Going back to last episode of Kevin’s life, I was studying abroad in France and had just experienced easily the lowest, most difficult week of my life after an inappropriate experience with another man. I needed a way to process.
But what to do? I knew that if I’d never studied abroad — if I’d just spent that semester back at my college — that nothing like this would have ever happened. I wouldn’t have gone out drinking. I wouldn’t have shared a bed, especially naked, with another guy.
The guilt was overwhelming. And I still had two more months before I could return to America, back to people with whom I could talk.
But even when I got back home, how would I tell anybody what I had done? What would they think of me? Beyond other people, how would these events impact my faith? Where was Jesus during all of this?
My core fear at that moment — that my relationship with Jesus had been severed. Or at least drastically diminished.
After several days worrying, I realized that I needed to process with somebody who knew me (and Jesus). The people who came to mind were my friends, Jacob and Jon. I knew they cared about me, but I was anxious about their reaction. What would they think of me?
What did Jesus think of me?
Eventually, I took the risk and emailed Jon and Jacob. While waiting for their responses, I held my anxiety at bay, because I still had classes to attend.
When I did hear back from my friends, I received grace, challenge, and love. They felt my pain, understood the brokenness I felt.
They encouraged me to confess and receive forgiveness from a loving Savior.
They challenged me to set boundaries with this other guy and to create rhythms in order to live a healthier life.
They longed to be with me, yet encouraged me to live and enjoy my time in France.
So, I had to have a chat with this guy. I knew it would be difficult, but he’d become part of my established group of friends in France, so it was necessary.
Though I felt hurt by him, I owned up to my role in those events — because, yes, part of me did want to drink, want to be with another guy.
We didn’t agree on the how and why of everything that had happened, but we were able to spend time within our group without awkward tension.
On a personal, spiritual side beyond that conversation, I had plenty to learn. Owning up to my sin and broken desires required big lessons in repentance and receiving grace and forgiveness. I turned from late-night parties but still saw the goodness of those people.
And while these friends helped me enjoy many trips and small moments in France, I found myself drawn back to contemplative practices. Free evenings were spent on solitary walks, and I found myself taking mornings to read and journal.
As the season turned to spring, I found myself in gardens, enjoying a meal with friends on a patio or sharing stories with the small Christian group I’d found.
Wait. Notice the change?
Despite the negativity I felt about myself and the extra walls I had built around relationships and people in general, my alone times showed me that getting up and going out would be the best ways to heal and move forward.
I took a weekend trip to Paris with one of the Americans but only spent one day with her; the other, alone, spending time enjoying the small moments around campus and a parade downtown.
My biggest leap before I left France was a weekend conference with the Christian group. Extreme amounts of unknown French words and new people, but overall a filling experience. I also met other American Christians studying abroad.
My heart broke, reminded of the hardness of hearts in this other country.
And my heart broke more as I questioned my semester and future. Studying abroad is meant to be THE semester of one’s college career.
How would I reconcile the fun trips and the subsequent depths of depression? The great conversations with my own brokenness? The beautiful art and scenery with a newly tainted view of relationships?
There wasn’t an adequate answer then. I’m not sure there is now either.
Young Kevin was learning that life isn’t black and white. There are plenty of muddled, beautiful grays.
And when life gets confusing, I can only stop and think in circles so much. Eventually, I have to get up, talk, go out, and keep living.
I have to see the brokenness and trust in the process, trust in the God who knows more than me.
Have you struggled to believe what Jesus thinks of you in the aftermath of personal sin? Did you confess your sin to somebody or find this difficult as well?
Thank you so much Kevin for sharing more of your story here. I deeply respect you for this.
I really don’t have much to say that’s worth much, but I have always struggled with telling anyone anything. As a very private person…these things are so hard. I know in the Bible it says to confess our faults with one another that we may be healed…but I honestly can’t think of one person I would be comfortable with doing such. I’ve faced a lot of rejection over many things…and the very thought of opening up to anyone scares me, quite frankly. I’m thankful for a Saviour that I can go to…but we do need someone with skin on too, so to speak.
I commend you for your bravery and honesty!
Sorry that you’ve been rejected and that has built walls to safe friendships where you could share more easily. They aren’t easy, and can be awkward at times, but definitely worth it. Praying that some of those people would be around you.
And in case it wasn’t evident in the blogs…. telling my friends was far from easy. There was much turmoil as I wrestled over IF I needed to tell, WHO to tell and HOW to tell something so….intimate. The decision really was based on people who knew my story already and the fact that I didn’t know how to move on. Thankful that I had them. God has placed good men (and women) in my life for trying times, growth, laughter… all in future stories.
Thank you for your kind response! The past couple of weeks (since Christmas) have been a “trip.” Two people that I sent Christmas cards in 2018 died. Another person that I knew from my home church (we exchanged friendly banter over the years there) died in a car accident when they ran into a tree, and finally a dear lady who was so sweet and Christ-like died after having Alzheimer’s/dementia for about 4-5 years. So…I have been a good bit “shell-shocked” from everything right now. My mother commented that almost everyone I have known is gone now. But…I have the memories of doing something for them…as the years swiftly move along.
Amen, Kevin. IF, WHO, WHEN. I thank the Lord there were people there for me. I don’t how I would have coped otherwise.
Brother, t sounds like you learned some very painful but precious lessons here. Sometimes we have to just trust our past into the hands of the One who has forgiven it. I appreciate that you did the biblical thing in regards to the sin that would easily beset you–you made straight paths for your feet. I am very heartened by your story. So much familiar in it to me.
Yes, yes. Not easy at all. But looking back, would I change it? Part of me says yes, but part of me wonders if these instances in France kept me from a larger issue that could have happened otherwise? God is good, forgiveness isn’t easy, glad to continue to grow and share in this community.
Kevin, thanks for sharing about what you went through in France. This story gives me hope, especially where you bravely reached out to your friends for help and they responded with understanding, love, and grace. I love that you have friends who supported and encouraged you through this difficult time, and that they guided you to seek comfort and forgiveness from Jesus. I’m slowly developing friendships with men who will be there for me – being shy and super private makes that a real challenge.
I would have isolated and crawled under a rock, which would have been the absolute worst thing to do. I’m slowly working on the fear and shame that drives me under rocks. That’s where the enemy wants me, but not where God can use me.
You had the difficult conversation and set up boundaries with that guy. Gosh – I would have tried to avoid him for the rest of the semester. I would have laid low and squandered the rest of that time abroad. I’m glad you were brave and kept on living. I honor the trust you had in God to repent, ask for (and receive) forgiveness, and keep on moving.
Thank you so much for sharing this part of your story! You are a brave man, and you inspire me to grow.
It took some time to find words to share about France. And prayer about how (much) to share. I found myself digging up more emotions than I expected as I wrote these two posts… so probably some lingering healing is happening.
I often wonder if Jon and Jacob knew what they were in for as I shared my story… all the challenging conversations and good, deep chats over coffee that would come. But yes, looking back I have been blessed with amazing men and women to surround me as I continue to grow.
Avoiding him was no real option – we had a couple classes together and similar friends as international students. And it was definitely an awkward conversation.
Glad to have you here journeying with us!
Courage Tribe, represent. Your courage inspires me often, Kevin. Grateful for your realness with your friends and with Jesus, and thanks for being real now with us, too.
It’s still strange to me how inaccurate that tribe felt to me when I began that weekend…. yet how perfect it is with my story so many times…
This story makes me think about the first time I looked at gay porn in my middle school years. The day afterwards going back to school with all the thoughts in my head of “what would anyone think if they found out? Surely none of them have done such a disgusting thing like I have.” Its such a lonely feeling.
Oh man. Yes. Shame and guilt….there may be a post (or two) just on those ideas and their constancy in my story. Definitely thought about other times I had those feelings – during that semester and beyond – while writing these blogs. It’s unfortunate how powerful the lies are that counter grace and repentance, right?
Kevin, thanks so much sharing your study abroad story! The part that I can relate to the most is God using my study abroad semester to provide some much-needed intense solitude at a really dark time in my life. I was in Tokyo, and I never expected to find so much solitude there. I remember exploring the city on my own, not having to talk to anyone if I didn’t want to. I remember nights with nothing better to do than sit in my single-person dorm room and pray and read, and cry as much as necessary. I remember feeling like my life was so much more spacious leaving Japan than it had when I arrived. My dorm-mates probably thought I was the WEIRDEST and that I hated them, but the time prepared me to be much more stable when I returned to my life in the States.
1) OMG. How have we not talked about studying abroad before?!? This needs to happen, alright?
2) Ah, solitude. It can be so helpful and healing when done well. I think some of my solitude was just isolation when I was in France. But in the second half, post guy situation there was more of it that was refreshing solitude.
3) There is something special, almost spiritual about wandering a city on your own.
“When I did hear back from my friends, I received grace, challenge, and love. They felt my pain, understood the brokenness I felt.“
Beautiful. Aren’t those the best kinds of friends? Those who can empathize and encourage and push you to do the right thing even when it’s awkward/uncomfortable AF.
Enjoyed reading this chapter in your story Sir Kevin. Well written
Hey Bradley! It’s been awhile.
And yes, those ARE the best friends. I had NO idea what to expect when I told them, but what a relief. And thanks be to God that they (and many others) have been such examples of love and grace in my moments of weakness/confusion.
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