Editors Note: This is very much outside our usual style, but Emory felt he should share his testimony here in the hopes it is a help to people and encourages them.
This is likely to be a bit…emotional, for me to write out. There are a lot more negatives than positives in certain areas. I’ve not been an ideal Christian, no matter what I’ve appeared to be on the outside. I’ve also had some experiences that are incredibly painful to relate. But, at some point, as reminder to myself, this needed to be written. If it helps someone else out there, that’s a bonus.
I was born in a Christian home. My mother and father were both first-generation Christians. My mother’s family was Catholic, my fathers were mainline Protestant. Both sets of grandparents did get saved before they passed on. I recall making a profession of faith at a very young age, perhaps six or seven, but it did little for me. I don’t recall it making much of a change in my life, nor do I think I really applied it to my life. My family kept moving to more and more conservative churches in search of sound preaching. It is a testament to just how bad the mainline denominational churches are that I don’t recall hearing a clear Gospel presentation at church until I was in my mid-teens at an independent Baptist church.
As a basically infant Christian, I made my way to college. I was expecting that many of the people I would meet in college would share my passion for Christ and His work, as well as my desire to serve Him. I was already passionate about creation and apologetics at that time and chose to major in biology believing, somewhat naively, that it would be possible to overturn the evolutionary paradigm using science. College would shape me in a lot of ways, some positive, others not so positive.
College made me very cynical towards Christianity. Not God, not the Bible, just Christianity. I found in college that, outside the conservative fringes of Christianity, most Christians were content to simply exist. They had plans for their lives, which did not involve God. They had little to no interest in making time to serve God, beyond showing up at church on Sunday morning. The Christian culture was focused on being entertained, not the Word of God. I’ve since recognized that what I saw in college was indicative of Christianity as a whole. As I’ve visited churches over the years, I’ve observed an overwhelming lack of desire to commit to God, even in conservative churches. Most Christians pay lip service to their religion but have no interest in inconveniencing themselves to serve God.
Part of my cynicism undoubtedly came from an experience I had the first semester of my sophomore year when I woke up to one of my roommates molesting me. Yes, even at a Christian college where dorms are gender segregated, sexual abuse does still happen. I was a sound sleeper at the time so it’s possible and, looking back on it, probable, that this incident was not the first time. The experience undoubtedly played a role in shaping the next few years of my life.
By the time I graduated from college, I was struggling with depression. I’d always been a pessimist, but the experience of my sophomore year really hung over me. I never talked about it, with anyone. I was trying to make it go away, to pretend everything was fine. I was also horribly ashamed that, even though I was not a willing participant, I’d been involved in a homosexual act. I got a job teaching science in a small Christian school after graduation. I loved the kids I taught, but living alone deepened my depression. On top of that, I began struggling to sleep through a night, something that had never been an issue before. It all kind of snowballed into an exhaustion-fueled depression that led to me not being able to perform to the best of my ability as a teacher.
After almost two years of teaching, I moved back home. I spent the next three-ish years working a job I despised. Quality Assurance is not for everyone, particularly when the company is more concerned about ramming orders out the door, than ensuring the safety of the consumer. Often, I was working between fifty and sixty hours a week, on top of a near hour-long commute one way. Spiritually, I was nowhere useful. The church my parents were attending was a church with decent preaching and no heart for anything other than entertainment. Because I worked nights, often six days a week, there was little I could be involved in, even if I’d wanted to get involved. That certainly is no excuse for my spiritual failings. In my pain, I turned my back on the Healer. But, at the same time, I still wanted to do something. To be different than the lackadaisical Christianity I saw in the church. On the advice of a few friends, and really out of a need to do something to serve God, In His Image was born. Two years later, we’re above 400 followers across all platforms.
In His Image has not solved all my problems. I still deal with depression, daily, and I still deal with the fall-out from my abuse. However, In His Image has given me an outlet, an ability to minister to others in a way that makes a difference. I’m certainly not perfect, and will not claim to be anything on my own, or that I have done anything at all on my own. But God has permitted me to serve Him, in spite of my failures, and in spite of how shattered I am. And that is amazing.