Here’s part 2 in the Southside baptism series. Knowing Nathan and spending some time as his small group leader has been a privilege. The magnitude of God’s work in his life just in the last year is truly astounding. Fun fact: the shower Nathan mentions in this story just so happens to be the exact same shower stall in South Quad that Elam mentioned in his story. We have sinced dubbed it the “Jesus shower”. Big salvation-type things tend to happen there. Get to know the rest of his story:
Growing up in Western Michigan, I (of course) went to church on Sunday mornings. We went as a family, but it stopped there. We woke up, went to Sunday School and the service, came home, and it pretty much wasn’t mentioned the rest of the day. I went all the way through high school like this, accepting Jesus and the gospel as “truth” but basically for the lack of knowing anything different.
In high school I was so insecure I became a pro at turning into a different person for each group of friends I had. I got a name for myself by being a state finalist in swimming, everyone liked one of my many personalities I put up, and I was “smart” and of course going places with my life.
When I ended up at the University of Michigan, things changed. I no longer had groups of friends to make me feel valued, my family to tell me how great I was, and I no longer was the smartest, or the fastest swimmer. To top that, I grew up with a loving and caring father, but who was absent due to business frequently and definitely lacking in affirmation. I was growing up, now away from home, not knowing where I really came from, who I was becoming, and what it meant to be a man.
By the end of freshman year I had found a group of close friends who had quickly got me into the classic college scene of partying, drinking, and pursuing unhealthy relationships. On top of this, I was searching in all the wrong places to find my masculinity and what was expected of me to be a man.
Into my sophomore year I started attending New Life Church after being invited by a long time friend from church in high school. I even stopped by a cookout for the New Life Team serving the dorm I lived in, where I was introduced to people and was invited to join a small group. I said sure, but over the course of the semester I had my reasons not to go; from water polo practice to having mono for a month and continued my partying.
One night after going out with my friends, I came back to the dorm, feeling terrible about myself and took a shower and cried. I cried and I prayed. I had been trying so hard for so many years to make something of myself, to be the person I thought I should be, but all I did was fail. My last hope was the God who I had basically abandoned. I told Him that I gave up on myself, if He wants to make something of me go for it because I was done. It turns out He did want to make something of me. A week later I no longer had the desire to go out with my friends, and the two things getting me through each week was looking forward to Life Group and the Sunday service at New Life.
By the summer time, I had a solid male role model in my life in the form of my small group leader and I was working my way into the community at New Life Church after seeing firsthand how beautiful that picture really is. I attended New Life’s Leadership Training (after some obvious signs from God) and this did it for me. I realized that God created me just how He wanted and in His image. I don’t need to prove myself to anyone and that He doesn’t need me to be perfect. For the first time in my life, I really understood what it meant to have a relationship with God and how important that was to me.
Going into my junior year, now fully immersed in the Southside New Life Team community, I wanted to really commit myself to God and being a part of His work here on campus. I decided to get baptized, to publicly declare my decision to follow Christ and to start my new life. Free of the slavery of my past and walking in grace, I am surrounded by my amazing new family here at New Life Church, who accepted me as I was and took me in; all because they were excited about what God could do in my life, and everyone else’s here at the University of Michigan.