This week we kick off our series on Shameless Men. I have asked several male leaders from different walks of Community Fellowship
(my church in West Chicago) to share their experiences of shame/overcoming shame and their beauty-from-ashes stories.
Our first piece comes from Justin Ohlinger. Justin and Jenn are our good friends, fellow small groupers, and for several years served as leaders in Oasis and Gap. (Justin has some sweet vintage Gap and Oasis Mission Trip t-shirts, if you are a collector!)
Justin is a technology teacher and year-round coach at Jay Stream Middle School. He and Jenn have been married for almost nine years and have three sons: Landon (5), Hudson (in heaven with Jesus), and a little man on the way next month.
You will be blessed by his story.
If you are or if you know of any CF men who would be perfect for this series, feel free to let me know.
May you live shamelessly this week.
By 16 weeks we knew something wasnâ€™t right. By 20 weeks we knew just how bad things looked. By 23 weeks my wife was staying at the hospital. At 27 weeks my second son was born, and 36 hours later he passed away. During those eleven weeks, after I first knew something was going on, I prayed. I prayed seemingly every waking moment and I asked everyone I knew to pray as well. In my humanness I felt that because so many prayers had been lifted up for my son, God was going to do a miracle and spare his life. Then when my prayers were not answered in the way that I wanted, I felt disappointedâ€”so disappointed that I couldnâ€™t even pray anymore. Prayer became a constant reminder of all the time that I had spent praying for my son, and now I was empty-handed.
I struggled because I knew that I should still be spending time in prayerâ€”
praying for my wife that she would be able to heal, praying for our first son, that we would be able to explain this to him in a way he would understand, praying for myself to be able to move past the point of disappointment and begin to see what God may have intended through all this. Yet, I couldnâ€™t; I couldnâ€™t pray, and my guilt continued to grow.
Nearly six months after our second son passed away, my wife found out she was pregnant again. A lot of thoughts and feelings came flooding back when I found out this newsâ€”fear, joy, and anxiety all mixed together. But I was somewhat surprised at what else came backâ€”the urge to pray. Nothing brings you back to your knees like your children.
In a lot of ways, I feel like this pregnancy has redeemed our family (you can read that story here
), but especially in the area of my prayer life. Whereas before prayer only left me feeling sad and disappointed, prayer has again become something joyful.
God redeemed prayer for me through the pregnancy of my third son.
As I was thinking about this redemption, I was reminded of Peter and how he denied Christ three times. As I re-read Mark 14, the part that struck me was the last verse, verse 72, which says, â€œImmediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.â€
Peter was broken just as I was broken. But God didn’t leave Peter there broken and weeping. In John 21:15-17, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, giving him the chance for redemption. Just as God didnâ€™t leave Peter in his brokenness, He didnâ€™t leave me broken and weeping either. Instead, He brought along another opportunity for me to see my need for prayer. I feel so grateful to have an example of someone like Peterâ€”a man upon whom Jesus said He would build His Church, but also a man who needed to be redeemed.
I know that even in times of struggle and when I feel far from God, He will never just leave me there; He will continue to pursue me and offer redemption to me. What a wonderful, powerful God we serve.