Many people over the years have asked for my testimony or personal faith story. Truth is, there are so many different stories I could tell. Recently, I have opened a new chapter in my life. I think it’s worth telling that story because it shows have great and loving and forgiving and strong God really is, and how small I am in comparison.
In 2013, I was pretty high on life. I had a good job, a good group of friends, and had a lot of fun on the side with filmmaking and competitive eating and other random stuff. Plus, I had the respect of my peers and parents as well as a clean slate financially after years and years of student loans.
On the eve of 2014, I was presented with the opportunity to (A) lead a film crew in a new short film series, and (B) lead a group of young adults in a new church outreach initiative. For years, I have wanted to pursue ministry and the arts in a professional capacity. People say I have a knack for these things. So, it was my dream to make the most of it. Even when both the film series and ministry showed signs of storm clouds ahead, I decided to push onward, because this was my dream and no one could take it away from me.
The answer was “no, someone could take it away.” God could, and He did. He allowed me to have a go at it for a while, but then things started to fall apart. The film crew, as great as it was, was sideswiped by unexpected drama, and expenses started piling up much more rapidly than I was bringing money in. Plus, numbers in the church group dwindled and yet the higher ups in the initiative continued to push for results. As both situations took a dive, I tried coping as best I could. Not running to God, but away from God. Not reaching our to others, but into myself. Soon this formerly peaceful, kindhearted dude found himself full of lust, pride, and drunkenness. My finances were shot. My nerves were raw. My relationship with my wife was in the toilet. Finally, I got to the point where I turned to Katie and I was like, “I gotta get out, or this thing I’ve created is gonna kill me” (this being barely an exaggeration).
We finished the films and made a less than graceful departure from the initiative, then moved to North Carolina (from California) in 2015. I didn’t know what waited next. My first few month were rocky. I couldn’t find a job. But I did find a church. One day, the youth pastor at that time asked me to write him a drama for an upcoming event. I wrote him a musical. I’d never written one before. The first draft (the final being not far from) was done in two weeks. God was up to something. Then, the youth pastor felt called away from his position and offered me the job. What ensued were four months of intensive growth and healing, followed by a full-scale production of said musical.
It was amazing! Within a matter of two years, God had taken everything away from me only to give it back again. True, the old demons still vie for my heart and mind. I’m still in debt. But my wife and I are good again; I’ve been writing a lot; the church I’m at is great (the new youth pastor is amazing!); and the musical will soon be ready for full-scale distribution any day now.
From all this I’ve learned that God is good, and He uses all things, even those things that are hurtful to Him and His name, for His glory. Thank you Jesus for being the God of Four-Hundred and Ninety Chances!!!
Also let me take this moment to assure you, if you feel like you are down and out, especially out, God loves you, God wants you back. Run to Him. He is ready and eager to bring you back to glory. You are fearfully and wonderfully made by an Awesome & Mighty Creator!
Blessings and love,
Aaron D. Ybarra