Mark and Me
At 21 years old I had dropped out of school, was coming off heavy drug use, living at home, and flat out lazy. Rightfully, my parents asked me to move out, leading to feelings of abandonment and disapproval. I was lost. Combined with a naturally pessimistic, change adverse, and self-doubting nature a slide back into drugs and depression should have been the inevitable next event.
God had a different plan.
Around the same time my family was attending a small church in San Diego. Mark and his wife began attending the church. Mark was real. What you see was what you got. The young men in the church were drawn to this and quickly talked him into leading a weekly men’s group.
I reluctantly began attending. I didn’t know why, but I liked Mark. He felt like a kindred spirit, like a pair of comfy wool socks. I started calling him Obi-wan, Darth Vader’s mentor. I think God smiled a little that day, because I would never be the same.
He started the group with a simple project: sit still. Wait, what? Sit still? Yup. He wanted us to sit still for 5 minutes a day and focus on the verse, “be still and know that I am God.” Sitting still doesn’t sound like a long time till you actually try and do it. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. Then we had to increase it little by little till we were sitting still for 1 hour a day. It was hard, but it worked. Being still with God allowed me to feel His love. Something that was impossible with all the noise of this world.
Being comfortable just sitting with God was a crucial first step in my relationship with him. A second crucial step came shortly after.
We were working our way through Mark’s tape series Relationship not Religion. On the tape Mark said a little line, but said it with the passion of someone who had earned the right to say it. “Our flaws and brokenness are the windows through which we see God.” My heart needed to hear this message. I drove down the freeway weeping. God didn’t care if I was self-doubting. He didn’t care if I freaked out when things changed. He just wanted a relationship with me, as I am.
Getting comfortable with my brokenness, and being comfortable just being with God had a profound effect. My eyes were lifted from myself and up to God. Once they were on God, I wanted to do more for His Kingdom. I wanted to serve. I wanted to visit orphanages and setup chairs. I just wanted people to know God too, because He is so cool.
I have dozens more stories about Mark. Some were funny stories, and some were touching. They all carry a common theme. Mark’s story, one which has taken him from highs and lows, has equipped him to share what I believe is a central truth about God. More importantly it’s not just academic. Mark lives it out by forming real, loving relationships with those around him. I am so thankful Mark was willing to expend the energy to have a relationship with me, cause I’m a wretch.
I could write for hours about the little truths I learned from him. Thankfully I don’t have to. He wrote them down in a book. It’s my prayer that all the people out there like me will read it and find the same freedom in Christ that I have.
Please, buy his book so he can eat lunch.