life.
Little did I know that God would turn all those bad decisions I had made around and give me a platform to proclaim His transforming goodness in my life. This small-town kid whose only ambition was to play Division 1 basketball quickly transformed into someone whose only desire was to make the name of Jesus famous in his hometown, at Radford University, and to the ends of the earth.
The recreation directors at the church camp were on staff with Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship at the time and let me know that I could get involved at Radford. I had no clue how deeply the Lord's hand was in this, and looking back on it, can still only see the beginning of the plan beginning to unfold. God loves Radford. He loves Radford more than I could ever dream of or imagine. But I've caught a glimpse of that love and my hearts longing is to see His name made famous on a campus that is known for just the opposite. Where sin increases, grace increases all the more, and those who have been forgiven much love much. As I look back on my walk with the Lord, I can't help but feel like the woman in Luke 7 pouring her perfume on the feet of Jesus realizing how unworthy she is to even be in His presence. He has taken me from the filthy rags and has given me the honor to share my story and proclaim His Gospel. My Chi Alpha journey is just beginning here at Radford, but I have already seen the Lord do in countless others the same He did for me. To be known fully, yet still be loved by the One who created us is something I will never be able to grasp. Yet, I'm thankful. If He can do it for me, He can do it for you, and He will. Just stop running.
"We must never forget what it felt like to be lost in light of what it feels like to be found."