In June 2012, Alex Holmes, was one of four young adults who spoke at the Allegheny Synod Assembly in Altoona, PA. He was invited to talk about how his journey of faith relates to one of the stories in scripture where God calls someone – here is the passage Alex chose, and what he had to say.
Thanks, Alex, for sharing your story.
Exodus 4: 10-12
But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, either in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.
I can definitely relate to Moses, I don’t really consider myself an eloquent speaker and I don’t really think that my story is all that inspiring, but when God calls me, I’m somehow able to find the words to say that have the ability to touch people’s hearts and inspire them to think about their lives. But it is not because of my own merit that I can do these things, but because I believe that he works through me and uses me to help and inspire others. Anytime that I’ve ever said anything inspirational or important it is only because of God that I can speak any of those words, so for all of your sakes I really hope that he’s using me now because otherwise it may be a painful ten minutes.
My story begins in how I grew up. Growing up youth group and church were two big parts of my life that I still appreciate to this day. Like everyone else, I went through the stage where church was ‘long and boring’ but as time passed I began to greatly appreciate the sermons and the scriptures every week and how they applied to my life. It seemed that every Sunday I would learn more about myself through learning more about who God was and how to recognize how he worked in my life. My church’s youth group also played an instrumental part in my faith life. It taught me how to share my faith with others and constantly reminded me what it meant to be a true friend.
My family was a huge part in getting me involved with my church family at an early
age, and that environment helped shape who I have become. My parents taught me
how to be fair and look at both sides of a situation, that I must know my limitations, and last, but certainly not least, how to be a good and caring person. I owe I lot to my two older brothers as well, for they were the best role models I could have had, and seeing how strong they were in their faith only made me want to pursue and deepen my own all the more. I consider myself very lucky to have had all these things growing up and how awesome it is that the people around me influenced me in the way they did. Sometimes, I wonder if they had any doubts when they were called to do things in their lives and I
wonder if they ever thought that what was put in front of them to do was simply ‘too much’ or ‘not right for them’; I’d like to think that they had their share of doubts, just as we all do — especially if it involved speaking in front of hundreds of people. The point is that despite the fact that they may have had their doubts about what they were called to do, or about their capabilities, they still influenced me and changed my life and that is what I can only hope to do by speaking with you today and sharing my story.
My first year at Penn State was one of the most difficult years of my life. All the supports I had in my life were seemingly gone, and I was in a new place with thousands of new people. It’s pretty amazing how alone one can feel even when there are hundreds people around you. During this adjustment period, it came to the point where I began
looking for an outlet to express my faith and fill the place my church and youth group once held in my life. One day I looked in my mail box and stumbled upon a pamphlet that seemed to offer a cool speaker on the topic of faith; feeling insecure I decided not to attend but instead go shopping at Walmart. Not knowing the bus systems at all I had no idea where to get off, thankfully someone on the bus helped me regain my sense of direction and struck up a light conversation about the organization he was in. It happened to be the same organization that hosted the speaker from the pamphlet I had thrown away. Naturally I thought that this was a sign that I was supposed to give this a shot – boy was I wrong. It would seem that God wanted me to learn about what organizations I really didn’t want to be involved in before I found one I enjoyed and felt welcome at. I learned early on that these individuals I started having bible study with were far more comfortable telling me what was right and wrong and explaining to me what scripture meant and what God wanted for me rather than letting me make choices about my faith and welcoming a different viewpoint whenever I had one. I have always believed that faith is a choice and that everyone has a unique view on life which deserves to be respected, and the best way to do so is in a welcoming and accepting environment. That’s when I found Grace Lutheran and met Alicia Anderson. I started out as a hungry college student who came to the contemporary 6pm services for the free food afterwards, but soon after grew to join the Lutheran Student Community and become involved in bible studies, picnics, and a variety of other events. It became like my second family and although I’m not allowed to say that the meals were better than the ones I grew up with, the home cooked meals were always delicious and comforting. Through the Lutheran Student Community I was able to propose an idea to make a group whose main goal would be to help prepare youth for life after high school by empowering them to stand firm in what they believe and make their own choices involving their faith and life. The idea was very well received and most of the people in the Student Community seemed interested in doing it so we created the group and decided to call the organization Youth Finding Faith in the Future or YF3. As a group, we visit different youth groups and help people transition from high school to college. Getting back into my own transitional journey to college, the scripture I chose for today has actually come up before in my life.
The first time I really listened to this scripture it and noticed it, was on a visitation weekend to Gettysburg seminary almost two years ago. It’s funny how God works through you and you don’t even notice; he sends signs that you don’t realize until later and I think that he gives us coincidental hints that let us know that we are where we’re supposed to be, like planting the same scripture in your life nearly two years apart. At that time in my life, I was strongly considering becoming a pastor directly after college. Something about the word and sacrament appealed greatly to me. It was the thought that if I became a
Pastor than I could devote more time to God and helping others, but I realize now, I was missing the point. I always thought there was something very cool about giving the sermons and having the ability to help people think about their lives through scripture. Through talking to my Pastor he assured me that there was nothing truly ‘glamorous’ about being a Pastor but instead it was a call that you kept coming back to after exploring everything else first. So through some discernment I realized that my dream of becoming a Pastor would have to be put on hold until later in my life. At that time I was undecided on a major but I knew that I wanted to help people in the best and most effective way I was able to. Through working at a community residential rehab facility for those living with mental illness and taking courses in the Rehabilitation and Human Services major at Penn State, I realized that I would like to become a counselor. I rationalized this choice in my life at the time by saying that it would be the perfect profession that would enable me to gain the experience to help people even more when I was able to become a Pastor later.
Through working with people God has used me and given me the strength and resilience to make a difference in the lives of others. Along my journey thus far, the doubt I have in myself never matters to God because he always believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself. There’s something about unconditional love and acceptance that gives you the support you need to do great things. I never really think I’m good enough, I can be a perfectionist to a fault and I procrastinate to no end, but I figure if the creator of the entire universe thinks that I’m good enough to use, and he has uniquely made me with my own set of gifts, I better start believing in myself more and using my God given gifts
as best I possibly can. I can either keep looking inward toward myself for answers, or I can look upward and rely on God to provide me with whatever I need to know to accomplish what he wants me to do. And even though it’s hard, I’m going to start looking upward a lot more.