I’ve been a lot of things in my short life, both good – an athlete, the smart guy, and the “fun guy” at parties – and bad – a failure, a liar, an adulterer, and a divorcee. These identities did nothing but bring endless attempts to try to keep that identity or get rid of that part of my life. Thankfully, everything I thought I was for 31 years was not permanent and changed when I submitted my life to Christ.

When I put my faith in Jesus and He saved my life I was immediately changed and given a permanent identity: child of God (Romans 8:16-17). I had spent so many years trying to be someone I was never meant to be and ALWAYS felt incomplete. Becoming a child of God filled the void that I had been striving to fill for years and I was given peace for the first time in my life.

This peace has invaded all aspects of my life and drives my life. Because God offers me patience I am more patient. Because His grace is more powerful than any sin I have committed (or will commit) I can offer that same kind of grace to others. Because He did not see me in my depravity as someone not worthy of His love, I can freely love others…even the ones I used to look down upon.

One day, I asked God – how permanent is my new identity? He answered me through Romans 8:38-39 – NOTHING can separate me from His love. Since I figured that out, I have had a hard time not telling everyone about their identity in Christ. It’s so freeing to know that the God of the universe looks upon me with love, grace, and mercy. That there is nothing that can separate me from Him.

I have two tattoos, one on each forearm; one reads “I am loved” and the other “Forgiven.” I got them to remind myself of who God says I am – my identity. My identity is in Him and not of this world – it is permanent.

Stephen loves working with Grace students, and in his spare time is a dietitian. He’s married to Elise, and they are expecting their first baby next year!

Struggling with Compassion

A few years ago I found myself in a place I thought I’d never be. My family member had been admitted to a place they take people from broken homes, off the streets, abused people, addicted people, people that deserved to be in a place like this for one reason or another. I was devastated; crushed; confused. How was this possible? We weren’t any of those things…just the opposite. Loving family – check. Good jobs, good church, good school, good friends…check, check, check, check. As I walked down the corridor for the 1-hour communal visit for the first time I was crying my eyes out for my family and the one I loved who didn’t belong in this place.

We had to wait awhile for our visit and as I sat in the room, deep in my own pain and thoughts, I was suddenly made keenly aware of what was happening around me. One girl was crying because not only would her mother not be visiting that day, she wouldn’t even take her call during the one hour allowed for calls. There were other similar situations happening all around me. In that moment I had a flashback to when I was a college student. I was a sociology major at a Christian college and had been assigned to visit a girl in the hospital. I hadn’t recalled this incident in years but my memory was vivid. As I visited her and she told me she had tried to kill herself I was externally kind but what was going on in my heart and mind was not kind at all. My thoughts were along the lines of, “How selfish of you!”; “What could possibly be so bad, so hopeless?”

And then it happened…I felt it happen. My heart broke and it grew. I was heartbroken for all of those people sitting in that room who didn’t have hope. God let me know that He loved me so much that He wasn’t going to let me go my whole life without understanding compassion. 30 years was long enough!

I know now that I believed a lie that I wasn’t gifted in the area of compassion. I’ve met others that believe similar lies. Lies that say they can’t have compassion on certain people because they’ve been hurt by people like that. Lies that say they aren’t good enough to have compassion on others because of their own issues. I’m convinced that those lies are straight from the enemy and are intended to keep us from being like Jesus.

Jesus is compassion…compassion that feels the pain and brokenness without judgment. I want to follow His lead. See with His eyes and love like He loves.

kimd-500x500Kim is wife and mom to adult kids, Kristyn and Kayla. She’s a local real estate agent and on leaders the Hello Team (and more!) at Grace.