by: Darren DePaul
In my wildest dreams as a young person, I never would have thought I’d be serving as a pastor in my late-30s. I was a hell-raiser for much of my youth, skateboarding, listening to classic punk music, dreaming of circling the globe on my board. For quite a while, I had that opportunity, skating at places like the Brooklyn Banks in NYC, Mount Trashmore in Virginia Beach and the streets of San Francisco. Through high school, I continued to skateboard, play sports, party and chase girls, all the while feeling alone and restless. While I was constantly around people, I was unsettled. My heart and mind were both longing for more, but growing up in a non-Christian home and in a spiritually defunct northern part of the US, I had no understanding of why I felt the way that I did.
Following high school, by God’s grace, I was admitted into a private Christian college in western Pennsylvania. I merely applied there because I knew I needed some discipline in my life, and I had to, in some ways, separate from my past and move on. God, however, clearly had another plan. Within a few weeks of my arrival at college, a friend shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with me. Through hearing and receiving the gospel, those feelings of being unsettled, alone and restless were filled by the love and grace of God. For years, I tried to find happiness with skateboarding, sports, girls, parties or whatever else seem to pacify my restless heart, but none of those things ever produced a lasting satisfaction. I only longed for more or for something else, but I never found the joy and happiness that I craved until my heart and mind were opened to the gospel of grace.
Jesus transformed me … a mess of a punk kid. He changed me for His glory and through His love. I’ve seen Jesus transform many of the students in my ministry over the years. Students who have struggled with eating disorders, pornography, broken homes and a whole host of other things. Jesus can transform you, too. The Gospels are full of stories of lives changed, and even all around you are stories of lives that have been changed. Maybe you've been transformed by Christ, and if so, share your story! There is a mess of a person like me out there who needs to hear the gospel … who knows what God will do through you.
So here I sit in my office on a rainy Monday morning in South Carolina, having just preached last night to a group of high school students that the love and fulfillment in life that they so desperately crave is found only in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Lives will be transformed and changed, which I know because of how God works. I am a perfect example of His plans being far better and different than ours.
For me, I’m still a punk. I’m still a sinner. I’m still in need of Jesus every day of my life. I’m still in awe that God has transformed my life. I’m still a skater at times, showing off to my daughters and my beautiful wife. Above all, however, I’m incredibly loved by Jesus and so are you … go to Him; He’ll transform you not only today, but tomorrow as well.
Darren DePaul is a youth and family pastor who lives in Greenville, South Carolina, with his wife, Jenny, and their two daughters. Darren has been working with young people for 17 years and is passionate about seeing them love and grow in Jesus. He speaks at student ministry conferences and training events for youth pastors, and has written several articles for youth pastors, including a work-in-progress chapter in a forthcoming Crossway Publishing book on discipleship in youth ministry.