Chad Wagner, West Chester, PA

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Chad Wagner, West Chester, PA

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What is life without faith? Without encouragement? Without hope for a better future?

This site being my father’s, you would expect my story to be a headliner, special. Yet it is hidden amongst the rest. It fails to best even the silent, unwritten words of men and women who have concluded their lives unworthy being of shared. For no story, spoken first or last, or unspoken, outweighs another. Doesn’t every heartbeat have a pulse?

It surprises me the position that I am in. Once a teenager too choked up inside to speak anything more than a few mumbles, I am now fearless to speak my heart.

My story begins as a child.

Early on in elementary school, I was one of the more outspoken kids around. Always playing roller hockey and soccer, running in circles, and riding my bike throughout my neighborhood, I was never short on energy. Likewise, I was confident and constantly eager to grab the attention of my peers. I loved adventure. I remember cutting the back of my parents’ pine tree in our backyard in order to build a “fort” within it. I didn’t think they’d mind, as it faced the opposite direction of the house. I envisioned this massive Peter Pan kind of hideout for me and my friends to hang out in. But all that I did with it was use it as a place to pee, so I wouldn’t have to go back inside and use the toilet. I was a rebel, but in a good way. My goal in life was to see others smile at all the silly things I did. And through that, I found joy. Nothing made me happier.

But in 2000, my grandfather died. And, for the first time, I knew grief. This was the man who laughed with me for tapping him on the head while he read his newspaper. I’d sneak up behind the couch he was sitting on, tap him on the head, and duck underneath so he couldn’t see me. It was mere child’s play, but he gave importance to it, simply so that I may feel loved. He died on his bed but his lost still hurt. I remember refusing to cry at his funeral, because I was a tough kid. But as soon as they lowered his casket into his grave, I bawled.

Soon afterwards, my beloved parents, who shared similar moments with me, as the one I shared with you about my grandfather, began heading down the road of divorce. Our family vacations dwindled and the fun life I had became a distant memory. Bored, and disinterested in reality, it was then that I entered the world of fantasy; all I knew were video games and TV shows, and everything in between. I gained weight, got fat, ugly. But I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. To me, life had paused, and joy would eventually knock at our door and re-enter our household.

It never did. My parents separated when I was in 8th grade. In 9th grade, I moved out of my childhood home, and I lived with my dad, thirty minutes from my high school, before finding a townhouse to live in, in 10th grade.

As the years passed, there were days when I realized, I had forgotten to hang out with any friends. A couple of times, I recall being stumped over the last time I had a friend over my house. And I’m not talking about days or months, I’m talking about years. Slowly, I became fearful to speak in even the smallest of social settings.

Remember the kid I described to you? You know, the one who’s goal in life was to see others smile at him for doing the stupidest things he could think up? He was gone. I was lifeless. The feeling has left my memory, but I remember an ache in my heart that was so incredibly painful. Unending, this ache sang to me, chillingly, “Death…death…death.” Death was all I thought about it. I was never technically suicidal, as I never intended to literally kill myself. But oh, I thought about dying. Whether choking myself, running myself over with a car, or shooting myself with a gun, I felt I needed death. Interestingly, during each of these imaginations, I imagined myself, as another person, as another Chad, killing the Chad I previously loved. I was practically being overtaken.

However, I managed to lie, again and again and again. “Are you okay Chad?” my dad asked me, “Yeah, I’m fine.” Sure, throughout high school, there were periods of time in which I smiled, laughed even. But any sign of happiness I had was a distraction to avoiding what was going on inside of me. I called it a physical problem. I was overweight. I had no girlfriend. Well then, won’t all my problems surely be fixed if I work out?

So, for an entire summer, I ran, tirelessly. For an entire summer, I ran up and down basketball courts, missing lay-ups, tirelessly. For an entire summer, I did sit-ups, three hundred per sitting, tirelessly. Forty pounds lost. Okay, I might have lied, thirty. It was the end of my misery! I was ready for a girlfriend, friends again. I was ready to smile, authentically. In the fall, my classmates congratulated me “You look great Chad!…Nice job, bud… How many pounds did you lose again? 40?! Wow, that’s crazy man.” But nothing, still nothing. Still empty, still confused. “Why God? Why?” I thought.

Up until my senior year, I believed I knew God. I was a ‘Christian.’ Before my parents’ divorce, I went to Church regularly. I didn’t read the Bible, but I didn’t doubt his existence. Now, I did.

A high school graduate, I headed to college with no intentions. I arrived hopeful, “I might find new friends. Or better, a girlfriend!” But quickly, my expectations disappeared during orientation. I was the same outcast I was in high school. The same weirdo, the same loser… if only I had realized I was my own exile.

Since being dropped off by my parents on Tuesday, every day of the week, from Wednesday to Saturday, became progressively worse. Every day, further concluding I won’t have friends in college either. My last hope was a Church service on Sunday morning. Funny.

To sum up the past three years, let’s just say that Church service that Sunday afternoon was the beginning of the end. The end of me. The end of whatever ‘Chad’ could offer the world. I found God, the spirit of God, and He transformed my life.

My eyes were opened to a relationship with my Creator that I never believed possible. Before, I thought I was the victim. But I was the criminal. Created for relationship, for love, I foolishly rejected others because they rejected me. You see, we are not made to love conditionally, and the moment we do, we strip our right to be affiliated with God. Every choice, to be alone, to not love, is a rejection of self, and therefore, a rejection of Him. For this is not the way God loves. People say God also loves conditionally. This is false. Every anger, every rage, found within the Bible, is of a just God, an unconditional lover, discarding conditional lovers, for the sake of pure, unconditional love. When evil remains, He destroys it. We are evil. But God is merciful to even the most wicked of creatures.

I saw my heart. Selfish, prideful, envious, it was not pure, or good. Arriving at college as a conditional lover, I found friends because God had already transformed their hearts. He showed them how to love relentlessly, to a boy who refused to speak, and when he did, complained about his life. Their unconditional love is what made me explore God again. Now I have the ability to love unconditionally, to love my enemies. To reject myself. That does not mean I am perfect or close to. But God has taken my struggles, and my sufferings, and allowed me to look at them as blessings. For this life isn’t as important as the next.

The child that was Chad is alive once more. A little bit more awkward than before, because of my past, but, once again, my favorite thing to do is watch people laugh and smile, as a result of the stupid and strange things I do.

But I won’t go on about everything I’ve experienced since God has come into my life. I am sharing my testimony, my inspirational story, not for the sake of myself, but for you. I wish that, if you are going through the same things I have gone through, you consider seeking Him. As He was what won my battle, not I.

Truly, you cannot reach God without faith. You must give into the unthinkable, the illogical, in order to know the heart of God.

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