by Max Miller
The first time I heard the music at the Crossings Church, we were meeting at a small warehouse in Wentzville, MO. I didn’t know why I was there and, frankly, I wasn’t sure I liked it very much at all. Now, I’ve been leading worship, one way or another, for around eleven years (give or take a few months). God truly works in mysterious ways. My story is not about glorifying my talents or telling everyone how good I am; but unfortunately, for many years, that’s exactly what I thought it was all about.
I was baptized in March 2011. As many of us are when we first meet the Lord, I was completely on fire. All of the heavy emotional baggage I had long been carrying with me seemed to have vanished, or so I thought. I was convicted of my sins, and I ached to reach out to the lost souls around me. I wanted nothing more than to be an instrument of God. Within a year, I was leading a small group in my campus ministry, and leading worship for our early Sunday service. However, I quickly forgot just how determined the Father of Lies was at derailing followers of Christ from the truth.
One by one, the cracks slowly began to reveal themselves in my life. I soon discovered that, as a small group leader, I was a coward. I struggled to tell those entrusted to my care the hard truths that they needed to hear. When my friends and fellow leaders tried to help my leadership by pointing out this weakness in me, all I heard was, “you’re not good enough and you’ll never be good enough.” Later, I was pulled from my position in leadership. This was done in the most loving way possible, but despite all the love and encouragement I was given, I would only accept condemnation. Believing the lie, I quickly turned back to sexual sin and pornography for what I fooled myself into believing was love and affirmation. Too true is the saying in Proverbs 26:11; I was a dog, returned to my vomit.
Soon after that was a snowball effect of letting Satan have absolute control of my life. Even worse, I tried so hard to pass it off as piety. I continued to sing in front of the church every Sunday. I started dating someone spiritually mature, thinking that a relationship would help me look more put together. I started dating someone, only to bring them into my cycle of sin. As I took healing classes to try to deal with my trauma, I rejected grace and continued to believe I was a monster. Before Christ, I had spent much of my time victimizing others in response to my own trauma. In my mind, I was unforgivable.
So, this was the cycle that I continued to live in for several years: go to church on Sunday, say all the right things, smile and sing on stage, go home, return to my self-loathing and sin, rinse, repeat.
Despite my determination to self-sabotage, God would continue to fight His way back into my life. At a campus ministry conference, I heard someone who I respected speak openly about his experience as a victim of sexual abuse and the impact it had on his life. I was gutted. I had never heard someone speak about sexual abuse so openly or considered the effect my abuse had made on me. I felt a pit in my stomach that I tried to hide as I walked out of the auditorium, but a good friend of mine made eye contact with me and he just knew. He ran over to me and held me as I cried the hardest tears I had ever cried. It was a moment that could have been freeing, but I was determined to keep my heart hard. I would keep stuffing my pain. I would keep hiding my sin. I would keep whitewashing my tomb. I would keep acting religious. Later, I joined a team to plant a church in St. Louis.
“There’s no shadow you won’t light up,
mountain you won’t climb up,
coming after me.
There’s no wall you won’t kick down,
lie you won’t tear down,
coming after me.”
My walls had to be kicked down. Cracks had already started to show in the facade of fake faithfulness that I had built. My attitudes and actions were showing enough for my leaders to take notice and remove me from the spotlight at church, but I was still being given the opportunity to try and turn things around. All the while, I couldn’t break what had now become an addiction to pornography. When people I loved tried to ask me about it, I lied to their faces. It took being caught out for me to finally collapse and truly give God, and His people, a chance. I was embarrassed and ashamed, but I had never felt so loved and relieved at the same time. I had hurt a lot of people with my actions, but I was finally ready to give God a real chance.
Returning to the basics, I gave confession and community an honest chance. By confronting my childhood sexual abuse, I finally began to see the roots of my feelings and choices, and actually grasp onto the hope that God would heal and use me. God brought people into my life to show me how His truth works when it’s lived out, and I got to practice living it out myself. I began to see the beauty of an authentic life. I got to experience a new beginning in almost every area of my life. I started to see things how God intended them: friendships, a romantic relationship, healing, and worship. While it sometimes feels like I wasted so much time, I know now that God still uses those mistakes in my life to bless and teach others. As much as I sometimes want to hide from that part of my life and appear perfect, I know that it’s in my weakness that God shows His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9-11).
If any of my story resonates with you, I hope that you decide to give authenticity a chance. Believe me when I say: I know the temptation to want to appear perfect. So also trust that I know the consequences of trying to fake it until you make it. Without direct intervention, and being kicked onto my butt, I was headed for an eternal disaster, and I would have taken others with me. It’s an amazing experience to finally worship God with every part of my life and not to have to hide. God made us to be relational and He gave us Christ, because He knew we could never be perfect. So, don’t try to do it alone.