One of the first questions new students are asked when arriving at The Seattle School is “How did you get here?” or, to put it another way, “What is your story?” It’s such a rare place—unlike any other in the world (believe me, I’ve looked). Rarely is the path to its doorsteps without some adventure or calling. My story is no different.
Honestly, when I first began telling my story I started too recently. I began with the years spent fighting against the yearning bubbling up in my heart, or with the phone call to Rachael Clinton deferring my enrollment for a year.
The real answer, however, is that it started with a handshake.
It was 2009 and I had a career. I was twenty-six years old, doing what I thought was my dream—coaching and teaching at a prestigious high school in my hometown. One afternoon a fellow coach invited a local therapist to come speak to volunteers soon headed to Belize to work with local students. The therapist’s name was Stephen James—a graduate of The Seattle School.
It was a moment I’ll never forget. We were being introduced for the first time, and I did what I always did in such situations—I went in aggressively to powerfully shake his hand. Just like my grandfather taught me: look him in the eye and shake firmly.
On this occasion, however, I got a very different response than I was used to. Stephen pulled back and said, “Whoa man, what are you trying to prove?”
Those eight words stopped me in my tracks.
It may seem silly, but Stephen’s response rocked the very core of who I believed myself to be at the time. It’s hard for me to fully explain even now, years later, but unbeknownst to him, Stephen spoke to a longing in my soul—a piece of myself that knew I wasn’t who I was meant to be.
His words called out to a lonely heart, and I haven’t been the same since.
I was thinking about this story recently while watching the movie Fury. In it Shia LaBeouf’s character quotes Isaiah 6:8: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”
I believe that day with Stephen six years ago was the moment God called out to me, “Will you be sent? Will you go for us?” It was the moment when I was forever ruined for normal work and a simple life. Even if I didn’t realize it at the time—a restlessness had been raised within me. One I would never again be able to ignore.
It took four years, a failed business school experiment, and a lot of fear before I was finally ready to be sent. But honestly, I don’t think any of that really matters. Whether it took four years or forty, the point isn’t when we go, but simply that we go. I had to fight and claw and scream and ask God to send me anywhere else, but eventually I went.
It’s funny, sometimes I want to blame Stephen or God for getting me into this mess. For pushing me beyond the simple life I thought I desired. The truth is, God didn’t make me do anything. He simply used a man to call into the truth of who I am created to be and waited for me to answer.
I’d like to say I’m glad every day that I answered, but that would be a lie. Some days I’m angry for all that my decisions have cost me—for what I’ve left behind. Other days I cry watching cheesy Today Show stories and wonder what the hell I’m doing here. In the end, I guess the point is simply that I’m here.
I’m here, Lord. Send me.