Sometimes those who seem the most joyful are hiding their fear and shame behind their smiles and laughs. Breaking down the walls of insecurity is impossible for one to do on their own, but with God, the chains can be broken and the burdens can be lifted. Mitchell Stacy has come to believe that wholeheartedly.
Born and raised as an only child in Cloverdale, Indiana, a small rural town, Mitchell grew up in a Methodist church. With influential Christian parents constantly talking about faith and theology at home, he was brought up in a way that secured his knowledge of God and gave him a desire to know more and to discern.
When a new pastor who made questionable decisions and had uncommon views came on staff, his family chose to leave the church.
For a while, Mitchell and his parents searched for a new place that they felt comfortable in, one they could finally call home. They found precisely that an hour away from their house, and that’s where they have planted roots.
Although faith and love were talked about throughout his life, he struggled with the concept of hearing the voice of God and feeling his presence.
“Growing up, I can’t say that I ever really grasped that,” Mitchell said. “But I so badly wanted to.”
Battling to understand salvation, Mitchell knew how to “become saved,” but he always felt as though he said something wrong, left something important out or that his prayer didn’t cover everything.
“There were two or three times when I prayed what I was trying to make a prayer of salvation,” said Mitchell. He became a slave to his own worry and fear.
Mitchell prayed for salvation again in high school and was baptized, but he still didn’t feel God’s presence.
He continued to search for God, but always felt as though he wasn’t fitting into the “Christian mold.” Feeling like an outsider because of the repetitive sin he struggled with, he didn’t quite know how to surrender and let go of all his burdens.
“My relationship with God for a long time was like a yo-yo, and it was spiraling,” he said. “I would be doing okay, and then I would get tripped up, and I would feel like I couldn’t go to God because there was this big divide between us, this wedge.”
Feelings of unworthiness sent Mitchell into a warped way of thinking about his relationship with God, fearing condemnation and anger if he went back to him.
“I was afraid of him not liking me,” he remembered. “I would not go to God for a really long time, and things would spiral downward until I hit rock bottom. Then I would cry out to God and things would get better. Then I would get tripped up again and I would spiral. It was this up and down all the time, but really it was more down than up.”
Constantly feeling as though God hated him for his sinfulness, he was living in fear. It wasn’t until he heard the gospel in a new way that the lies he had been telling himself for so long faded away.
“Hearing that God loved me within my sin was a breath of fresh air,” said Mitchell. “It really moved me, and I couldn’t think of that without crying. It was so impactful because it was the first time I was told that in such a direct way.”
Pursuing a deeper faith and owning up to the sins in his life, Mitchell found it difficult to be transparent when he came to AU. “I had never opened up about the sins I had been struggling with because I didn’t trust anyone and didn’t want anyone to judge me for being so sinful and broken,” said Mitchell.
After going to counseling services his freshman year, Mitchell began the process of pulling the painful truth out of himself and talking to someone about what he was struggling with.
“Counseling was so helpful in working through that, and that allowed me to realize God was still working in my life,” he said. “I remember going to 10:07 and chapel and physically not being able to sing the songs because I didn’t think that I was in a position to accept God’s love, and I didn’t think he loved me because I was so broken. I was really worried at some point that I had lost my salvation because of the sin in my life.”
His junior year, as he was struggling to decide between going to graduate school for psychology or seminary for pastoral work, a group came to campus and led a worship session at the Bottom of Decker.
A stranger from the group reached out and prayed over Mitchell. For the first time, he felt as though he was witnessing the gift of prophecy, a concept of which he happened to be skeptical. Without knowing anything about him, the man prayed and told him that he saw Mitchell becoming a teacher.
As Mitchell continued to be prayed over, the man told him that he would make a really great counselor. A determining factor for his future and the ultimate tug on his heart, Mitchell took the prayer as a push from God.
“So two words that are determining a lot of my future now are ‘teach’ and ‘counsel,’” Mitchell said. “I felt called, and I had never been a person that was able to really say that, but this spoke to me.”
The most defining moments in Mitchell’s walk with God took place during the 60 hours of prayer event his junior year. As the group sat in a circle and was praying, he felt like God said “I am.” With an expectancy of another word, not knowing what to fill that blank with, he shared what he received to the group and prayed for clarification.
Pastor Tamara prayed with Mitchell asking God to reveal the next word. As she prayed, he clearly heard “love, I am love.”
“I stayed in the bottom of the Morrison house until about 3 a.m.,” he recalled. “I began to talk to God and tell him about my shame and how I felt so unworthy in his presence. I felt like I heard God speak again, and his voice reminded me of a counselor’s.”
Mitchell heard God speak into his heart and ask, “So you feel uncomfortable in my presence?” Trying to justify his answer, he told God that he trusted that he was good, but he didn’t trust him to keep loving him, that at some point he felt he would become too unworthy to receive any more love.
Mitchell felt God prompt him to look to the cross. After a few moments of refusing, he lifted his eyes and, as he did, Mitchell said God immediately told him, “See, that’s how much I love you.”
“God was still going to keep on loving me; that was a revelation and was so profound for me,” Mitchell said. “That has shaped and colored the way I see the world now and is the context of how I live. Satan was disarmed in a really big way in my life then, and I was armed in a really big way, in ways that I didn’t even understand.”
Mitchell wholeheartedly felt as though God gave him a sense of new identity. Instead of walking in his failures and his sins, he now walks through the world knowing that he is a beloved child of God, and that is something that is never going to change.
“I know that in everything, I will never lose my relationship with God,” Mitchell said. “That part of my identity is not up for question anymore. That is no longer on the table for negotiation.”